Few sights evoke such near universal revulsion and fear among humans as the lowly rodent known as the rat, except perhaps encountering a dead rat.
Like the creepy critter sitting in my front yard today, captured for posterity in the accompanying photograph.
At first glance I looked for something with which to whack the beastie, thinking it was still alive, but the presence of flies on the suspicious carcass led me to believe that this specimen of Rattus norvegicus was indeed dead. Still, it took more than a few pokes with a long and pointy stick to convince me that this reservoir of pestilence was not going to charge at me and gouge my legs, sending me headlong into a fatal case of Yersinia pestis.
I chose my trusty snow shovel as the implement by which I would send this rodent of to Rattus Valhalla:
The rat in question was quite large, though not as monstrous as the rats I used to see near the waterfront when I worked in downtown Detroit at Joe Louis Arena. From head to tail the rat was the better part of two feet in length, and I estimate its weight to have been about one pound and a half.
The cause of death is a mystery, since there were no signs of foul play on the rat's body. The usual suspects - my five dogs - reported no unusual activity today, and I am sure that if one of the dogs had been wise to the presence of a large rodent, I would have heard about it. I think that this rat consumed poison bait someplace and then staggered onto my front lawn to die.
I felt a twinge of sorrow as I tossed the rat carcass into the trash can, as the creature began to look a lot less fearsome. With its little whiskers and soft brown fur, I might have used the term "cute" to describe it, at least if I had stared another minute or two. However, the rat is now buried under several bags of trash, and by tomorrow this rodent will be the stuff of a municipal landfill.