Sunday, March 3, 2024

SATURDAY’S CHILD: Smelling a rat


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If you “smell a rat”, it may not be a real rodent but merely that you suspect something is wrong.
Sometimes it can be a combination of the two, both literal and figurative, as in a recent article in Forbes, the financial magazine. The headline was Scientists Smell A Rat In Fraudulent Genetic Engineering Study, and the first paragraph stated: “Last week French microbiologist Gilles-Eric Séralini and several colleagues released the results of a long-term study in which rats were fed genetically engineered (aka genetically modified, or “GM”) corn that contains enhanced resistance to insects and/or the herbicide glyphosate . . . . They then announced that their long-term studies found that the rats in experimental groups developed tumours at an alarming rate.”
Forbes claimed that the investigators intended to get a spurious result and used a strain of rats that were bred to develop tumours as they aged.   
I have a dog here in Antigua who is better than Forbes and their scientists at smelling rats. His name is Bunji and while he may not be as dogged as Forbes, his sense of smell is especially good when it comes to rats. Bunji constantly proves his worth through his olfactory omniscience.
This is a useful gift and Bunji is worth all the meals and love my wife lavishes on him because here in Antigua it is not the corn that is genetically engineered but the rats. If you park your car too long in the driveway, a rat will inevitably take it over. Rats here are field dwellers who sneak around trying to scrounge whatever they could. Among their favourite meals is wire-mesh which they eat as an appetizer so that they can get into your house where they find their main courses and shelter that is not as hazardous as a car engine. The rats are also growing bigger and bigger.
The reason is that dog ownership here is increasing. The rats are brave and desperate enough to eat the dog rations and the additional protein is like steroids to them – in fact they run as fast as Ben Johnson and one, looking like Lance Armstrong, jumped on my children’s bike recently.
Bunji was out for his pre-bedtime walk when he started nosing around the car. My wife knows Bunji’s behaviour well enough to realize that a rat was in the engine compartment, probably searching for the spare key to unlock the door, drive the small Matrix into the bushes, strip it and sell the parts to buy dog food.
Bunji may or may not have seen the rat. Possibly, smelling the rat was enough for him and, considering his duty done, he expected one of the other three dogs to do the rest. Or it might be that the rat was almost as big as Bunji (or so claimed my wife). Whatever the reason, the rat escaped unmolested and untroubled. It holed up in the pump room, a small shed outside the house that is redolent of rodent, most likely preparing for a prolonged game of hide and squeak with us.
The other three dogs are hopeless. Faced with their inadequacy, I decided to take severe steps to ensure the safety of my car, home, family and dogs. I figured that desperate times called for desperate measures. I had tried glue traps but the rats got high on the glue and held races with the traps, using them like moccasins on their feet. The winner got to eat the glue and the plastic case. I tried rat “cake” and one of the sagacious rats, instead of consuming it, left it where the dogs would find and eat it. We almost lost one of them that way. So I bought a metal rat trap and baiting it with cheddar, sneakily opened the pump room door and slid the trap in, hoping that the rat would not smell a rat.  
Early the next morning, I went to see whether the trap had worked and to remove it if the rat had not tripped it since I did not want any of the dogs to be injured. That was more than a week ago. Up to today, I cannot find the trap anywhere. I strongly suspect that the rat has gone to the local pawn shop “Cash Whiz” to see how much money it could get from selling the trap so it could buy some Purina or, worse, it might have headed for the United States looking for Lance Armstrong’s supplier.  
• Tony Deyal was last seen saying that he is worried that the rat might have reset the trap using a bone as bait to catch Bunji. Or maybe it was a Mickey Mouse trap.     


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