Temporary solution: Before going down the basement, flick the light on, pound my fist on the wall, and holler: "Hey, rat, if you're down there, you'd better hide! Here I come!"
Stomp down the stairs.
Permanent solution: Call Jerry.
Jerry is the guy who put in our bathroom, patched a broken wall, stained the trim on all of our new windows, put our chimney pipe back up when it blew down in a storm, installed gutters on our screen porch, patched the stucco on the side of our house, and, of course, built the basement stairs for Boscoe (which Boscoe has yet to use).
When we found out we had a rat in our basement and entry holes needed to be sealed, he was just the guy to call.
His rattlng blue-green van with the ladders on top showed up outside of our house on Saturday. I took him down and gave him the grand tour--here's the false wall, here are the poison traps, here are the snap traps, here's where Doug saw the rat, here's.... Jerry stooped down and picked something up. "Lookee here," he said.
Wow. We got him!
Unlike the exterminator, Jerry did not charge us $500 to empty the trap. I held the Mutt Mitt and he released the rat into the bag, and Doug carried it out to the garbage.
But Doug also said this: Hmmm. That's not the rat I saw.
The rat he saw was bigger.
Oh great. That means there are definitely rats, not rat.
This one, Jerry says, was a juvenile. I felt briefly bad for the young little rat, eagerly sniffing out the delightful scent of peanut butter, only to have the guillotine snap down and break his little neck. But only briefly.
Jerry spent a couple of hours clattering around in our basement, filling holes, dismantling the illegal shower, and then he called up the stairs: Come here! I want to show you something!
And then, almost as an afterthought, You might want to bring your camera!
Oh Lord. Another rat?
He chuckled. No, not another rat. But he found their way in. Once he got the illegal shower taken apart, he got a clear look at the storm drain. It was completely uncovered. Nothing to prevent entry.
Not only that, but it was surrounded by rat droppings.
And not only that, but in the shower's wooden base was a perfect half-moon hole that they were apparently wriggling through to get to the rest of the basement. Wow. It looked exactly like mouse houses like you see in cartoons.
I had no idea that cartooning was such an exact art!
Still, I was briefly worried, because it was definitely not a new hole. Did that mean that we've had rats for years? I could hardly bear that thought.
But Doug explained that the rat did not make the hole; the rat was just taking advantage of the hole. The hole had been cut there deliberately, by the previous owners, to provide a path for the hose from the dehumidifier to the drain.
Jerry used two gallons of concrete to patch the holes behind the false wall. He fixed the storm drain and installed a bubble float that lets water seep out but not in, and in the process keeps other things out, too--like rats. He put a new drain cover over the top.
He advised us not to spend $500 on the year-long maintenance contract with the exterminator. Those rats aren't getting in here again.
On his way out the door, he turned. By the way, he said. When I was cleaning up those rat droppings? A lot of them were bright green.
Does that mean they're fresh? I said.
No, Jerry said. That means they're eating the poison.
Oh yay. As long as they don't die inside our basement walls...
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