Among my myriad flaws is that I’m an animal lover.
Why, might you ask, is this an issue? Am I a male equivalent of “cat lady?” Are packs of hounds roaming hither and thither across my furniture, foodstuffs and finery? Do I possess a weakness that impels me to rescue every abandoned kitten, puppy and wombat I come across?
My issue is that I like to catch animals – the wilder the better.
While I let them go afterwards, I am also of the belief that the inherent beauty of God’s glory is fully evident in each of His creatures, and how better to enjoy the Creator’s handiwork than to reach out and snare his beasts?
As a result, a wide range of His critters have left their mark on me.
Snakes, turtles, birds, lizards, rabbits and fish are among animals by which I’ve been bitten.
Fortunately, none were venomous, none deprived me of a limb or lesser appendage, and all were reacting to me picking them up, rather than, say, attacking me.
My most memorable experience took place five years ago this week.
One morning in 2007 as I was getting ready for work I glanced out the back window of my house and saw my cat carrying what appeared to be a very large mouse in its mouth.
The captive beast, squirming furiously, was obviously still very much alive, so I went out the back door to try to effect a rescue.
The cat stopped with his wriggling captive when he saw me, then dropped it in the grass. I went over and saw that it was a cotton rat, apparently unharmed, though obviously quite frightened.
(For the record, cotton rats look nothing like wharf rats or brown rats; they’re considerably smaller and cuter, though most anything is cuter than a wharf rat.)
With the cat lurking nearby and the cotton rat in the middle of the yard, I knew it would only be a matter of time before this cat-and-rat game ended in feline’s favor.
So I reached down and scooped up the rat. As the cat glared at me, I looked for a place in yard to put it where the cat couldn’t make it into a fast meal. I took a dozen steps this way, half a dozen that way, and then it happened: the rodent bit me.
And this was no little nip, either. I could literally hear the popping of my skin as the little bugger bit into my left index finger. It left two puncture holes, one for the upper set of teeth and one for the lower.
Blood immediately started running down my finger, so, still holding the miscreant, I went into the kitchen, put the rat in one side of the sink and proceeded to wash away the now-copious amounts of blood streaming from my finger in the other.
At this point, a couple of things went through my mind: 1) Yes, I am an idiot; 2) I wonder what bizarre diseases I’ve exposed myself to; and 3) should I feed the miserable ingrate to the cat after all?
I ended up putting the rat in a nearby Tupperware container that normally held spaghetti, put some hydrogen peroxide and a couple of bandages on the bite, and went to work.
Not being a quick learner, I considered making rat a pet. It was actually quite cute and I knew my kids would love it. That night, I kept it in the Tupperware container, with some water and food. The container was about 10 inches tall, so I didn’t bother to put the top on.
Guess what I awoke to the following morning? No rat.
Perhaps it’s important at this point to note that this was a few months after my then-wife had decided the grass was greener elsewhere and had moved out of our house and in with someone else.
As result, there was, shall we say, an abundance of laundry piled up in the bathroom. Which is where I found my elusive friend – a week later.
By the time I found it, I was extremely grateful to no longer have a rat loose in the house, cute or not. So I promptly took it into the backyard, found a place where I figured the cat couldn’t get at it and freed it.
So, what do I see the next morning as I’m about to leave for work? The cat, trotting across the yard with a rat in its mouth – the very same rat.
Thus begins a repeat of Act One, except I employ the Tupperware container from the start, to avoid another set of grievous puncture wounds. And I cap the Tupperware, leaving the top slightly ajar to allow the beast to breathe, so we don’t have a repeat of the Great Escape.
That night after work, I picked a different place to free the addle-minded herbivore. I’m sure I left it with some uplifting parting words, too, like “What the heck? Rats are supposed to be among the smartest of the nature’s creatures, but, frankly, you’re about as sharp as a bag of, well, wet mice.”
Next morning, what do I see: the cat, honest to goodness, carrying the rat in its mouth – again.
At this point I figure that any rat dumb enough to get caught three times in the space of a week by the same cat probably just doesn’t have what it takes when it comes to “survival of the fittest.” I turned and left for work.
I’m not positive how things ended, but I’m pretty sure the cat came away happy for once.