Rat-zero to rat-hero

By the middle of December the floods were one and a half foot high on the small unnamed road leading to our farm – just over my wellies and getting a bit too high to comfortably use the car.

The year started very dry (remember those foreboding pictures of low reservoirs in winter??) but has more than made up for it: the wettest in a century. Father-in-law has been here for 50 years and never known such floods, in summer or winter.

Many of the local farms will struggle to find enough forage to feed their animals: we had to use a lot of it in the summer when the cattle came in off the soggy pastures, and then we couldn’t make as much good-quality hay or silage as usual – the crops had not grown, or the heavy machinery could not get on the land to harvest it. Some arable crops are still standing, rotten in the fields. It’s desperate.

Most foxes, badgers and rabbits seem canny enough to make their homes above the high water but I do feel sorry for the poor things that have not. At least the moles won’t wreck my vegetable patch next year.

The rats are the cleverest of all.  Where do they go when it rains? They scurry up to the high ground, which means our house.  So this morning, after finding a rat in the outhouse where I store my apples, jams, chutneys etc, I decided I had to deal with our vermin problem. I finished making the kids’ packed lunches and then laid the traps.  It’s not a savoury scenario having to dispatch them but neither is rat pee on my bramleys.

At the same time, I’m treating people’s rats at work – nice rats, handleable rats.  People can end up spending lots of money on their rodents – like this one today, who needed a mammary tumour removed.  The operation went fine: I removed the lump and then used tissue glue rather than stitches to stick her back together. (The last rat I operated on unpicked all its stitches with its sharp little teeth and had to be anaesthetised all over again.)

Tissue glue is like superglue for skin.  Great stuff.  But my mind was wandering as I pondered my transformation from rat-killer to rat-saviour within a matter of hours, and I managed to stick the rat to one finger of my latex gloves.  Then, as I peeled them off in a bit of a panic, I managed to stick myself to both latex and rat.

How many vets does it take to unstick a rat from a finger? Three. And the poor rat still went home with a full thickness part of my index finger skin attached to her midline.

Perhaps she considered that as suitable payback for the cruelties I had meted out on her cousins in my outhouse.


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