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Thank You Jesus!

May 2, 2018

It is a well-documented fact that for military spouses, without fail, you can count on the sh!t hitting the fan when the service member is gone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a long deployment, short TDY or just an extended weekend of Drill (for those of us living the Reserves lifestyle). You can count on something going wrong. The car will break down. A kid will break a bone. The dog will puke all over the house. A major appliance will crap out. It happens. It’s part of the military lifestyle. I don’t want to brag, but it makes us spouses left behind become tough as nails… usually.

Well, the Husband is out of the country, returning very soon (hooray!) so of course stuff had to happen. A couple nights before he left, we heard something in the laundry/kitchen area. Of course, we looked at each other and said, “what the hell was that?” But neither of us did anything about it. So, the morning after the Husband left, I got up and made my way to the kitchen to start some coffee. It was 5:45 AM, so it was still a bit dark.  Well, let me tell you that no matter how badly you thought you needed coffee there is one thing that will scare the desire straight outta ya…

As I reached for the kitchen light switch, I saw it…A huge freaking rat running across my kitchen counter. I kid you not. I about wet myself as I watched it scurry across the counter and dive behind the stove. The thing was huge. It had been happily chomping on my just bought hamburger buns right next to my coffee pot.  Needless to say, coffee was no longer the first thing on my mind. So, I did what any sane person would do. I quickly retreated from the kitchen, plopped down on the couch and started to cry. All the while trying to get my heart rate back to normal so that I didn’t die right then and there. I knew the Little One would be up any minute and I had to pull myself together so as to not freak her out.

Somehow, I managed to calm myself down long enough to get the girls both to school. Then I started searching for evidence. I found droppings behind my washer and dryer and behind my stove. No problem, I can handle this I thought. I pulled out my one electronic zapper trap from a couple years ago when we had a rat in the garage. I also went to Home Depot and bought a second trap. I loaded them with dog food and prayed for a green light the next morning. Didn’t happen. So, I started cleaning everything off the counters. I purged the pantry. I scrubbed the kitchen floor.

As I was scrubbing the kitchen floor, I noticed a puddle of water coming from under the refrigerator. Remember I told you, the sh!t hits the fan sometimes. I freaked out again. Sat on the couch and cried again. My biggest fear was that the rats had chewed through the wires and really jacked up the refrigerator. So, I called my brother-in-law for help. I was beginning to fear this was not just one rat acting alone. My brother-in-law, God bless him, came over and helped seal up some openings on the outside of the house that we thought might be access points. He looked at the fridge and wasn’t sure the problem so I called a repairman.

Gabriel, the Samsung fridge specialist, arrived a few hours later. He pulled out the fridge and determined that the water that was now oozing from the inside of the fridge and bottom was really a malfunction with the fridge, not rat damage. Thank you sweet baby Jesus! It ended up being a $355 repair versus $1000+ that a new fridge would have been.

After he left I started researching rodent control companies. I read hundreds of YELP! reviews and found one that sounded promising. I called and they had a tech available that afternoon, so I waited. I should tell you this is now five days after the initial sighting. I had not eaten or slept the entire time. I was emotionally, physically and psychologically exhausted. The Little One was terrified to go to bed each night. The Big One was, thankfully, very chill about the whole thing.

So JD and his trainee, Henry, arrived Tuesday afternoon and began their inspection. JD was amazing. He was so confident and kind. He reassured me that things would be okay despite the fact that I had a meltdown when he told me the cost of the services. I cried. I wish I could say that I handled this like a champ. That my “tough as nails” comment earlier rang true. But it did not. I cried, openly, freaking out in front of the kids and these poor pest guys. I managed to ask about a military discount, he offered me a “coupon” for $75 off which was a better deal than the 10% military discount. I gave him my credit card and they began setting traps.

I was living under this false idea that my rat friend was just chilling in my kitchen. Then JD and crew lifted up my couch and loveseat, revealing more droppings than I ever cared to see in my lifetime. They inspected the rest of the house and, thankfully only found droppings in the attic and crawl space. The bedrooms and bathrooms had not yet been infested.

They set about 15 different traps in the attic, crawl space, living room, dining room and kitchen. JD gave me his cell phone number and said to call or text anytime day or night if we heard anything. About 45 minutes after they left, the girls and I were just watching TV. I think we were all afraid to move, when suddenly we heard the loudest clapping, thud noise followed by a few seconds of a horrendous dragging coming from the attic. I’m sure it lasted all of 4 seconds but it seemed like forever. We all freaked out. I was shaking, the Little One was about to cry, even the Big One was a little startled. I texted JD, my new best friend, and told him what we heard. He assured me that was good news and said they would be out first thing in the morning to check the traps. (it was about 6:30 pm when I texted him)

Longest night of my life

I tried my best to sleep. Despite being utterly exhausted, I lied in bed listening. I’m not sure how much of the “noises” I heard were legit and how much were just echoing fears inside my brain. Many of them, I’m sure were simply the pounding of my heart that came each time the dog moved or a plane flew over or a car drove by. I suddenly had supersonic bat-like ears. This newfound skill was not serving me well. My white noise machine of crashing waves and squawking seagulls was doing nothing at all to block out all the other things I was hearing. It was terrible.

