This evening Penny killed another rat. But this time she took a minute to kill it, rather than a couple of seconds, as she did last time.
This rat was in the same place as the last one she killed, under our make-shift water barrel. I had been startled by a rat leaping from a tree to the ground on the other side of the front garden, and decided to let Penny come out and scare it thoroughly. (I'll freely admit I'd rather scare them away than kill them, but I do realise we can't have rats breeding indiscriminately in our garden.)
A tail wave, slow, from side to side, is the sign that she's hunting.
She scared the rat out of its hiding place, and I would have sworn it ran down the side, past a locked gate, to the backyard, but when we headed for the front door to go inside, Penny darted over to our water barrel (a 240 litre wheelie bin). The slow tail wag began once more, and scrabbling at the bottom of the bin - even whining.
What to do? I want to get rid of the rats and I don't want to poison them. But I don't want Penny getting bitten by a rat, and I'm not sure it's good for her to kill.
Well, I decided to empty the water out of the bin and at least see what was under there.
While I was starting the submersible pump and spraying water on our parched front garden, Penny sat there staring, circling, waiting. And trying to dig under the bricks supporting the bin.
Finally, when the water was low, I heaved the bin forward, Penny leaned in and the screaming began. It was so sad. I know we can't have rats running around. (On the other hand, why not, if they stay out there in the garden?) The rat took about a minutes to die, I would say, and it seemed like a lifetime. (Well, for the rat I guess it was.)
I let her bat it around for a minute or two, and sniff it, but when she took it in her mouth, that was too much for me and I told her to 'leave it' and her other human took her inside to have a few treats. Then it was my turn to screw up my courage and smash the rat with the shovel to make sure it was definitely dead, no longer suffering.
One more chance for Penny to come out and sniff it, and see it deposited in the bin, and she went inside again, so we could persuade her to drink and so wash her disgusting-looking face. Ughh!
I guess I'm still feeling conflicted about it all. But at least there's one less rat in our garden stealing our fruit and eating our vegetables.