Peaches' Christmas rat

The things we do for our dogs....

OK, it's time for everyone to submit their entry for the best of the Christmas dog stories or as subtitled "The Things We Do For Our Dogs"

About four months ago, I found a dead rat in the bottom of one of my trash cans. Having never experienced anything of this nature since we moved out of the city eight years ago, I passed it off as nature's attempt at random distribution of life species. In other words I thought it a fluke. I was sure however that the rat had died from a heart attack. I had watch my two Chows, Pantu and Peaches sit and stare at the trash can for about one hour before I decided it warranted my attention.

Upon further reflection I realized (being a properly raised city boy) that rats rarely travel alone, but I was also unsure where or how they lived in a suburban environment. Apparently they live well, especially in wood sheds. I really knew I had a problem when both dogs would start barking furiously about 30 minutes after the yard light went out at bedtime each night. One night I waited with the two buggers and when they suddenly jumped up from a near comatose position, I also jumped up from a similar mode and threw on the light. How they even saw this thing in the back part of the yard while half asleep I don't know, but there it was, another rat!

Off to the hardware store for traps, no poison for obvious reasons, but also no success. Each night the dogs would bark and we would worry. Finally, on one trip to the trash cans, now moved by wifely edict to the far side of the yard, I dropped a bag into the can and from behind the can leapt a rat! Before I could blink both dogs were hot on the trail. Now I know some dogs are bred for this, but I didn't think it was one of the Chows more admirable traits—but boy were they good. I also confess I didn't know who had the advantage, the Chows or the rat, and I was unsure if I even wanted them chasing a live thing, however reprehensible. But after the excitement of the hunt I have to admit I was impressed with their speed and agility, yes even Chowish agility.

Now I always thought Peaches would be the one to catch something. She's a very poor specimen of a Chow, having very long legs, a non-existent cream mane, and a muscular body that would make Madonna jealous. Pantu, on the other hand is very laid back and hard to excite. But it was Pantu that ran down the rat and killed it. Thank heavens for obedience work, because on command he returned to a perfect front sit and dropped the rat at my feet. Peaches seemed so proud of him, she cleaned his face at least 10 times that night. Of course, that's anthropomorphism on my part; I really believe she was looking for left over rat hairs to lick. Ugh!

And then the problem developed. From the moment the rat leapt out, and every day since, Peaches has made a pilgrimage to the trash cans as soon as the door is opened. Doesn't matter what the weather is like or how bad her bladder is swollen, she heads right for the cans in hope that she'll catch her own rat.

Now, normally this would have occurred fairly quick considering how fast rats reproduce, but to Peaches great misfortune we were visited shortly thereafter by a large owl. We never saw the owl, but we heard him hoot, we heard the rustle of leaves and we heard his wings, which sounded like slow helicopter rotors. Wop... Wop... Wop...Wop, Wop, Wop as he took off. By the time he left he cleaned out the entire rodent population. Now Peach would never get a rat. So . . .

On Christmas morning, I sneaked Peaches present into the garage for "wrapping". Out of the pet store bag (cat section purchase) I pulled a life size fuzzy rat. It looked real! I tied 30 feet of monofilament fishing line through the nose of the fake rat and then tied the other end around a training dumbbell. I sneaked out the garage and around to the yard, in bitter cold, and planted the rat in the trash can lying on it's side in the snow. I piled loose leaves all around the rat and stretched the fishing line across the yard. (The things we do for our dogs!)

On cue, Peaches was let into the yard and went right for the cans. Pantu was drifting away to the back part of the yard when I pulled the fishing line and the rat jumped out right in front of Peaches. She froze—when the big moment came, she choked—and in the split second it took her to realize this was her big chance, Pantu flashed by like a linebacker heading for a quarterback, body slammed Peaches out of the way and nailed the fake rat. Peaches looked devastated, Pantu looked thrilled, and Patti and I looked at each other and wondered what do you do when one child steals the other's most treasured Christmas present. Peaches seems depressed, but she still goes to the trash, maybe hoping that one last Christmas rat might still be found.

Dave Donahue

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