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Issue link: http://loumag.epubxp.com/i/718671
5 6 L O U I S V I L L E M A G A Z I N E 9 . 1 6 ANIMAL ENCOUNTER RATS e smell. I will never forget. A highly concentrated nasal assault, similar to hair tangled and burning in a hair dryer. My husband recalls the scent as a "toxic piss chemical bath." Rats were among us. About five years ago our oven's insulation had become their cozy winter den. But it didn't stop there. ey burrowed in our walls and deposited Rice Krispy-sized poop capsules in our kitchen, using their excrement as weapons of mental destruction. I'm no germaphobe. But anxiety gnarled my brain. Not mice. RATS! Stocky, sewer-swimming, diseased fur demons with tails at least six inches long and bodies measuring twice that had infested our rented home in Germantown. ey were your standard city rats, also known as Norway rats. (e only bad thing to come out of that Scandinavian paradise, as far as I'm concerned.) ey sneak around in shaggy brown and gray coats. ey live on all continents except Antarctica. ey love city life, with all its garbage and food scraps. eir babies look like bubble gum. I'm not sure why they targeted us. We've never been hoarders. Our home did not exist in a Grey Gardens state. We set out bulky sticky traps. Our landlady recruited pest control, and a man in uniform dusted our home with poison, especially our crawl space, seemingly their entry point and gathering spot. Our docile old Golden Retriev- er suddenly was forced to eat only when we were home because rats like to steal dog food out of the bowl and stow it away in the walls for secret snacking. We are not aggressive folk. But I do remember feeling a sense of superiority and safety in the impending annihi- lation. What I didn't realize was that I would witness the body count. One evening I came home from work to find a stiff, poisoned corpse behind the couch. Another showed up in a closet. One morning I woke early to run and heard high-pitched screeching and the frantic slapping of plastic. I peered behind the oven to find a rat stuck to a trap. I looked at it, it at me. e enemy's beady eyes seemed to plea for clemency. Tossing the rat in the trash to freeze to death seemed cruel, so I dragged my husband out of bed at 5 a.m. and sent him outside, my valiant Grim Reaper. Mercy arrived in the form of a plastic Kroger bag and a swift stomp from a 200-pound man. I've saved the most gruesome discovery for last. We had left Louisville to visit family for Christmas. Moments after we returned home and started turning on lights and unpacking toothbrushes, I spotted a brown body and tail floating in our toilet. I probably screamed. I knew that the poison dehydrated rats. Did this one stop in for a drink and realize he couldn't swim? Was the poison so painful he leapt from toilet seat to bowl to end his suffering? I felt guilty, curious, violated and victorious. We took some iPhone photos. In a Kroger-bag casket, we bid it farewell. at was the last rat we saw. A few months ago I was in the kitchen of our new house with the oven on. A scent similar to that scent arrived like a phantom. My nose tilted upward, all bloodhound at a barbecue. I froze. I called my husband. He sniffed for rats. No toxic piss chemical bath here, he assured me. e smell eventually passed. My fear and loathing has not. — Anne Marshall