Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ah, rats!

We were sitting in our backyard in the late afternoon sun, throwing a tennis ball for Jamaica when the Beve said, "A rat just ran across the top of the back fence."
"A rat?" I said, shaking my head. "It was a squirrel." We have lots of squirrels in our neighborhood. They run with abandon around the perimeter of our yard, scurrying up trees when the dogs come near, chattering down at Jackson as he stands on his hind legs, barking. They like to tease him, knowing he can't reach them. They run straight up the trunk of the Douglas fir, get just above his jumping heighth, then turn around and face him, somehow holding on to the tree vertically while he goes ballistic with the desire to catch them. It's tormenting to him that he never wins this game. He goes for birds with the same fervor, though a few weeks ago, a crow made the mistake of landing in the flower bed just as he wandered into it, and he captured it. I was sitting out in the sun at the time, and my instinct was to scream, "No Jackson, no!"--every bit the pacifist, even then. He was only doing what he'd been created to do, after all. It was me who couldn't handle all that squawking and feathers flying. But really, can you blame me? I yelled loud enough that the Beve came running, and yanked Jackson off the crow and into the house where we closed the dog door and let the bird get a headstart getting away. I'm not a big crow-lover, but the end of the story would have been him bringing it into the house. I know, he's done it before, and then who has to remove the offering of a dead bird from the kitchen floor? I'll give you one guess!!

But rats--that's another story altogether. And I shiver to think of it. I refused to admit the Beve might have seen what he thought he saw. But then while I was down the hall, but everyone else was at the table for dinner, SK looked out and gave a little shriek. The Beve said, "Saw a rat?" "On to top of the fence."
"It couldn't be," I said, a little sick to my stomach.
"Unless a squirrel got a hair cut, shaved its tail, and began sprinting instead of hurdling, it was a rat!" Beve answered, seemingly unperturbed (but then very little perturbs him. Honestly, that man!).
Are you kidding me? Rats. The back corners of the yards behind us are very overgrown--easy enough for a den, I suppose. We have a wood pile in that same corner, but ours is accessible to us. You couldn't get into the others unless you had a scythe, I think. Maybe some rat killer now. So it all makes sense...but YUCK! So now what? How do we go about killing these things, without also killing our dogs who like to investigate smells and strange new tastes? It's hard, in fact, for me to imagine that there are rats in that corner of our yard without Jackson having been over there hunting for them all the time? You know? Or maybe I'm just trying to convince myself. Give myself hope.

Why is it that some animals give us the heeby-jeebies? Rats are incredibly close to humans in many ways--they must be or they wouldn't be used for so many different kinds of experiments regarding cancer and other diseases. Rats and pigs, right? And we generally have disregard for both of them. Don't you find it odd how we can loathe the kinds of things that are most like us? Yes, they're dirty, carry diseases (the plague was no small thing), but...so do we. Yes, so do we. All sorts of diseases. And I'm not simply talking about the physical ones. Rats are scavangers, thieves, mean and ugly. Hmm, sound familiar? In scripture, from beginning to end, sin and disease are linked. Jesus repeatedly forgives sin, then heals bodies. Now I'm not implying (as many have) that a specific sin caused a specific disease. However, we live in a world where of sin and disease, and we are tainted by both. Need healing from both, saving from both.

"Praise the Lord, oh my soul,
and forget not His benefits--
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion." Psalm 103:2-4

Just so you know, I'm not about to be Jesus to these rats running across our back fence. One way or another--however the experts say will do the job--they are not long for this world. But I thank God that He looked at the rat in me and saw that I was made in His image, and worth the life of His SON.

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