I've had my little dog Cricket for 14 years. She thinks commands are optional; I think she hung the moon.
Cricket had one of the greatest days in her life a few weeks back when she discovered a rat under the steps of my deck. The rat, wedged in and dying, was unreachable, try as the dog might — from the front and back, from underneath. Bark bark bark!
I finally had to drag Cricket back inside, and as I left for work, the rat, still under the steps, had reached out one little pink hand, as if seeking help.
The reason I have rats is because I have ants, lots of ants. The ants had started getting into Cricket's food, so I began to put her food bowl outside, and the rats were drawn to whatever was leftover. Reasoning that having ants is better than having rats, I brought the bowl back inside.
This column is about advice, taken or otherwise.
An internet search dug up myriad suggestions like identifying and assassinating the queen ant. Another, promoted for its natural approach, was mixing equal parts powdered sugar and baking soda into jar lids as traps. The sugar lures the ants; the baking soda makes them explode. One tip I followed is putting the dog's bowl inside another bowl, filled with water. This works but isn't nearly as cool as assassinations or explosions.
One tip urges the infested to seal up all entry points with clear caulk. (Not sure why it has to be clear.) This seemed to help, so when they started to come out from behind the faceplate of an electrical outlet, I taped off the edges. Then they started coming out of the plug holes, which reminded me of another tip given by a co-worker about putting hot sauce in the ants' path to discourage return. I did not have any hot sauce, but I did have Sriracha, which I painted all over the plate. This did not help at all.
Ultimately, I found the most success by engaging in chemical warfare — poison sprays and traps. The ants are almost gone.
This leads me to one last creature and one last bit of advice.
Last Sunday, mid-morning, a brown rabbit hopped through my backyard. I was stunned and shared this tiny moment of revelry.
The advice, again, from a helpful co-worker: "Don't eat it."
Bruce VanWyngarden is on vacation. He returns next week.
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."