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Nashville Scene Good Riddance

If you've got a dog, you may also have rats

By Walter Jowers

AUGUST 3, 1998:  A long time ago, when I kept seven dogs for pets, I found out that rats like dog food. One day, I walked out to the porch where I kept a 50-pound bag of Jim Dandy feed, reached into the bag to grab the dog-food scoop, and a rat the size of a lava lamp came flying out, like a Titan missile leaving the silo and heading for Moscow.

I thought to myself, Hmmm, it's not too smart to leave the dog food out like this. Where there's one rat, there could be more. So I closed up the dog food in an old refrigerator, and I put out a rat trap baited with peanut butter.

The next morning, I'd caught myself a rat. I reset the trap and caught another rat, then another. Some were so big, they actually ran away wearing the traps around their necks. Eventually, I caught 27 rats.

Well, truth be told, I only caught 25. One chewed into some wires and electrocuted itself. I shot the last one off the back of my Barcalounger, with my trusty .177 pellet rifle. I've got to tell you: It's a dark day when you have to load up a weapon and go vermin-hunting in your own living room. It's a darker day yet when the first shot doesn't do the job, and you have to reload, then corner the guilty rodent under a bookcase to finish him off.

I had my own sloppy habits to blame for the rat infestation, but the problem was made worse by the fact that my house was next door to a swamp. We had problems with mice and rats on and off for as long as I can remember. As a child, I learned one lesson: Never poison 'em. They won't die where you want 'em to. As soon as a rat realizes he's been D-Conned, he starts thinking, Where can I go curl up and die, then stink for days where they won't find me? Hey, how about the back of an underwear drawer?

Earlier today, I was scanning an Internet newsgroup on home repair, and I ran across a thread on how to get rid of rats. The person who started the thread was the victim of either a twitchy finger or a Freudian slip, because his original message was titled, "Need help killing cats."

A cat lover suggested he drink a few cups of Drano, and then he wouldn't be bothered by cats anymore. Eventually, the title of the thread was changed to, "Need help killing rats."

One mad scientist suggested putting out saucers full of Coca-Cola. Rats can't burp, he said, so the fizzy Coke makes their insides explode.

I doubt this. I'm no expert on rat anatomy, but I'd bet rats can burp. Or at least fart. I just don't believe rats will guzzle down fizzy soda and then die from an internal explosion. And even if they did, how would we know? Are there scientists somewhere spending our tax money to load up rats with carbonated beverages, then taking little rat X-rays to confirm that the animals died from explosions in their gastrointestinal tracts? Sweet Baby Jesus, I hope not.

I think the exploding-rat research was done by the same bunch of drunken frat boys who swear they've thrown Alka-Seltzer tablets to seagulls, then watched the unlucky birds explode in mid-flight. Nothing left but feathers, man. I swear. I don't believe this one, either. Not because it's not plausible, but because if it worked, every mean little kid at the beach would be doing it.

If you ask me, some people have seen a few too many Road Runner cartoons. You know, you could mix in some steel ball bearings with the rats' regular food, then just gather 'em up with some big-ass magnets.

The most creative rat-control solution came from some folks who said they mix up equal parts oatmeal and concrete, then leave out the concoction for the rats to eat.

This would work. Rats are definitely stupid enough to eat an oatmeal-and-concrete casserole, and the concrete should cure nicely inside their little digestive tracts. Granted, it would be an ugly way to go, but we are talking about rats here.

Visit Walter's Web site at www.nash-scene.com/~housesense. Or e-mail him at walter.jowers@nashville.com

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