He scurried out from under a bush to the edge of the road.
I beeped my horn, not wanting to witness both a rat, and a rat being roadkilled, and he scurried back.
Then, more determined than ever, he ran back to the edge of the road, knowing that’s where he needed to be, and ran across.
Four lanes of traffic.
He ran as if his life depended upon it.
He was flatlined as he raced across the asphalt, knowing, it seemed, that his life could end then and there.
I was mortified.
Firstly, that I had seen a rat, in Barrie.
And secondly, that he had seemed to so intelligently know exactly when to cross the street, and not get hit by a car.
It was broad daylight.
Around 3:30 in the afternoon.
Close to a strip mall plaza that included a drug store and restaurant, dollar store and others.
What was a rat doing in Barrie?
I thought that was a big city problem.
It appears that Barrie has its own rodent problems too.
According to a pest control company, Orkin, Barrie ranked 20 out of 25 on a list of Ontario’s rattiest cities in 2017.
By 2018, we had jumped to number 15 on that list.
Toronto is still number 1.
A reknowned animal lover, who has been known to let a mosquito drink its fill of my blood rather than kill it, I draw the line at rats.
There is something sinister about them.
Let alone they are the penultimate breeders, with a female rat coming into season constantly, able to birth an estimated 55,000 babies a year.
They seem relentless, like cockroaches.
They are intelligent, and make great pets, so I hear.
And they are coming to a neighbourhood near you.
I know squirrels and chipmunks and mice are all of the same rodent family.
But if a chipmunk wanted to give me the plague, I would be alright with that.
They are just so darned cute!
And squirrels are just so cool, the way they remember where they have hidden their stashes of nuts using the mathematical formula of triangulation – amazing.
They both have cuteness on their side.
But rats do not.
Witnessing the huge black rat traps outside a local fast food restaurant the other day makes me cringe at the thought of what might be inside.
And the fact that more rat appearances seem to be associated with the development of roads and subdivisions, as we dig deep into the dirt and disturb the oh-so-invisible rat dens, we apparently have only ourselves to blame.
In Barrie they are repairing numerous roads, digging deep to replace the asphalt.
I have noticed a couple of rat roadkills in the area.
Not a coincidence, I am sure.
What can we do?
Try to keep them at bay, I say.
Take small precautions so as not to enable them to think it’s okay to be where we are.
Some say to remove hiding areas around our homes.
But to get rid of lovely shrubbery seems so dire.
Eliminating water supplies also seems dire, as that takes away bird baths.
But making sure our homes are sealed at all possible entry points seems plausible.
Keeping our homes clean and tidy and not leaving pet food outside may also help.
I am as aghast at this as anyone, always thinking we are a community so far removed from the plagues, pardon the expression, of the city.
But the fact is, we are a city.
And we now have city problems.
Along with crime and drugs and other unpleasantness that is on the rise, so too are the rats.
And that is why the rat crossed the road.