Bull Tales

Aug 12, 2011
Stockdog for rent

I don’t think my neighbors are going to steal my dog, but I’m not sure.

She’s a little bit of a thing, doesn’t weigh as much as a big bag of dog food. This Aussie/Border Collie cross is short on cow skills, long on sheep, and her favorite thing in the world is an unruly hog. Ordinarily, I’d never think of her as a theft target—except for one thing— packrats.

For some reason, our neighborhood has been invaded by packrats. Living memory doesn’t record this many rats homesteading in outbuildings, broke-down pickups, attics and basements. Traps, poisons and all manner of trickery are the order of the day. They’re helping, but the dang things keep coming.

To date, my dog is the neighborhood leader with six confirmed packrat kills in the last three weeks. As her fame has spread, my neighbors are trying to figure out the source of her success.

Recently, an old friend stopped by our place. Becky doesn’t travel often so we look forward to her visits. We spent the afternoon catching up on our lives and exchanging gossip about ranches and people we knew. After a late dinner, everyone was tired and we tottered off to bed.

Before we headed off, I pulled Becky aside and explained that we’d discovered packrat tracks across the ranch computer that morning. If she heard the pitterpatter of little furry feet in the middle of the night—she shouldn’t worry, I was setting a trap.

“Thanks, I appreciate you letting me know,” she said.

My wife and I were reading in bed when we heard a distinctive “Clink” of something in the kitchen that wasn’t supposed to be moving. We looked at each other and silently nodded.

Less than three paragraphs later, we heard “SNAAAPPP!!!” and a lot of thrashing.

I tossed on a robe and headed toward the kitchen. Coming around the corner, I saw the struggling rat jam the trap between the legs of the butcher block. He got a purchase with his paws and wriggled out of the jaws. Then he dived behind the refrigerator.

I hurried back to the bedroom and told my wife what had happened. Shaking her head and muttering unkind words about the packrat family tree, she hurried to the guest room so Becky would know there was about to be a ruckus in the kitchen.

Becky, another long-time veteran of the packrat-human wars, got up to help. We held a strategy meeting in front of the refrigerator.

We moved the breadbox and jumped my little dog up on the counter. The three of us fanned out around the front and sides of the refrigerator to prevent the packrat from escaping. S-l-o-w-l-y, we moved the refrigerator away from the wall. When there was room, we jumped my excited dog behind the refrigerator to cover the rear.

All hell broke loose. The packrat skittered around like a bead of water on a hot skillet. The humans were doing a foot-pounding, stomping and yelling dance like a balewagon operator putting out a spark in a dry hay field.

“There he is—get’im!” “Watch it, I got a tail over here!” “Look out—look out, he’s headed your way!” At the same time, my dog was snarling and snapping

at the back of the refrigerator. Finally, the rat froze with fear and the kitchen went silent.

We pulled the refrigerator all the way out and the packrat jammed himself tighter into his cranny by the compressor. It was time to take the fight to the rat. Becky started banging him on the butt with the fire poker.

Those of you who’ve argued squatters rights with a packrat know they’re tough and smart. I can’t help but think that when this packrat looked around and saw his escape options disappearing—he chose the easiest way out—past my dog.

He didn’t make it. The party was over and everyone went back to bed. The thought of a good night’s sleep was more than wishful thinking.

Proud of my little dog, I drifted off to dreamland— when the idea came, I sat straight up in bed—maybe I should start a packrat extermination service and begin renting my dog. — D.

“Bing” Bingham [Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller. These days, his neighbors are happier to see his dog than they are him. If you’ve had a packrat skirmish you’d like to pass along, contact him at bing@bingbingham.com.]