Since Halloween is approaching, I thought I would use this opportunity to tell you a tale of terror that happened at my house recently.

I have always been an animal-lover. As I have discussed in the past, I have spent a lot of money to hold and touch a wide variety of animals. I enjoy visits to animal sanctuaries and zoos. I have owned cats, dogs, fish, and hamsters. To cut to the chase, I paid $100 every couple of weeks for over a year for my dog to get acupuncture treatments. That goes to show you how devoted I can be to Mother Nature’s furry friends.

Something happened recently, however, that makes me question this worldview. A rat moved into my garage.

Let me fill you in on a little of my rodent-related backstory. When I was a little girl in New York, before we moved to California when I was five, we lived next door to a vacant lot. One day, I was playing on the patio, crawling around a bamboo screen that divided the space and held up a ramada. I was enjoying myself and giggling. I think I was pretending I was invisible. I obviously was not paying too much attention to my surroundings. Before I knew it, I placed my hand on a dead rat. I went into full hysteria mode. I screamed and sobbed and could not get my breathe. I also do not remember my parents being particularly sympathetic. Maybe they were just trying to shock me into calmness, like when someone in a movie is screaming and another character slaps her. I do remember them chiding me and telling me that was what I got for crawling around someplace I did not belong.

Their response did not exactly have the desired effect. Yes, I stopped screaming in the moment, but I never stopped being afraid of rats. In fact, my fear grew and became more specific as time passed. I narrowed in on the long, scaly tail. So, you see, my terror was not rodent-related. I was able to happily manage a hamster. It was tail-related. The rat day-mare memory morphed into a fear of any animal with that kind of tail- a rat, a mouse, an opossum, an armadillo. Please do not wrack your brain to come up with any other such animals. I am not sure my constitution can take it.

A couple of weeks ago, Max noticed debris on the floor in front of our washer and dryer. He swept it up, but it was back the next day. Later that night, he went out to the garage and noticed there was a huge pool of liquid on top of the washing machine. We cleaned it up, confused as to what could have caused it. The next day, the same thing happened. Since this was becoming a recurrent theme in our home, we did a little more digging. We found out several exceptionally large holes gnawed into the plastic bottles of iced tea and soda stored on a shelf above the washer and dryer. As much as I did not want it to, the idea that something (probably something with one of those terrifying tales) was in our garage sucking down my beverage supply crept into my brain. As that kernel of an idea grew bigger and bigger, I panicked. I began to shudder and cry. I raced into the bathroom to be sick.

In horror, I remembered the last garbage pick-up day in our development. As I dragged our large trash bin back into the garage, I noticed a hole on the top lid. At the time, I thought the waste disposal folks had just damaged the bin with the lifter-upper equipment they use. Now, it was beginning to occur to me that I might have transported a creature (one with a large and powerful mouth) into my home.

I called a critter control company and the owner blithely told me we had rats. Plural. Terrific, I replied. He chuckled and explained that almost no one had one rat. He also said they were the smartest animal in the South. Apparently, our particular rat was the smartest animal in the South, including me. I had been facing growing indications of a rat renter (who did not pay rent!) for at least a week without it ever occurring to me that

I was housing one of the scaly-tailed monsters.

I took a deep breath, scooted into my car, and pulled the vehicle out into the driveway. After that, I refused to go into the garage for any reason. Max was terrific. He did the laundry. He shadowed the Pied Piper of Central Florida who came to address the problem. He took the trash out. He checked the rat traps every day. He took the photo of the rat. He bagged the deceased beast and threw him in a dumpster behind the gas station. I was having none of it. I was the Vichy government of rat tyranny. I was terrified. Max, on the other hand, was the rat resistance. He was super-pissed at that rat.

The good news is that there was only one rat. Luckily, because of the sequence of events and the extent of the debris, Mr. Pied Piper confirmed that our rat was a lone wolf… or lone rodent. Setting the traps remedied the problem within a few days. The rat is no longer suffering in this life. I should feel bad about that, but I DO NOT.

The bad news is that, after the rat was dispatched, we were having our attic reinsulated because, apparently, the house did have rats once upon a time long before it had us. Things were a bit of an ancient shitstorm up there. Blessedly, this work was to be done the week I was going to be out of town on a girls’ trip with friends. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Both partners in the critter control business contracted COVID, probably before they came and breathed on us. I had spent very little time with them, so I probably was not at any risk. Max, however, had walked the grounds with them, so there I was quite concerned about the possibility that he would develop COVID. HE did not, so that was a huge relief. At the same time, the company that was supposed to redo the attic had difficulty with their equipment and they postponed our appointment at least twice. I was nauseous the entire time there was any rat-related tasks hanging over my head. Max flew into a higher gear than I knew he had to get it done while I was out of the house because he loves me. Also, I figure he believed I would go berserk and end up in a padded room if the rat tale got extended much longer.

We are now rat-free and have a brand-new attic. The air is fresher, and I am sure we are in a healthier environment. At least, I hope we are because it cost a lot of money to remove the rat juju. It almost didn’t matter how much it cost. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Is there something that freaks you out? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a rat-free Halloween!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Lions and Tigers and Lizards…. OH MY!

