All Creatures Great & Small; Not Some

Had I my choice of what species of baby backyard wildlife I’d encounter to follow my adventure with the hummingbird chicks, it’s a pretty good bet a nest of baby rodents wouldn’t be at the top of my list, but that’s the way the ball bounces. And the fact is if I hadn’t gone digging and reorganizing where I shouldn’t have, I wouldn’t have disturbed a tiny whisker on any of their tiny little heads.

Backstory. It’s pretty well known around the backyard that when I get a bit bummed and frustrated at various aspects of my self and my present situation, I go out there and get sweaty and dirty and sore doing something about it. There’s just something cleansing about good manual labor and I’ve done a good of it this last year and a half.

Maybe I clear some overgrowth or trim a tree. Maybe I lay down a path and patio with the surplus of brick and river rock we have piled up under the bouganvilea along the north fence. Maybe I run a heavy duty power cord up to the back corner and plug a light in, providing illumination where there pretty much had never been for the house’s 90-plus years. Maybe I repot a plant or set up a webcam or play tossfetch with Ranger or dig up some strange relic or upright a downed pony wall or water everything or just go get me a ceegar from Leon’s on 6th street and puff away while staring out across the city at the hills of Griffith Park.

You get the idea.

Anyway, yesterday was one of those days and while I was puttering around out there between playing with Ranger and doing some slight trimming and poop scooping and weed pulling and disposal, I took a passing glance at the upsloping pathway next to where all the brick and rock along the north fence are and I decided right then and there that the broken set of four blocky large concrete pavers…

(image from 2005)

…that had long overstayed there unaesthetic welcome needed to go and be replaced with that brick I mentioned, which was from the house’s old foundation that Susan had replaced when she bought the place in 1999.

To give you an idea how crazy I can go with the
bountiful brick, flashback here to April 2006.

So I removed the tiles, did some rudimentary grading, and then it was simply a matter of the gruntwork involved in picking up the bricks two at a time, rubbing them against each other to sand off any remaining mortar and then moving them from their haphazard pile under the boughs of the bouganvillea and lowquat tree into some semblance of order until I finished and it looked like this:


Nothing fancy. Nothing major, but damn if I wasn’t feeling a measure of satisfaction and for sure the bricks were way happy to be out in the light abosorbing the sun’s heat after some eight years in the damp and dank being home to the countless centipedes, beetles, and spiders I had the pleasure of meeting and a bit of guilt at disrupting and displacing as they evacuated frantically from my excavations and exertions.

Had I stopped there, I wouldn’t be writing this post now. But instead I decided that the remaining and still sizeable pile of bricks needed to be organized so I got busy. It was about two-thirds through turning that chaos into order that I finally dove in deep under the bougie and marched in too close for the comfort of the big ass rat that had been hiding among the bricks. The sucker bolted out and up into the branches and out of view and I danced out from under there like a waifish little girly girl because the centipedes and spiders and beetles I can handle, but it’s not often you get that close to 12 pound rat out of hell. OK, so the imagination adds 10 pounds, but still: freako city!

After I calmed down I manned-up and kept on going, but I made furtive grabs only for the most exposed bricks the furthest from where the rat came out because you know where there’s one rat there’s 40 and they’re all bigger than the first one. And a few minutes later I threw in the towel because I was running late in meeting my friend Manny for a river ride with him and his spiff new roadbike he’d recently scored and was itching to put through its paces.

This morning I was out there with Ranger admiring my accomplishment but couldn’t resist the pull to finish moving the remaining bricks under the bougie to the nice and neat pile that I’d grown, and in the space of about a half hour I had the last remaing brick in place and it looks like this:


Oh hell yeah! Those babies are stacked and ready for the next pathway I get driven to lay down. Unfortunately my moment of glory was short lived, because as I was patting myself on the back, Ranger hopped in the now open space to the left of the pile and in a second had her nose in a little dugout section of the cinderblocks. Next thing I know it looks like she’s got a bunch of bougie stuff stuck to her snout but in the second after she hops out she’s dropped not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but six baby rats and they’re all wriggling and mewing around on the path.

Immediately I shoo Ranger away from them and in the next moment I realize that the big rat that bailed from me yesterday was momma rat. Next I pick up all the tots and immediately thereafter that I’m walking around inside spewing a string of expletives because why didn’t I just leave the damn brickpile alone and what the hell am I supposed to do now with these guys who wasted little time huddling up and going back to sleep in the palm of my tired old duct-taped work glove looking as adorable as a handful of rat babies can look:


So I hit the computer and with them in one hand I Google “caring for baby rats” with the other and get this page and learn that it’s just a monsterously intensive endeavor. But even if raising them was a walk in the park there are other things I’m realizing:

  1. I’m pretty certain Susan doesn’t want a batch of rats to add to our menagerie and neither do I.
  2. There’s a good chance I would be heartbreakingly unsuccessful in the intervening attempt at helping them survive.
  3. Cats Pepper and Pumpkin and Jiggy — especially Jiggy — have caught a whiff of the toys they think I’ve brought them.

So I’m left with two options: A) flush ’em, or B) return them to where Ranger found them and rebuild a protective brick home in hopes mom will return and either pick up where she left off or maybe move them to a new place safe from bipedal idiots who go moving perfectly arranged den-worthy bricks into some strange stacks that aren’t good for anything.

My respect for all creatures great and small means there is absolutely positively no way I can even come close to thinking about the first option, and if you’re more disturbed at the idea of me attempting to enable their survival rather than bring about their demise, that’s you and this is me. You may see them as disgusting and vile and better off dead. I see them having a rightful place in the circle and no way do I have a say against that — especially with the guilt I have for already stacking the deck so hard against them.

So I found a little box to put the siblings in while I went to work back out under the bougie in the backyard rebuilding a home for them. When I finished making it as structurally sound and dog/cat proof as I could I deposited them one by squeaking on one back into the little recessed area from which they came and then applied the roof. This is the end result (and yes there’s an opening for mom to get in and out:


My fingers are crossed that she utlizes it. Because it’s going to break my heart if she doesn’t at all or if she doesn’t do so in time. Her kids seemed healthy and hearty for their age and size, so seeing as they have to be fed every couple hours at this stage it seems as if mom might have returned after our meeting yesterday afternoon and resumed caring and feeding. But whether she does so again now to these new quarters is a different story. And since their eyes weren’t even open they’re about as brand new and vulnerable as any living thing can get. So I’m going to pray that the change in scenery isn’t too severe and hope the new accommodations are acceptable, and resist the urge to disturb the site making any more “improvements.”