Thursday, July 21, 2011

Not A Rat...

A lot goes through your mind when you think you have a rat in your vents. You forget all rational thinking, like the fact that millions of people have rats in their houses or around their mud huts, lean-tos, and other rural abodes. Or that millions of people lived without brick-and-concrete homes for centuries, and they... well, they all died around age 35, but I digress.

Instead, you worry about disease, about their tiny rat skin flakes wafting through your ventilation system (post-filter!) and landing in your food (thank YOU, kitchen vent) or in your bed (don't worry, the vent's on B's side. Sorry B.).

So you're thrilled, thrilled to hear your husband baby talking in the back bedroom. "Hey buddy," he cooed. "He there fella."

I, the still somewhat armed and generally angry lady of the (rat-infested) house, demand, "To WHOM exactly are you speaking?"

B replies, "It's not a rat, it's an opossum!"

Much to my surprise, I actually sighed in relief and got somewhat excited to see the pink little snout sitting contently in our ducts through the vent covering. That was night two. B called me back just now and we managed to get the little guy on camera surrounded by the debris he's kicked up by cleaning out our vents (yeah, thanks for that).

I don't know why opossums bother me less. I mean, they're still mean, hissy little creatures. But you scare them and they play dead. They get great roles, like "Rosebud" in Over the Hedge. And, I nearly adopted a passel of opossum (did you know that's the name for a group of opossum? It is!) when I was three.

My Mom and I were driving to my Dad's office, which held my preschool in the basement (It was a Montessori school, y'all. Settle down) when we saw what looked to be a wiggling mound of roadkill in the middle of the boulevard.
As I recall, my Mom heroically drove our wood-paneled station wagon to my Dad's office a block away, grabbed a printer-paper box, and swung back to the scene of the crime to save (save!) a passel of mini-opossum. That's right, the roadkill, unfortunately, was the mama opossum, and her passel was hitching a ride on her back, leaving them totally clueless why their mama, their ride, was playing, well, opossum in the middle of the road.

I remember Mom driving me straight to the vet (after letting my preschool class look in the box), where we unloaded no fewer than six of the tiny, wiggly, snouted creatures. They didn't make it, I'm told, but there was a valiant effort.

Of course, as I asked Mom about this today, it turns out that's not the whole story.

"You were three," Mom said. "How could I leave those babies in the road after we figured out what they were." She scooped them up and drove them to the vet, leaving them with a hushed exchange, "You realize they're too dumb to drink from a bottle, right?" asked the Vet. "And that they're opossum." Mom's cry remains, "You were three!"

She continued, "We did the same thing when the dog chewed off the leg of that baby bunny. We had to take it to the vet! We couldn't just watch it suffer."

Excuse me? My dog ate a lucky rabbit's foot? Not so lucky for anyone, certainly not Mom, who I'm sure had to pick up the bleeding baby bunny (and the dumb, near-blind opossum), or Dad, who certainly shook his head when the vet's bill arrived, touting formula for the passel of rodent he'd almost adopted.

When I was in sixth grade, I got a golden retriever. Mom wanted a dalmatian, but somehow I won and spent weeks watching the classifieds for a litter of goldens. We had a false alarm at a local farm, where someone tried to sell us a "miniature golden retriever," which sounds a lot like a mutt (not that there's anything wrong with that). But then, Mississippi came a callin'.

We adopted a puppy, who slept all the way home on my lap after crying his way out of the refrigerator box we'd picked up in town. He couldn't sleep in my bed, so that night I slept with an arm and a foot in his laundry basket, hoping to make him feel less alone.

Our beloved dog spent his puppy years bringing home everything from clothing of laundry lines to single running shoes, the origin of which we never did find. Mom dutifully hung the items on the stop sign at the end of our road and, like clockwork, they were always gone the next day, rightfully home with their owners.

Our pup got in his share of tussles. Once with a king snake, which resulted in him being terrified of playing fetch with sticks for over a year, and others after he realized that he was a male dog.

Then, one night our sweet dog limped up to our porch, having lost the use of both back legs.

Sixth grade me (not nearly as cute as three-year-old me, mind you, but still pretty powerful behind those huge glasses) was desperate. "He's dying," I wailed. Mom called the vet, apologizing for the late call, and explained our situation.

"It's just a specific type of tick," he said, calming my Mom. "If you bring him in tomorrow, we'll dip him and he'll be just fine. No permanent damage."

Mom replied, "But what about tonight?"

The vet sighed, "Well, the temporary paralysis will continue until all he can do is wag his tail."

Well, image trying to tell that to a pre-teen. Mom told the vet she'd be dealing with one long night and couldn't we bring him in, which the vet graciously allowed (certainly he'd forgotten about the opossum package we left him years before). Of course, the dog was fine the next day, but I sure as heck became terrified of all ticks.

So I'll leave you tonight, in the warmth of your own home, with the knowledge that B & I currently have a security system in our home. He's nocturnal, pretty quiet, and, if he'd just take a bath, we might just keep him.

When I told Mom it was an opossum, as opposed to a rat, and asked her why she thought I was comforted by this new fact, she replied, "Well, some people eat opossum. Nobody eats rat."

So meet O'Patrick our opossum, and say goodbye to him. I'm ready for him to head on to greener pastures. And I'm pretty sure he's hungry.

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