When the realtor first showed us the house I ended up buying, she pointed towards the beautiful green conservation zone behind the house.  She explained that it meant there would be no more houses built behind us and waxed poetic about the gorgeous view.  Then she said,

“Terri, you’ll have WILDLIFE!”

Almost as soon as the words passed her lips, she changed the subject, as if she immediately realized that the existence of wildlife in the backyard would not be everyone’s cup of tea. She needn’t have worried. I immediately conjured up visions of Bambi and Thumper shyly inching their way to my back door, as I coaxed them ever forward with carrots.  Maybe I’d even build a saltlick.  I saw them giving me their trust and nuzzling against me.  In my imagination, the wildlife might even have broken into song.

Well, no.

Instead of Bambi and Thumper, the wildlife consists of birds and lizards.  Lots of lizards.  The birds are pretty innocuous, although kind of noisy at times.  We have what must be wonderful windows and insulation because it can be quiet as can be inside until I open a door in the evening.  Then, the volume and variety of bird sounds is quiet amazing.  The cacophony they create outside at night is comparable to a middle school orchestra tuning up.  The birds are kind of cool to watch during the day and I can’t hear them at night with the doors and windows closed up, so the bird wildlife is not a problem.

The lizards didn’t really bother me, either.  Most people will tell you that lizards are good to have around because they eat insects.  I don’t want them in my house, but I’m perfectly happy to live and let live as long as they do their living outside the structure where I do my living.  Max, on the other hand, became the great white hunter of lizards.  He was completely convinced that, if we did not do something to banish the lizards from our property, they would take over the garage and house.  He fretted that, once in the house, we would not be able to get them out because they are such fast little buggers.  He worried that they would raise a whole colony of baby lizards and I would rue the day I ever said, “they don’t bother me.”  I think he pictured them taking over the television remote control and fiddling with the air conditioner settings.

My research into lizard control told me that nothing can reliably reduce lizard population.  The most common suggestion was to get a cat, which I thought might be a good answer until I realized that the cat would not necessarily get rid of lizards, just kill them and bring them to me as love offerings.  While I don’t want live lizards in my house, I really don’t want dead ones either.  Especially dead ones gift-wrapped in cat spit.

Another big suggestion was to use insecticides to kill the bugs the lizards eat, thereby discouraging the lizards from showing up for the buffet at our house each day.  After trying several different insecticides and putting out mothballs to minimize the bugs, there might have been a slight decrease in the lizard sightings.  Or there might not have been.

Max followed the lizard abatement school of thought that we should minimize (read eliminate) the foliage around the house, thus destroying the lizard hiding places. He thought we should have more rock and stone instead of dirt and shrubbery.   He thought we should cut all the shrubbery down to the stumps and maybe put out some potted artificial plants. Besides being a lot of work and expensive to have someone do this, I didn’t want to do it.  First, I didn’t think the homeowners’ association that objected to a small patch of discolored lawn would be too keen on landscaping that consisted of bare stumps topped with potted plastic petunias.  The rules for landscaping are pretty restrictive.  Second, I didn’t want an ugly yard and I have to say that stumps sounded pretty ugly to me.  Third, I didn’t think anything we did was going to get rid of the lizards so I objected to taking extraordinary measures to try to do so.

While our disagreement on lizard abatement strategy waged on, Max took to looking for lizards in the front and back yard and dousing them with glasses of cold water.  He’d go outside, see a lizard, come in grumbling, “fucking lizards,” get a glass of water, and throw the water on said lizard.  I’m sure the neighbors were referring to him as the “crazy lizard guy.”  He really believed he was going to train the entire lizard population to stay away from our house because those who were foolish enough to venture near would spread the word to the rest of them about the icy showers that awaited them.

Finally, after weeks of Max “convincing” (in other words, nagging) me to do something about the landscaping, I capitulated.  I just couldn’t bear to hear another word about the “fucking lizards.”  I did insist, though, that we were not just going to lop off shrubs and leave stumps in the ground.  I called a landscaper and explained our goal of mitigating the lizard population.  I basically let Max make all the decisions about what the landscaper should do so he could be satisfied that all possible means were being employed to eliminate the lizards. I just kept veto power to ensure that the yard did not end up looking like a bomb site. The landscaper told us he could not eliminate the lizards, but could do some things to minimize them, like taking out a couple of bushes and replacing them with a certain kind of tree that would be less hospitable to lizards.  He also suggested covering some of our bare dirt with stones and ornamental rocks. Of course, none of this was cheap, but I thought it would look nice when it was done.  Whether it would have any impact on the lizard population, I wasn’t too sure. Personally, I would have thought that decorating the yard with large ornamental rocks would be somewhat akin to building a habitrail for reptiles, but what do I know?

Now that the work has been done, it does indeed look nice.  I’m very proud of it.  Did it get rid of the lizards?  The dirty little secret is that I don’t think it did.  Max says it did, but I’m sure he doesn’t want me to realize that I paid a lot of money, at his insistence, to fix a problem that still exists.  I still see him going out of the house with tumblers of water to throw on the invaders.  The thing is, now he does it very surreptitiously and without a word about the “fucking lizards.”

So I got what I paid for.

What are your thoughts?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have a wonderful day!

Terri 🙂