I like to think of my dog as The Mad Ratter. Since he is not especially effective as a guard dog, I figure his ratting ability justifies the gazillion dollars in treats, toys and grooming I spend on him each year.
I guess, to be perfectly fair to him, he is somewhat effective as a watchdog in that he will bark at every leaf as it falls off the trees. But his bark is such that all but the truly dense immediately know the sound is being made by a little ankle nipper.
I’d like to give him credit for the unconditional love he gives me but again this is a problematic situation since his nickname is Slut Puppy. Basically anyone who walks into the house and is willing to give him a belly rub will get greeted the second time around with the same level of enthusiasm as he greets me each day. So in defining his best qualities, I really am stuck with choosing between his ability to hunt down little furry critters and his ability to always find my Chinese silk rug when he needs to be sick.
The day before I moved from Barrow to Anchorage, Mr. T showed the normal signs of anxiety at all the commotion going on in his home. I think he finally cracked when he saw his food dish disappear into a box. He took off the minute he found an unguarded open door.
I spent most of the rest of the day searching for him, sure he would disappear on the tundra and I’d never see him again. The only assurance I had that this was not the case was the continuing stream of dead lemmings that kept showing up on my doorstep. He seemed to have an uncanny ability to know when I would be out of the house looking for him. He would chose those times to show up and deposit another dead lemming.
I think he figured if I had taken away his food dish it meant I was never going to feed him again so he was going to have to put in his own food supply for the winter. Each dead lemming meant another day that he wouldn’t have to face starvation.
All of, which is why, when I realized that the coming of fall had brought an uninvited guest into my home, I thought there would be no problem. I lived with the Mad Ratter. If he could track lemmings down on the tundra, surely he could handle some little furry critter that had mistaken my wall for a cozy winter home.
Alas, like so many of us who move from the bush to the city, the comforts of urban living have apparently made Mr. T soft. Either that or the fact that his food dish is still in sight and filled takes the edge away from his need to hunt. For whatever reason, Mr. T seems hard-pressed to evince much interest in the little furry thing scurrying along in front of the fireplace.
I first realized I had uninvited company when I woke up three mornings in a row and found the dirt from the plants on the mantel scattered all over. Being a basically softhearted person, I could not work up the energy needed to kill whatever it was that was causing the mess. I had no qualms, however, about letting Mr. T take a crack at it. At a minimum, I figured he would be enough to convince the critter my house was not the best place to over winter.
I would probably have been right had Mr. T actually been able to stay awake long enough to care. But at the ripe old age of 12, when he falls asleep at night, he falls asleep soundly. He wakes up only to move from the couch to my bedroom. When he arrives, usually about 3 AM, he scratches at the door till I let him in. He stays awake only till I cover him up when he gets on his bed. Nothing I could do or say seemed to convince him to stay in the living room and deal with the intruder.
Perhaps my response to his initial gift of lemmings soured him on bringing me any more furry little creatures. Perhaps had I not made such a face or voiced such gagging sounds as I gingerly lifted them by their tails and tossed them back to the tundra, he would not be so reluctant to engage in the hunt once again.
Meanwhile, I have apparently acquired an unexpected roommate for the winter who seems to be quite polite and has so far confined himself to the mantle above the fireplace.
I wonder if he plays bridge?