I had rats. I suppose that statement is somewhat nebulous. Did I have rats in my hair? Did I have them as pets?  Were they running rampant through my house? Actually, two of these three statements are accurate, and if I hadn’t taken action when I did, likely the third could have been true as well.  I have had pet rats, and I’ve also had them running rampant through my house. It is the latter to which I refer. Rats infested my little bungalow, the one I restored in a SE suburb of Portland. I didn’t want to kill them. I started out using sticky paper to catch them and then I would take them to a park or somewhere else to release them. This was quite distressing. They would be so stuck to the paper and it would cause all sorts of physical stress reactions in the little things, and I could hardly bear it. I would cry as I used a stick or some other means to try and extricate them from the glue, whispering I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, over and over to them, pieces of their skin and fur left behind. I also tried live rat catching cages, but not one rat was caught.

Eventually the infestation became too great for humanitarian aid. My brother was staying with me at the time, as well as his girlfriend, and the combination of the two was more bait than any rat could resist. They were horrible housekeepers, which made them less than desirable house guests. The girlfriend especially. At one point during their sojourn, I found it necessary to clean up after them. The discoveries I made in the girlfriend’s belongings were enough to turn one’s stomach. Derek’s stuff, not so much. His stuff was just disorganized, but there wasn’t anything of organic nature in it. But girlfriend had bags full of clothes and at the bottom of bags were all manner of disgusting and rotten foodstuffs, as well as crusty-crotched underwear, and used menstrual pads. I could hardly manage. I’m on the clean end of the spectrum. I don’t like ghastly aged human excretions and rotten food being left in my home. Worst of all, the rats had burrowed into the bottoms of these bags and made nests filled with tiny torn up underwear crotches and pajamas.

As you can well imagine, the rats had a field day with this. They were mating and spawning like crazy. No sooner would I escort 6 teenage rats to the park than 20 more would appear, gorging on dog food, running across the basement stairs when the door opened, or tunneling through girlfriend’s sacks of nastiness. They also chewed cords and walls and were pretty destructive.

I finally realized that I was, unfortunately, going to have to cause some untimely rat deaths. I did not relish the thought.  Having been a rat owner for many years, I loved them. They are smart and cute and furry and all the things lots of people don’t think they are. Who cares if they have skin covered tails? Is a rabbit any different except that it has a fluffy tail? Not really.

I decided against traps. I could not bear squishing them. However, murderous bait was not much more appealing. They would suffer. Yet disposing of whole bodies were more palatable than getting rid of mutilated ones.

And so it began. I put out bait in big plastic things. Within days, I discovered slow moving creatures attempting to escape and find water. I would remove them to the farthest corner of the yard to die. This was horrible, but my cat and I could not keep up with their endless breeding and destruction.  Eventually my brother and the girlfriend left and I was also rat free. I cleaned the basement room thoroughly and made repairs where necessary. Life moved on and I forgot about the entire sordid affair.

So why did I bring this up now, six years later? Because I have a little safe in which I store a backup hard drive for my computer, and necessary papers like passports and birth certificates. Every now and again I have to get into the little safe for whatever reason, most often to back up the computer. This little safe was stored in the basement where my brother and the rats cohabited. One other problem I experienced with the rats is that they peed on things. They mostly peed on Sarah’s clothes (Sarah was Derek’s girlfriend), but they also peed on that safe. I’ve sprayed and scrubbed it and tried to rid it of that scent, to no avail. It is there. It smells. Every single time I open the safe for whatever reason, there is the smell, musky and stinky. It’s like cat pee; it never goes away. It has faded, but I doubt it will ever be gone. For as long as I own and use this safe, I expect I’ll have a little bit of rat urine in my life. I guess I can live with that.

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