Monday, January 1, 2007

Rat Assassin! Doing Darwin's Work in Washington Square.

The New Year's off to a fantastic start for Sita, one of my two Siberian Huskies. She's the one I usually call, "the good one," or, "the sweet one," or, "the freakishly smart one who can sometimes find my keys when I can't." Before nine o'clock this January 1st, though, my little monkey girl had gotten herself another name for the day. She started the year off as "Killer."

She's obsessed by the rats in Washington Square Park. They spend a lot of time darting around on the other side of the dog run fence, and she spends a lot of time staring at them, longingly. They tease and torment her, skitter skattering hither and yon, in their ratty way. When one of them makes the foolish choice to squeeze in under the fence, she's right there, ready and waiting to snatch it up.

Huskies like to kill small, squiggly things. There's nothing they love more. Especially when those things make high pitched, squeaky sounds. Then they like to toss them around, because, apparently, dead rats are the best toys ever. It's just part of the package. They are smart and independent, they shed a lot, they've got those pretty blue eyes, and they are expert killers.

Sita and Sasha, also known as"the bossy one," have taken out their fair share of squirrels, rats, and pigeons, in the past. I'm past the point of being too squeamish about their prizes. So long as I don't have to touch the soft, small corpse, so long as they'll drop it, and there's something around to scoop it up with, without making direct contact, we're ok. Maybe I am a little squeamish still, but believe me when I tell you this represents great progress on my part. A dead rat on such a grim, grey, New Year's Day, though, feels like some kind of omen, doesn't it? And not necessarily a good one.

You could say it was my fault. I could have been watching them more closely. I was feeling inordinately pleased with myself though, in a, "What a good dog owner I am! At the park, in this downpour, at 8 am on New Year's Day. How lucky my dogs are to live with me!" kind of way. Chatting with the only other person in the dog run with her puppy, about more or less just that. The three dogs were playing, and everything seemed just fine. I didn't even see the thing until Sita had it in her mouth. At that point, it was all over for that rat. Sita doesn't mess around. One quick shake, maybe two, breaks the neck, and that's that. At least it's quick and painless, right? She is a stealthy and efficient rat assassin. Maybe she should look into a career with the CIA, as a Secret Agent Siberian, and then I could live vicariously through her death defying exploits!

Washington Square Park is rat central, in case you've never noticed. They are everywhere. I think it may have something to do with its having been a graveyard, and a public hanging ground, before it became a park, but that's not really something I like to think about, walking through it every day, whose bones I might be strolling over, who might have swung from that nice old tree I'm passing under.

You could also say that rat was asking for it. What kind of a defective rat, with an entire park to play in, comes inside the dog run? That's what I never understand. They have sense enough to dart away when my dogs and I cross their paths on the sidewalk. Are the dogs somehow less scary when I take their leashes off? Even on a slow day, the dog run's no place for a rat. The rats of Washington Square Park should really hold an emergency Community Board meeting, to reconsider the wisdom of that approach. It's not working out for them so well.

Maybe this particular rat was suicidal. Maybe the holiday season is stressful for the rat world too. I don't know just how functional rat families are, so I can see how that might be the case. Maybe no one had told this one today was the end of that. Whatever its problem was, developmental disability or mood disorder, the rat gene pool is clearly better off without this one's DNA. Sita is simply doing Darwin's work.

According to the Chinese calendar, I was born in the Year of the Rat. The Water Rat, to be precise. According to Chinese astrology, this means I "have a knack for influencing people," "strong intellectual powers," and am, "obliging, generous, and compassionate." There are some other, less flattering attributes, but I'm keeping those to myself today, to maintain my air of mystery. You know how to Google, if you're curious enough to learn the worst about me. 2007, in case you're wondering, is the Year of the Boar. 2006 was the Year of the Dog.

Sita kills a soaking wet rat, on New Year's day. The lazy oracle might suggest she's going to kill me, most likely before this year is through. Listening to the lazy oracle is generally ill advised, though and Sita is, usually, "the sweet one," so I can't really get myself too worried about that. And I have a true talent for envisioning those unlikely worst case scenarios, but that? Not even I can imagine that one..

Sita's the messenger here, but not the message. I'm taking her out of the equation, and singling out that dead, wet rat. Have I mentioned, by the way, how much I enjoyed disposing of that rat? Fortunately, the dog run's well stocked with scoops and shovels, but still. Just what I'd hoped to be doing at the crack of dawn on New Year's Day.

The Death card in the Tarot deck always sounds, and looks, so ominous. In my deck, Death is represented by the simplest of grim reapers, scythe in hand. It's really not a bad card to get though. It doesn't so much foretell your doom, as let you know there's change in the air. Some kind of risky transition you'll have to navigate well and wisely. Something that may look scary, at first glance, but will offer you a chance at reinvention, recreation, rebirth, if you like. But you have to be paying attention, to see the opportunities at hand, and brave enough to take them, no matter how they terrify.

I'd already gotten some big changes lined up for 2007. Not just to finally lose those last ten pounds, or to be nicer to the tourists, things I'm actually going to do, things that matter. It's past time to shake myself up a little. So I'm taking this as an auspicious omen, and a reminder that the path of least resistance rarely leads to anyplace I'd want to be. That the best things only happen when we give them the room they need to take us by surprise.

In the meantime though, I'm still trying to get the last of the rat blood stains off of my pupcake's pretty white face. I've heard a little peroxide might do the trick. It might be easier if she didn't think it was time to cuddle whenever I come at her with the washcloth. Why would I expect anything else though? After all, she is the sweet one.

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