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Good dog! Bad dog!


Annie killed a rat today. It might have been a really big mouse. And she didn't really kill it, so much as caused its death. As much as I want to say, "Yay, Annie! Good girl!" I'm mortified by how the rat died, and can't cheer her on as much as I want to.

Kris and I have been starting work on on the house. Before having the front yard landscaped, we replaced the sewer line, and figured we'd best paint the house, too, lest the landscaping be trampled by the painters. We're also having the whole house rewired, since we have exactly two grounded outlets in the house. I made arrangements for quotes for house painting and an electrician to come out, see what was up with the house, and give me quotes.

The painter came first, at 9:30. We walked around the house, looking at the various walls. When we approached the south wall, Annie and Bella were madly hunting. Noses to the ground, they were dashing up and down the yard along the fence, frantically following a scent. Bella would pause every once in a while and howl, but kept sniffing. I thought little of the event.

Having walked around the house, the painter guy and I went into the kitchen for a separate quote. The kitchen has been in the same state of incomplete surface remodel for the last two years, and I was tired of it. I'm sure Kris was even more tired of it than I was, having looked at yet.another.unfinished.project of mine for more than two days (possibly the cause of the household rule, "No more new projects until you finish the old ones." Either that room, or the bathroom, or the bedroom, or the office or the living room. One of those rooms.). The painter guy left and went to his car to write up a quote.

After twenty minutes or so, the painter guy gave me a quote, brieftly reviewed it, and left, just as the electrician was walking up. Excellent timing on everyone's part, and I started the house tour again, this time with the electrician. We went out back to discuss the electricity meter, which unfortunately, was installed poorly and allowed water to run along the exposed wires inside the meter. Lovely that.

As I turned to walk back into the house, Annie came running up to me all bouncy and excited. She jumped a bit, took two steps away looking over her shoulder back at me, then returned to bounce again when she realized I wasn't following her. "What is it, Annie?" I asked, looking up to where Bella was.

I walked over, and realized the dark grey object I thought was a stick on the ground by Bella was indeed not. It was a rat. A very wet, soggy rat. As I stood there amazed, it tried to stand and escape. Not thinking, I cried to Bella, "Get it!" and she ran over to it, howling. Annie was quicker, ran over over, picked up the rat and flipped it up. It turned in the air and landed with a soft splat on the concrete. Still alive, it tried again to get away.

Since the electrician was waiting, I went back into the house and finished the tour of the house, what I wanted done, which rooms would get ceiling lights, how many circuits, where would we add outlets. I asked for a lot of changes, figuring I could scale back as needed.

When we were done, I went back out to the backyard where Annie was still playing with the rat. It wasn't moving any longer, so I pinged Kris, let him know what was up, and told him I'd be throwing away the body. We chuckled about the whole thing, and I left to get a small bag. On my way out the door, I recalled Priyanka's dead squirrel incident, where she poked a "dead" squirrel, which wasn't quite dead enough, and it turned on her, latching onto her finger. She required a series of rabies shots and a lot of stitches. No thanks.

I walked back to the garage for gardening gloves, and walked back out to the backyard. As I crouched down and looked at the rat, I realized it was still breathing. It turned and looked at me. My next reaction was complete horror. This small creature was still alive, and being tortured by my dogs. Kris' dogs! Each breath was labored. I messaged Kris, exclaiming surprise at the fact the rat was still alive. He reaction: "Whack it with a shovel! One whack, dead!" I expressed my horror at the thought: the dichotomy of the situation not lost on me: I was perfectly fine with throwing away the dead body, but I wasn't willing to kill it.

Rats aren't particularly attractive creatures to me, Disney personification not-withstanding. The tails are kinda gross, too. Ick. But the thought of whacking the thing over the head with a shovel mortified me. I called Doyle to see if he'd come over and help me out. He was willing, but a short while out.

I found our shovel, and went to get the rat. Sure, the rat was going to die, but I didn't have to let the dogs gum it to death. I tried for a good three minutes to pick up that rat. It was limp and relatively unwilling to scoop up onto the shovel. I eventually managed to get it half on the shovel, and carried it folded over on the edge around to the front, dropping it on the driveway next to the jasmine. The dogs weren't too happy with me, as I took away their kill. I am, however, Alpha Dog, and I get the food, not them.

While I sat there, waiting for Doyle out front, I watched the rat. It's breathing was labored. A neighbor walked by, and stopped to talk to me. Her immediate reaction when I told her my dog had killed a rat, was, "Yay!" but when she realized it wasn't quite dead, also paused. We talked about inconsequential things, and, as I looked up to talk to her, the rat died. Scooping it up onto the shovel and into the bag was easy at that point.

The rat's death bothered me a surprising amount, it still bothers me, and will probably continue to bother me, as I think about it. Yes, I recognize the circle of life, the hunter and the hunted, the ridiculousness of the personification, and the destruction the small creature could wring on my garden and backyard. I know these things, yet watching an animal die was hard.

The older I get, the more I am aware of my own mortality. Working on busy work becomes more difficult. Having as much clutter as I have becomes harder. Letting go of things becomes harder. The thought of any of my family dying is crushing, yet I know it'll happen, and the older I get the more imminent such and event becomes. I want to hold all of my friend and family close and stop change from happening. Take this moment and keep it.

Yay, Annie caught a food stealing, potential rabies carrying rat. Oh, my, god, she killed another being. I can't resolve this dichotomy.


...because the dichotomy didn't always exist.

We can't resolve the dichotomy now because we're wrapped up in it, tied to it, drowning in it ourselves. The solution has been applied though. The healing is taking place, though it's often not discernable. There will be a time when the dichotomy no longer exists.


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