I posted this to Instagram > Facebook yesterday. It received more likes and comments than any previous post — except for a cute cat pic and an R.I.P. for our dog. While all of this feedback says something about our complex and inconsistent thoughts and feelings about animals, I suspect this particular image hit a slightly different chord. All of the responders were fellow city dwellers who, I reckon, have had various diverse encounters with rats, perhaps some all-too-close. This critter has a different status than a rabbit, squirrel, mouse, deer, opossum, skunk, deer, raccoon, or even coyote — here just keeping to Class Mammalia types I’ve sensed within 100 yards of – and more alarmingly at times inside – my house. We tend to feel a jolt when we see a rat doing it’s thing in the urban wild, due to its reputation as a dirty, sneaky, well – rat. A dead one, frozen flat to the alley asphalt, elicits a different frisson, the more complicated feeling of schadenfreude, almost. Kind of like we’re glad a member of a rival gang went down, mixed with not ever wanting to see any of them, stirred with a grudging sense of admiration for its pluck that we must honor by viewing the open casket. If you haven’t heard it, check out a This American Life episode from 1999 (#146) entitled “Urban Nature.” All the stories are great, and there’s a very memorable brief compilation of vignettes about rats in New York.