Although I admire the tenets of Buddhist philosophy, when it comes right down to it, it’s hard to follow especially when it comes to live and let live. When I left Aravaipa Canyon Ranch behind, I thought my battles with four legged critters were over. After all, I traded life on 55 acres for home on a mere 2.5 acres, but discovered it meant the four legged neighbors were only much closer. Pack rats are the bane of southern Arizona existence. They thrive and survive in the toughest conditions, chew their way through anything, nest in the most impossible places, and delight in messing with my mind.
My first encounter with a pack rat happened to be at the ranch in Aravaipa. There was an outdoor shower outside the sliding glass door of my bedroom. When the heat hits triple digits, it is pure luxury to shower outdoors. You’ve got the blue sky overhead, the trees whispering hello, and the birds singing and winging around you. One night, my sleep was disrupted by a loud thump. Nocturnal animals were always bumping around at odd hours, so I rolled over and didn’t give it much thought. The next morning, I discovered my brand new bar of soap was missing. Stupidly, I put out another one. That night, same thing: a loud thump and no soap the next morning.
Now I’m a natural kind of gal. I prefer soap that is pure, allergen free, and sweet smelling; in other words, edible. My bars of soap were made of oatmeal, pure olive oil, and scented with vanilla and lavender. Still, they were soap and I had visions of a toothy critter foaming at the mouth and doubled over with a belly ache. Wandering around the shower stall, I discovered a squiggly trail, approximately the width of my bar of soap, heading off into the underbrush. That night I set a Have-A-Heart trap. This time, around midnight, I heard a metallic clank. The critter was caught: a pack rat. I relocated him quickly and never left a bar of soap outside in the shower again.
Pack rats are cute little guys with overly large ears, but don’t let that fool you! They are not nice. A few days ago, our foreman, Bill, started shouting at our dog, Rusty. “Get him!” he yelled as Rusty tried to paw his way into a narrow space between the carport wall and the storage cabinet. Bill and Rusty had joined forces to corner a pack rat, but the rat had tricks up its proverbial sleeve. When Rusty tried to scoop out the pack rat, it turned into Spiderman and scampered right up the carport wall, then skittered across and down to the opposite side. Refusing to admit defeat, Rusty attacked but the pack rat did a perfect imitation of Speedy Gonzales, flying across the drive at warp speed before taking a flying leap right up into the undercarriage of my car. I shrieked! Bill laughed. Rusty was befuddled. Immediately I ran for my keys to start up the car and Bill popped the hood. I even dragged the hose over to flush the varmint out, but Bill held me back, saying that really wasn’t so good for the car’s engine. That night we caught the pack rat in the Have-A-Heart and took it to an undisclosed location for release. Bill continued to laugh until, later that day, when he went down to the shop area. When he opened a cabinet door to grab a tool, another pack rat jumped out at him. Steaming mad, he declared Rat Armageddon!
Over the course of the next few days, killer rat traps were set throughout 2.5 acres. A total of 9 pack rats met their demise and another 3 were caught and released away from the place. Since I played no role in setting the traps, my karma should be clear, but it does give me pause. Sitting on the patio, I enjoy watching the rabbits and quail cavort; cheer on the lizards as they zip about in search of bugs; and even thrill at the sight of a coyote out for a stroll. As the owner of three dogs and a cat, I’m definitely an animal lover, but I have a confession to make. I’m glad the pack rats have been obliterated. I’m ecstatic every time another little fruit fly gets caught in the little trap sitting on the counter. Any scorpion that crosses my path is instantly marked for death and fire ants are blasted with insecticide. When it comes to live and let live, I play God and, at times, feel a bit guilty about it. When folks boast they scoop up the occasional spider in their hands and gently place it outside, I shake my head in wonder. When they urge me to consider that everything has its place, I have to agree, but I simply don’t want that place to by my home. I justify my behavior by claiming the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. I would not have the pack rats chomping my veggies or car wires. I don’t want an army of fire ants turning my feet to flames. I send mental images to the unwanted critters: a big picture of my home with a red circle and line through it, but they don’t comply. Since they refuse to abide by my request, since they feel free to burrow and sting at will, I have no choice but to defend myself.
Even though I don’t pull the trigger, I acknowledge my relief that the pack rats are gone. And I’d like to propose a revision of the philosophy of live and let live. How about this: live and let live but respect boundaries. In other words, let’s make a deal. I offer the pack rats the whole, wild desert to play in and, in return, ask that they stay out of my space.
Hmmmm…. There might be a few two-legged critters I’d like to offer that same deal to. Wonder if they’d go for it?