Dogs only. I’m a dog person through and through.
All my life I swore up and down and till next Tuesday that I’d never own a cat.
- I don’t like litter boxes.
- I don’t like cat hair.
- And cats don’t wag their tails and get all excited when you come home.
When the kids were little and would ask if we could get a kitten, I would gently remind them that kittens are cute, yes, but they grow up to become cats. And we are not cat people.
Seven years ago we moved from a house in a neighborhood with no trees to our current home which is surrounded by six large, mature trees. Trees are nice, yes, but they require lots of maintenance. The leaves and gutters alone are practically a full-time job.
But trees also provide shelter for all kinds of critters. Birds, tree frogs, lizards, squirrels, possums, you name it.
By far, though, the most troublesome creatures?
Apparently this particular species of rat (appropriately named the “roof rat”) live in the tops of trees, on roofs and in attics.
Our first winter in the house, I started hearing their scurrying and scratching. They were getting into the attic and therefore into the walls.
I. Was. Freaked. Out.
Eric set out traps in the attic. We caught a couple. But we kept hearing more. Rats multiply quickly and they tend to come back to the same place generation after generation to have their babies. (Thank you, Wikipedia for this nugget of knowledge.)
We set more traps, but the rats were getting smart. They were eating the food off the trap without getting caught.
I started seeing them in the yard, running across the fence rails at dusk when I went out to water. My neighbor found one floating in her pool.
Because I had a dog (dog person, remember?) and small children at the time, I was uncomfortable putting out poison. So I googled “how to trap a smart rat.” Google told me to make sure the entire house was sealed tightly so they couldn’t get in. Eric spent an entire day on the ladder and up on the roof, sealing every crack and crevice he could find.
But rats are tenacious. And determined. They have teeth made for gnawing and plenty of time on their hands.
They chewed through and made new holes. They kept getting in!!
I called an exterminator. He came out, charged me $100 and. . . (wait for it). . . set more traps.
Things were looking bleak, as if we’d never get rid of them. Fortunately, they never got into the house, but we saw evidence (ahem, droppings) in the garage, the attic and the yard. It was creeping me out.
The climactic point came when I looked out my kitchen window one morning to see a fat rat lounging Templeton-style on the bird feeder, gorging himself in broad daylight!!
Becoming a Reluctant Cat Owner
My sister had been telling me all along: you need a cat.
But I was not a cat person.
Still. I was also definitely not a rat person.
As luck would have it, our pastor’s wife at the time had a cat with new kittens. Would I like one?
Heaving a defeated sigh, I decided yes, we would take one. But it would have to live outside and catch rats.
Then she called back and told me there were two — “twins,” she said! — male and female and she didn’t really want to separate them.
So I heaved an even more defeated sigh, conceded, and took both.
We kept them outside in a little courtyard area on the side of our house. They were adorable. They did that kittenish thing that kittens do, sucking all of us into their vortex of cuteness.
But we were resolute. The cats would remain outside.
Then it rained. They meowed. And I felt sorry for them.
So I brought them inside.
I went behind Eric’s back and bought a litter box.
The first time I filled it up with litter, both cats immediately hopped in and christened it. (So much easier than training a dog!)
The cats started to take up residence both inside and out.
Before long, I started finding dead rats around the outside perimeter of the house.
We’ve had our cats for about three years now and I’m happy to say that we are rat-free.
Our little girl cat, after her traumatic experience of being lost for a month, doesn’t go outside anymore. She loves Eric and sleeps on top of him every night. But our boy cat is our hunter. He’s a working cat. His job is to catch rats and mark his territory so they know to stay away.
And he does it well.
Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks
What does this whole story have to do with anything?
Well, turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. (In case you are wondering, I am the old dog in this story.)
Ever have something you swore you’d never do? And then you end up doing that very thing?
- I swore I’d never own a cat. Now I own two. And I actually like them. Sorta.
- I swore I’d never change church denominations. I was a Baptist for 45 years. Now I belong to a Disciples of Christ church.
- I swore I’d drink Diet Coke forever, that I’d never like coffee. And yet, just this year, I gave up Diet Coke for good and am now an avid coffee drinker.
Because our God is a God of surprises. He does things that catch us off guard, brings things to us that we never thought we’d face, and leads us to places we never thought we’d go.
The hard part — but also the fun part — is learning to trust Him and to be flexible.
He is doing amazing work as he lays out the details of His plan in our lives, and often — in fact, most of the time — His plan doesn’t look at all like we think it will.
He’s taken me down twists and turns that I never expected, redeemed parts of my life in ways that totally astonished me, and given me surprises and serendipities I never could have imagined.
I’ve learned to never say never.
If he can turn me into a coffee-drinking, cat-loving Disciple of Christ, who knows what else He might have up His sleeve? I can’t wait to find out.
What about you? How has God surprised you recently? Are you open to wherever he might be leading you, even if it’s a far cry from what you expected? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!