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 😊