My friend, the rat
First published in the
Santa Barbara News-Press
The night had just fallen. My two Chihuahua mixes Felix and Easter, my 30 lb poodle Luca and my white German shepherd Hudson stood with their chins raised staring up into the branches of the ash tree in our backyard, their front legs tapping and bouncing, their tails straight out behind them.I thought nothing of it.Then a small dark figure dropped from the tree and smacked hard against the metal cover of the fire pit. The dogs instantly went into full pursuit. Breath ran out of me. “Did they catch him?”
I sprang into action. “Leave it! No Kill Zone” I screamed just louder than a whisper intensifying my energy and my body language towards one dog in prey drive and then to another.
The dogs froze, their eyes pierced the darkness towards my feet. There was the little animal moving as I moved, safely staying close to the arch of my left foot.
“Into the house” I ordered. One by one the dogs ran inside.
“Where did he go?” I wondered.
My eyes caught him under the glass lawn table, hiding behind the leg of a chair, his little eyes peering out at me catching the light from the kitchen window.
“Please do not be hurt.” I whispered inwardly, filling my heart with love while sending him compassion.
“Are you alright little guy?”
To my amazement the little rat blinked his eyes, reached his tiny paws upward, stretching his body up the chair leg and then with equal curiosity to mine climbed up to the top of the chair and rested twelve inches from my face.
“I am out of breath.” He shared. His small torso rapidly expanded in and out. His head was awkwardly tilted to the side and one eye appeared to bulge.
Tears filled my eyes. “He must be in pain.” I quivered.
“Did the dogs get you?” I asked.
“No, you kept me safe. I hit my head when I fell.”
“How did you know that I would keep you safe?” I questioned.
“I am the rat.” He replied. “The one you have been talking to. I left your attic and stopped pooping on your outdoor parrot cage because it’s unsanitary and I moved my family next door when you told me you were getting a cat. I have done everything you have asked because you have taken the time to explain to me what you need and why. In return, you don’t trap me or poison me and I get to drink water out of your fountain and eat food the parrot drops on the ground. We live harmoniously.”
“Thank you for listening to me.”
“Is it safe to go home now?’ he asked blinking his eyes tiredly.
“yes” I told him. “It is safe to go home.”
And with that, my friend the rat, scurried down the chair, across the yard and up the bamboo adjacent to the ash tree leaving me with the sense of wonder of a child.
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