People look down on them. “They carry disease,” they say. They have that long tail; they scuttle along tops of fences and . . . but when my little Rocky cat gets one—a baby one—that sits frozen in fear in the grass before the great beast, a play thing for a while, until . . I’m sorry. I just can’t let it happen. I know, it’s just a—yes—a rat.
But wait a minute. Let’s not jump to conclusions.
As a kid, I had hamsters. Not much different than a rat, really. I did a little poking around on the Internet this morning and found some interesting tidbits on rats. In Roman times, mice and rats were simply referred to as a “little mouse” or a “big mouse.” So, my referral to them as “mousie” seems rather appropriate indeed. The notion that they carry disease is also not true; in fact, wild rats are robust, healthy little creatures. The city-dwellers have developed parasites due to their poor diet—sort of reminds me of the city-dwelling humans? McDonalds, Taco Bell . . . make sense? They live in colonies and are intelligent, clean and highly social. They are easily trained. They were worshiped in ancient times, thought of as good omens. In India, they are treated like royalty. So my interest (fondness?) for them isn’t out of whack after all. One little rat, fondly referred to as “Little Chef” captured our hearts in Disney’s Ratatouille. They are quite fascinating! Back to my story—
Rocky leaves plenty at the back door, already dispatched, but when one appears that’s fully alive and actually (yes, I do believe this) a cute little creature, I simply must intervene.
It happened twice this week. The first catch and release was successful. I snatched him from the jaws of sure death and let him off in a big field down by the river. Sure prey to some creature, but not batted around and tortured in front of me. This one had a tasty meal before he went to sleep for the last time. I thought he was fine; he was surely active when I grabbed my plastic rat-catching bowl to capture him from Rocky.
I set him on the table under the patio window, put a little bird seed in there, a tiny piece of cheese, a handful of leaves in which to burrow and a thimble-sized bowl of water. His back feet were pinkish and quite large, human-like really. He did drink (or wash in) the water, too, because there was dirt on the bottom. I heard him crunching on his seeds. Before we went to bed, he was snuggled down in the bed of leaves. I was planning to take him to the field this morning, but when I peered in on my mousie, he was on his side, little feet curled. Gone. Instantly my eyes grew wet. He was one of God’s creatures no matter what and he was gone, maimed by my sweet Rocky. But he spent his last hours in a warm little nest of oak leaves with food at hand, not frightened to death by a huge-to-him beast with razor sharp claws who would eventually tire of the chase.
I buried him in the flower garden this morning, with his little piece of cheese.