The intruder in my garden


Yesterday’s post reminded me of an incident in my back yard. It was horrifying, hilarious, and enlightening all at the same time!

Late one night, I opened my back door to see why the dogs were barking. Those of you with dogs will know: it wasn’t the normal: “let me in” or “I’m bored, so I’m talking to the moon”, or “the neighbour’s cat is looking at me” kind of bark. It’s the serious kind. The deep, menacing kind of bark that you go and investigate.

Both dogs are under the hedge, frantically trying to scramble up to get at whatever is scurrying around in there. It’s too small to be an intruder of the human persuasion, but I’m worried that it might be a snake, and with two dogs aggravating a snake, I really don’t want to get too close. At the same time, I want to get the dogs away.

The next minute the furry fiend jumps out of the hedge with both dogs in hot pursuit. I look like the least threat and it makes a dash for my door. I let out a piercing scream which diverts it and brings my husband, who happened to be in the midst of a shower, running to my aid: “What’s the matter?”

“It’s a rat and it’s trying to get in the house!” I yell.

“A rat?” he asks ” I thought you were being attacked!”

“Well, I was! It was trying to come into the house! And it’s nearly as big as the baby!”

He stomps off to go and finish his shower grumbling about silly women while I stand guard at the door. The enormous rat in the meantime has retreated back up the hedge.  All I can do is grab the dogs by their scruffs and drag them into the house, hoping that the rat will leave peacefully when it feels less threatened during the night.

The next morning, everything seems calm and peaceful with no sign of our furry intruder. Husband goes off to work. The dogs are in the garden and I’m puddling around the house. I hear the dog giving a yelp and even before I look out the window, I just know it’s that damned rat! I open the door to find the dogs hovering over the rat with some new-found respect. Lilly the Lab comes to show me the gash on her nose and I know that she will probably keep a healthy distance now.

The fluffy dog, however, has no such notions. I’m not sure whether I’m more afraid that they won’t catch it, or that they will! The rat is injured badly. It limps around on three legs, dragging one. It manages to scamper away and dig underneath the water fountain in the corner. The fluffy dog is determined to get at it, even if it means digging out the entire fountain.

I phone the husband, who understandably exasperated, asks me what exactly he is supposed to do about the matter. I’m not sure, but I can’t cope. Come home and kill the rat? The dogs are going to catch the rat. The rat has made it clear that he is willing to fight back. Why hasn’t the foolish animal left? Is it too injured? But I get no sympathy and try another avenue.

I phone my mother-in-law. By this time I am hysterical and although she has no clue what I’m going on about, registers my distress and agrees to everything I ask. I heave the dogs into the back of the bakkie (non-South Africans, read “pick-up truck”). It is quite a feat to keep the first inside and loading the second one with one eye on the rat at all times. I drive the dogs to mum-in-law’s house, hoping that by the time we come back, Mr Rat has realised that if he doesn’t leave, he will have to die. I can’t have a rat living in the garden, can I? No, really, can I? Is there any way we can all live in peace?

The notion seems rather ridiculous, but I can’t kill it. I can’t kill it and I won’t allow it to suffer. Even my grandfather, who was a farmer in the Namibian Kalahari, where nothing was allowed to live unless it bleated, would never, ever allow an animal to suffer if he could help it. It’s just not right. My mind races. This is truly a predicament for me. But I can’t. I really cannot bring myself to kill anything.

I have some tea with mummy-in-law and after giving the rat a few hours to plan an exit I pile the dogs back into the car and drive home. I let them out and they immediately start sniffing where they last saw the intruder. No sign. I sigh with relief and carry on with my day. The rat is no longer my problem…

You didn’t really think that was the end of it, did you?

A mere hour after we’ve come back, the dogs have found the rat. They managed to corner it and this time it’s the rat screeches that draw my attention. The sound perforates my core being and I start hyperventilating again. Again, I’m on the phone to hubby, demanding that he come home right now to put an end to this madness. Out of sheer exasperation he does.

After showing him the rat’s latest hideout, I retreat into the house, hoping that the man will end my agony. After only a few minutes, he is back in the house, telling me that the rat is not all that injured and he thinks it might make it.

You what?!? I didn’t make you come home to save the critter! It’s a rat. If Mr Rat lives, how long will it be before he invites the Mrs to move in too? Do you know how fast rats breed and multiply? And how long until they eat my dogs, or decide they would really rather like to live in the house instead of the garden?

It takes me a while to figure it out, but finally his dilemma dawns on me: Although he hunts regularly, my tough man is also a very sensitive soul, and killing something close up and in cold blood does not appeal to him. This is a conundrum. So I set an ultimatum: Either he kills the rat, or he catches it so I can take it to the vet for them to euthanize. This notion is just slightly too insane to for him to come to grips with (although I see him contemplating the idea or just a second) and he is pushed into action.

The furry intruder is dead. The gash on the dog’s nose will heal. And I have learnt something I never knew about the man I married…

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