The Flattened Rat

2012-10-17 – Fortunately, I avoided the skunk in the park this morning. I had my eye out for small animals because last night we were out looking for a neighbor’s shih tzu in the park. And I didn’t know it had been found yet.

Actually, we didn’t go out looking for the shih tzu. We were out walking our own dog Lefty when a distraught woman drove up in a van and told us to look out for a little dog that had a braided pony tail and answered to the name Chloe. Whatever. I’m not a dog person and I have no idea what a shih tzu is supposed to look like and I didn’t expect to check any dog I happened to find for braided pony tails. But I was willing to look for unattached dogs. And I figured that, even if we came upon the dog, Lefty would find her first. Lefty is our distant early dog warning system.

So when I went into the park this morning, I was still keeping an eye out for small animals. And that’s how I happened to see the skunk. I do recognize skunks, so I did not attempt to check for braided pony tails. I immediately walked in the opposite direction.

It’s a mile and a half from my house to the train station and the park is probably only a quarter of a mile. So I passed out of the park onto the city streets and forgot all about small animals. Skunks have been a problem in the morning for the last several years. People are saying that skunks are out because of the long dry summer. They say the skunks are looking for water. Maybe that’s true. But the skunks in our neighborhood have been out for several years. We think that it’s because West Nile disease killed the crows that previously preyed on baby skunks. Don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds plausible. And the timing is right. So I’m careful about skunks in the predawn hours. But only in the park. They don’t go beyond that.

Skunks attract your attention because they move. They move slowly, but they move. So you notice them. Even in the dark, the white stripe captures your notice.

But I was out of the park. I haven’t run into any skunks outside of the park once. So my guard was down. And I walked the extra mile and arrived near my train station where I noticed an odd “spot” on the street. It looked at first like a large pop tart – a lumpy rectangle with strawberry frosting. But it was dark. As I got closer, I noticed some sort of strand coming off the pop tart. And then the strand started to look like a rat tail. Then at the top of the pop tart I noticed a head.

It wasn’t a pop tart at all. It was a flattened rat, formed into a rectangle by the tires of a passing car.

I’ve been seeing a lot of rats lately near the train station. Not too many pop tarts, but live running rats.

Skunks and rats. It’s dangerous out there.

But the shih tzu was found.

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