Morning finally came, I got the girls to school and waited for the guys to arrive. This time it was Henry, and his supervisor, Pablo, who came to the rescue. (JD is actually the district manager. I just got lucky that he came out the first time). Henry and Pablo went up the attic and found the first rat. Then they checked the other traps to see if anyone held had been captured. They found one under the loveseat in the living room. JD predicted that would be the first spot.  They re-baited the traps and went on their merry way. I found some relief after seeing the dead rat in the living room. I finally felt comfortable in my own house again. It had been a week since the initial sighting. The girls were relieved that two rats had been captured as well. That night, I finally slept for a few hours, enjoying the sweet relief that my problem maybe had an end in sight.

That joy was short lived as I got up the next morning and found more droppings in the dining room area and behind the couch. There were more in my house. So, I was on edge again. Every time the Husband called, I cried. I am afraid to eat, cook and open any cupboards for fear of what I would find. So far, I’ve lost seven pounds. And gained countless gray hairs. We continue to do our best to normalize our lives. It is really difficult when you are uncomfortable in your own home. It’s not cool. I know lots of people have dealt with rats and survived. I know that we will get though this as well, but I admit that I am really struggling with this. I thought I was tougher, but this had made me feel like a wimp. It’s just so gross to think that these damn things are cruising around pooping and peeing on everything. They are on my stuff. They are chewing up books and I think, now one of my cabinets. (I found little pieces of wood yesterday).

The Big One heard a trap go off on Saturday night. I had a trap inspection scheduled for Monday so I just waited. JD and Henry came as scheduled found another dead one in the crawl space under the house. They added a new trap to the outside barbecue based on more droppings found. They re-baited and moved some of the interior house traps. And we wait again.

Since the traps are out and can be accessible to Gracie.  I’ve been keeping her locked in the bedroom with me at night. I don’t want her getting her nose stuck in a trap and honestly, I do not want her chasing a rat into any other parts of the house. She’s been really good about it, but last night was different. She started pacing about 1:30 am. I listened but didn’t hear anything other than her pacing. I tried to ignore it, to no avail. Finally, at about 3:00 AM she stood by my head whining and whimpering. As my heartrate increased I weighed ignoring her and possibly having to clean up dog pee or poop, versus the odds of her chasing a rat into my bedroom. Since she had been pacing so long, I finally figured she just needed to go, so I opened the door and she took off like a rocket through the house and out the dog door.

I waited for her to return to the house. She was taking forever. Again, my heartrate was through the roof, my blood pressure I am certain should have resulted in hospitalization. I kept waiting. I tried looking out my bedroom window but couldn’t see her in the yard. I really did not want to stroke out so I sat on my bed and took some deep breaths. I again prayed for a dead rat (Don’t judge my prayers, you’d do the same thing!).  Finally after several minutes, I heard the joyous sound of the magnet flap on the dog door engaging as Gracie ran back into the house. It should take just a few seconds for her to return to my room, but she wasn’t coming. I so did not want to have to go out into the living room, yet there I was walking down the hallway. As I reached the end of the hallway, I could see Gracie just standing there staring at me. I whispered her name and thankfully she ran towards me and back into the bedroom. It was 3:19 AM now. Seriously, a 19-minute bathroom break?  Damn dog, was all I thought. By the grace of God I finally fell asleep and woke to the sounds of birds chirping at about 5:30. I was shocked and relieved to have slept for two hours, at least.

As I do now every morning, I make as much noise as humanly possible when I roll out of bed. My bedroom wall is shared with the kitchen. I wanted to make sure that Mr. or Mrs. Rat know that I am awake and they need to vacate the visible premises. The Little One now waits for me to wake up and get to the living room before she emerges from her room. She wants me to scare anyone away so she doesn’t have to. I totally get it.

So today, is Wednesday, we are one week into the trapping and removal service. I check the usual spots for droppings or other evidence I didn’t see any. I wish that I could say that brought relief, in reality that only brought more fears. Where are they now? It didn’t take too long for me to find out. I made my coffee and sat down at my computer to check my e-mail. There were droppings on my desk. DAMNIT! I thought. I don’t want the girls to freak out so I quietly clean it up and act normal. I peek at the two easily visible traps and found nothing. Disappointed, I tried to not show it. I don’t want the girls to start freaking out like I am on the inside. I got them to school and then returned home.

I think deep down I am an optimist, sometimes it’s hard to see that, so I grabbed the flashlight and began inspecting the floor where I have been finding droppings. I don’t see any. So, I go in for what has been the ultimate letdown for the last seven mornings. I lie down on the floor behind the couch and shine the light. As the light bounces around under the couch, something it different. The bright yellow bait square is what I usually see. I don’t see yellow….

HOLY CRAP! There is a rat in the trap. You all have absolutely no idea the euphoria that I felt seeing that damn thing squashed in the trap. Trust me, I know how truly gross and disgusting this all sounds. I admit that I stood up and then dropped back to my knees and cried. I sobbed like a big old baby. I was trembling as I grabbed my phone and texted my best friend JD that I needed them to come check the traps. Now I am waiting for them to come.

I know that this joy is temporary. I know that tonight after the girls go to bed I will sit stiffly on the couch listening and just waiting for the moment that I too can head to bed. I will wake tomorrow morning filled with fear and trepidation as I do my morning droppings and destruction checks. But for now, I am trying to find the joy in the moment. I am trying to breath easy. I am trying to get through this day stronger than I was yesterday.

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