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A Conversation with a Rat...

There's one thing about owning a store that sells any kind of food. You have to always be on the alert for unwanted visitors, especially of the rodent kind. I've considered myself lucky in that I haven't had a big problem with rodentia. Any problems are quickly dealt with.

However, I was busy sweeping the floor recently in the Walnut Creek store when I thought I saw something scurry past one of the bird seed bags. Must be my imagination, I thought. I turned back around to continue sweeping and suddenly froze. Oh, dear Lord, there it was. A rat was sitting in the middle of the dang floor. I slowly raised my broom to about shoulder height and crept forward. "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" the rat shouted holding out two paws. "What do you think you're doing with that thing? Let's just calm down and discuss this for a second. "Discuss?" I said incredulously. "There's nothing to "discuss". And, just so you know, there's no way this can end well."

"What do you mean?" he said. "I can be of great service to you here." "How could you possibly be of service?" I asked. "Well, for one thing, I'm a gourmet chef," he said, leaning against the door with one paw on his hip and checking his nails with the other. "You know that lasagna you had for lunch the other day?" "Yes," I said. "It was someone's leftover lunch in the fridge. It was fantastic. In fact, it was the best lasagna I've ever had. What about it?" "That was my special recipe," he said. "You made that?" I said. That's not possible, I thought to myself. We don't even have an oven. "Oh, I did, indeed," he said arrogantly. "In the microwave, no less."

Now this required more thought. I love lasagna. "So, are you like that rat in the movie...Ratatouille? The one that hid in the chef's hat and learned to cook?" I wondered. "Oh, heavens, no," he chuckled. "I'm a much better chef than that rodent." "Then, where did you come from?" I asked. "And," I added, gulping hard. "Are you...alone?" "You remember the restaurant across the way that closed?" he asked. "The building is currently under construction. I was forced to flee and, well, ended up here," he said looking around. "I think I'm in heaven."

"No," I said quickly. "There's no heaven here. Besides, it's not safe. The Broadway Plaza Shopping Center hired a falconer. She brings a hawk to cruise the area and scare away the pigeons." "Oh, I know," the rat said, unconcerned. "Believe me, the local rodent population is totally aware of that hawk. It's only interested in the pigeons. You know what we call pigeons? Rats with wings," he said, his little brown shoulders shaking with laughter.

"By the way, what's your name?" I asked out of curiosity. "Joe Ramsay XXIV," he said. "Joe Ramsay, the twenty fourth?" I said. "Wow, you come from a long line of rats! How many years does your family history go back?" "Since last week," he said. "Oh," I said, getting a little concerned.

"Then, you probably have loads of relatives," I said. "Yes," he said. "Unfortunately, most of us are lucky to live a year in the wild." "Sorry to hear that," I said, looking away quickly. "We've got lots of predators, such as yourself," he said pointedly. "We make up for that by having large families and can have six to nine young per litter. We're a highly adaptable species and can inhabit a wide range of environments, particularly in association with humans. By the way, we make the best pets," he said with a wink. "People who have kept rats say that we make wonderful companions. The only problem is our short life span. In captivity, we only live about three years."

"Here's a little rat history," he said. "There are more than 60 species of the genus, Rattus. The best known rat species are the black rat (Rattus rattus) and the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), that's me. Our group is generally known as the Old World rats or true rats. We originated on the plains of Asia in what is now northern China and Mongolia where wild rats still live in burrows today. We love to travel. Over the past couple of centuries, we've traveled on boats to all parts of the world. We're typically 5 inches long or longer. The largest species is the Boxavi woolly rat, which was discovered in 2009 in the rainforest of Papua New Guinea. It's about the size of a cat, about 32 inches from nose to tail and weighs over three pounds! Can you just imagine?" "Yes," I shuddered. "I can." "Male rats, such as myself," he continued, "are called bucks, females are does and infants are called pups or kittens. A group of rats is called a "mischief". Still can't figure out where that one came from," he said, scratching his fuzzy brown head.

"We usually stick together in groups called packs. New packs are formed when a male and female go off on their own and nest in an area that doesn't already contain a pack... like here, for example," he said looking around.

"Not here," I said, picking up my broom and creeping forward. Just then, a customer opened the door. Joe deftly stepped outside, smiling. Suddenly, without warning, a large shadow appeared out of nowhere. The Broadway Plaza hawk swooped down and snatched Joe in his talons. As the hawk flew off Joe shouted, pointing skyward with his claw "Don't eat the leftover spaghetti in the fridge! It's Vinnie's! He's a terrible cook!" "Vinnie?" I yelled, beginning to panic. "Who's Vinnie?"

But, it was too late. As I watched the hawk disappear over the building with Joe squirming in his talons I started to feel bad about the rat. The furry little body, tiny paws, cute whiskers. And, the lasagna. He was a great cook and seemed like a good guy. I think I might even miss the little rodent.

Well, not really.

Bless the hawk ~ Joanie and Annie

A Conversation with Rat...


There's one thing about owning a store that sells any kind of food. You have to always be on the alert for unwanted visitors, especially of the rodent kind. I've considered myself lucky in that I haven't had a big problem with rodentia. Any problems are quickly dealt with.

However, I was busy sweeping the floor recently in the Walnut Creek store when I thought I saw something scurry past one of the bird seed bags.

continue reading
...

East Bay Times Article


Attracting birds and bees to our yards and gardens is simple, if we provide what they like and need.

Joanie Smith, owner of East Bay Nature in Walnut Creek and Dublin, says there are five essential elements for success water, food, cover, nesting and safety.

continue reading
...