Best of 2008: Year of the Rat

According to the Chinese calendar, 2008 is the year of the rat: a critter widely respected and consi

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According to the Chinese calendar, 2008 is the year of the rat: a critter widely respected and considered resourceful, perceptive and enterprising—or, wily, cunning, slightly scary and pretty much unstoppable. In Seattle, where rats could practically be the official city mascot, we’re finally allowed to be proud of the skittery underbelly of our city, and beyond. So stop that screaming, get down off that chair and love that rodent.

1) Rat City Roller Girls: Our homegrown skate champs had another rocking year, playing to full crowds and sharp elbows. Bloodied but not bowed, the girls do it all for the glory of the game. And the accessories.

2) Ratapalooza: Rat peeps are party animals, and don’t you forget it. Ratapalooza this year was held in early November in Ballard as, let’s face it, just another excuse—as if we needed one—to get chummy with the rats.

3) RatsPacNW:  Many a rat gala, and more, are brought to you by this local rat fanciers’ club, which promotes the critters as the great pets they are. Really. (Just keep them safely away from Buddy and Snowball.)

4) Rats as “Cool Pets”: Every third Saturday, the Seattle Animal Shelter (Interbay, 2061 15th Ave. W; 206.386.7387) hosts “Cool City Pets,” promoting the adoption of smaller animals, such as rats. You know you want one.

5) Cornered Rat: Thanks to Seattle’s own Archie McPhee, you can embrace the rat’s sinister side with this, um, handsome 2-foot-long foam rubber toy. Just don’t turn your back on it.

6) Invasion of the Nutria: It came from South America—and promptly took over our beaches. The invasive rodent nutria—think a rat on steroids—hit critical mass in 2008, chomping up precious lakefront grasses and prompting King County pest officers to march in with ammo. To very little effect. OK, for this one, yell “Eeek.”

7) Best Little Rabbit, Rodent and Ferret House: Considering a pet rat? The Best Little Rabbit, Rodent and Ferret House (Lake City, 14317 Lake City Way NE; 206.365.9105) has food, cages, toys—and critters. The staff also rescues abused and abandoned pets.

8) Seattle as Rat City: Seattle history is vague on how White Center got its Rat City nickname: Perhaps from the rodents, but there are theories that “rat” may stand for Restricted Alcohol Territory, from the ’40s, or for a relocation and training (RAT) military center once located there. No matter—the insult label has become such a badge of honor that the whole city has started to embrace it.

9) Not convinced? You need help from a higher power. Try praying to Saint Gertrude of Nivelles, the patron saint of suriphobia (the fear of rats and mice); she is often invoked against rats and mice in general. And in 2008, she’s had a busy year.