The Rat Pack

9 Mar

For the past ten years, there’s been a World of Pets Expo held at the Timonium Fairgrounds in Maryland. It’s like a big pet convention with all sorts of pet products, seminars, information booths, and special events. I went in 2010 for the first time to help man the American Brittany Rescue booth. This year, I went just for fun.

It was fun, too. The coolest part was getting to see so many different kinds of dogs. Plus, I got to meet Bill and Star of Greatest American Dog (CBS) fame. More on that later. Maybe.

Shooting Hoops

Because I’m big on planning ahead for stuff like that, I checked the schedule of events beforehand. My interest was definitely piqued by this entry: “Debbie Ducommun, The Rat Lady: Teaching Your Rats Tricks and Dressing Them in Costumes.”

Rats in costumes? Oh. My. God.

At that moment, I knew. That was something I HAD to see. I mean, it had to be ridiculous, right? I went fully prepared with various lenses to shoot lots of rat pics and capture some images of this crazy woman and her costumed rats.

I mean, I say again… rats in costumes?

What sort of person dresses a rat? I get why someone might like to keep rats as pets. Sort of. But dressing them?

I had all sorts of plans brewing for a big ole blog post making fun of this person. Until I was overcome by a fleeting moment of maturity, that is.

Just because I don’t like rats, don’t have rats as pets (my dogs would eat them!), don’t think I’d be interested in dressing a rat if I did have one, etc., doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with any of it. Right? It’s just different.

Besides, this lady was actually pretty cool.

The Rat Lady

Her seminar was held toward the end of the day. I was dog-tired by then (no pun intended), but stood transfixed, listening as Debbie talked about about her history, background, affinity for rats, etc. She was quite serious. By “serious” I mean she is passionate about her rats. She knows her stuff.

The whole time she spoke, I kept watching the lid on that little basket of hers. Every now and then there’d be movement. It got to the point where I was so focused on the basket that I missed a lot of what she said. I was tired, remember.

Letting the Rat Out of the Basket

Finally, she let not one, but two, rats out of the basket. Not just any rats, hairless rats!

I never knew there was such a thing.

Hairless Rat

I think it sort of looks like an armadillo. Not the most attractive creature, but cute in it’s own sort of way.

At the Starting Bucket

These are fairly young rats. But she has managed to teach them a few tricks. One which involved a sort of tightrope walk between buckets.

Incentivization

She used treats to reward their positive behaviors.

And if they didn’t perform? It was back in the basket for them!

"Get back in the basket, you rat!"

I’m kidding about the basket as punishment thing.

It was neat seeing the little guys walk from one bucket to the next.

Check out that grip!

She also made the little buggers hop from one bucket to the next.

Jump!

I think they preferred the tightrope thing. But what do I know?

What a mug.

It really was quite interesting. However, I was very tired. After about 15 minutes of rat tricks, I was completely ready to call it a day.

So I missed the costumes.

I know, I know. Sorry.

The Rat Lady (that’s really what she calls herself) has a web site, which you can get to by clicking the fan club image below.

Click here to visit The Rat Lady's web site.

And you absolutely should not miss her MEMORIAL PAGE, where she features a wide variety of pictures showing some of her rats who have passed on. (Seymour is the cutest rat ever!)

I hope you enjoyed meeting The Rat Lady.

So, how do you feel about rats?

The whole time I watched Debbie, I couldn’t help but think of a booked I LOVED as a kid:

One of my all-time favorite kid books.

Did you ever read that one?

Debbie Ducommun, The Rat Lady: Teaching Your Rats Tricks and Dressing them in Costumes

6 thoughts on “The Rat Pack

  1. Somehow those rats are WAY cuter than hairless cats, although I guess in some of those shots they do look a little like armadillos. Oh, and I can’t say I’ve ever read that book, but what about Beverly Cleary’s Ralph S. Mouse? Mice are cousins to rats, so that has to count for something, right?

  2. That’s the one! I think his racecar was even on the cover. 🙂 Or, hmm, wait. Maybe it was a motorcycle and not a racecar? In any case, I very distinctly remember reading the scene where Ralph was under the bed about to be sucked in by the vacuum being pushed around by the boy’s mom and Ralph used his vehicle (whatever it was!) to make his grand escape.

    Ah, good ol’ Beverly Cleary.

  3. I’ll be honest – hairless rats look creepy to me… You should try reading “Firmin”, by Sam Savage – I loved it! It’s about a rat with a passion for books, and it’s definitely a must-read! Haven’t read the Mrs Frisby book, such a shame…

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