Well, it’s that time of year when the kids visit the grandparents back east, and it got me thinking of the year they did that and I had to do some rat sitting.
See, at the time, the only pets we could have that – well, that you could pet, that no one in the house had any weird allergic reaction to, were of all things, rats.
I know, I know… there’s big, ugly rats, and then there’s – well, small, icky rats… but somewhere in there there are pet rats – and they’re usually white with some spots on them, and we got one for our son, who absolutely adored her.
He called her Sonic, and after a while, she kind of grew on us. We’d let her out of her cage for some time every day, closely supervised, of course, and she’d run around and we’d train her or play with her, and have fun with her.
One of the things she liked to do was sit on the arm of the couch and either watch me as I read a book, or watch as I worked on the laptop. I’d have my right arm up on the arm of the couch, and she’d be there, just watching, and then invariably, she would decide that she needed to run across to the other side of the couch, where my wife or son was sitting.
But it’s what she did, EVERY time that eventually just got to me. She’d run down my right arm, across my hands, and then off to wherever she was going that time. But the constant was that she would piddle on me on the way across the back of my hands, and it became a tremendous source of amusement for the rest of the family, while I was just kind of stewing… After even a little longer, I realized that I was upset, in large part because – well, she only “blessed” me with her piddling, and no one else. You’d think it would be predictable, you’d think I’d be able to prevent it, but as regularly as it happened, she always figured out a way to make it *JUST* a little different, and I could never catch her without inadvertently propelling her straight up toward the ceiling.
She wasn’t too hot on getting frequent flier miles, so I had to be extra careful.
At one point, I realized that the reason I was – well – “pissed off”, is because I was constantly getting pissed on. The evening I came to that conclusion pretty much brought the house down.
Sonic was a dear – if you can think of a rat as a ‘dear’ – to my son. She gave him hours of amusement, companionship, and friendship, of the kind you can’t get anywhere else. We learned from her, what exactly a “pack rat” was, because she would literally find things she was interested in, and put them in places only she knew about.
If she could, she’d run off with car keys because they jingled, but most often it would be a receipt, or a scrap of paper, or in the case of my son, she gave him new ways to come up with excuses for his teacher…
“Um… my rat ate my homework…”
And by golly, I saw her do it once, too – he was working on something, laying on the living room floor, with her and some papers, and she found this piece of full sized notebook paper, snagged it in her mouth, and jumped across the living room like she was Pepe Le Pew, and before we could catch her, she’d scampered under the couch, where at some point, she’d managed to chew a little hole so she could get at the INSIDE of the couch, where it was far more comfortable for her.
So one year, the family went back east to visit grandparents, and I had to stay home and work. My job was to go to work, come home, let the rat out, play with her, feed her, clean the cage, etc…
And… just as they find out on the show, Top Gear, where the quote comes from, I found out, precisely, how hard it could be.
So the night they were to leave, I took the family to the airport, where they flew on a redeye east, into what became the great power outage that gripped the East Coast that year (that’s another story, for another time) – and then I went home…
After I got home, it was late, she was fine, and everything was cool for a couple of days or so, but after one long day, I let her out, played with her a little, and then she, like oh so many females, decided to be coy. She’d run out to see me, as if to say, “Come get me!” and then when I did, she’d run away… She wanted to be chased, she just didn’t want to be caught. (It’s funny, both Bill Cosby (in his Adam and Eve sketch, if you can find it) and Sir David Attenborough comment on this coyness, even though they’re referring to different species…)
Anyway, back to Sonic the rat, who decided, at that moment, to hide.
Not under the couch, IN the couch.
This was not good.
I tried getting her out.
I tried encouraging her to come out.
I got treats.
I got toys.
It didn’t matter.
She didn’t care.
What got me was that she just disappeared. She had this penchant for chewing on things, (the couch being evidence of that) and I was well into what would become an 80 hour week at work at the time, so I didn’t have a whole lot of bandwidth to be thinking rationally about a rat that had gotten loose in the house. I know, some people would have just trapped her, but she wasn’t taking any bait of any kind and since she was our pet, trapping was out of the question.
But making the inside of the couch uncomfortable wasn’t.
I took the cushions off and tossed them aside and started beating on what was left, yelling, making noise, and in general making the inside of the couch a pretty miserable place to be. I wanted her to think that coming out of the inside of the couch would be a most excellent idea.
She had no ideas of the kind.
In fact, she was quite happy where she was, deep inside the couch.
This had to change.
So I started rolling the couch across the living room.
Understand, the couch had no wheels, which made rolling it – well – a bit different, but I did, truly, roll the couch, (thump, thump thump, across the living room. It didn’t faze her at all. In fact, I had to take a breather myself with the couch upside down and her ‘treasures’ from inside scattered all over the floor to listen to where she was. While I was standing there looking at the it all, off to my right I saw her stagger out from under the couch…
… over to under the love seat, which apparently was her vacation home.
Well, given that rolling the couch had gotten her out of it, I figured that trying it again with the love seat would be just as effective, and so I took a couple of deep breaths and started rolling it across the living room, too. To be honest, I was mad, I was tired, I had so much I had to do, and just didn’t have time for this, so that kind of narrowed my whole ability to creatively deal with the problem of her getting loose. However, she wasn’t interested in coming out, no matter what I was doing, and I was getting awfully tired, and while I wanted to make her uncomfortable enough to get her out of the couch, dang it, I liked her, and had no desire to hurt her.
After a few rolls across the living room, I figured we’d both had enough, and since I had a long day ahead of me the next day, I had to give up, so I put all the furniture back to where it had been, and went to bed, not sure what evilment she’d get herself into overnight.
I got up the next morning, and was sitting on the couch, already starting my day, when she warily poked her head out from under the couch I was sitting on, wondering if Armageddon was over. I reached out, picked her up, petted her (just a bit) and put her in her cage, where she stayed until the family got back. She was fed and watered, the cage was cleaned, but for her safety and my sanity, it was better that way.
And it’s funny, looking back on it, – well, you’ve seen police shows or heard of reports where the police are called, and they determine that there was “evidence of a struggle.” Had they stood on the front porch and listened, they would have thought, with the sound of the couch bashing its way across the living room, followed by the love seat doing the same, that there were two big guys really going at it in there, and that it was a life and death struggle.
Um… No… it was just me… and Sonic the Rat.
When the family got home, we (Sonic and I) were both glad to see them, but I think Sonic was really glad to see Michael.
We had her for about two years, loved her to pieces, and then she, bless her, went to Rat Heaven (I’m sure there is one.)
And even though I don’t miss getting piddled on, I do miss the little fuzzball that did it.