No more need for the Hamilton Depression Inventory or other studied tools of medical discovery. A man in Petaluma, CA, has provided us with a new measure of depression.
Last week Roger Dier was apprehended with 1000 rats in his apartment, mostly in cages, some free range. Everything in his small house had been gnawed on. He had to buy 250 lbs. of rat food every five days to support his charges. He slept at his office to avoid the smell and noise of his own menagerie at night.
From the Santa Rosa Press Democrat 6/24: "Dier said depression, loneliness, denial and his recent bout with ill health were to blame for the rats."
So, this guy who claims to be depressed nevertheless has it together to schlepp 250 lbs. of rat food every five days to spare these dear creatures? The horde, incidentally, began when Roger spared a baby rat trying to escape from being dinner for his three-foot python, who would not eat dead rodents.
Frankly, I don't think much of this fellow's depression. A 1000-rat depression must therefore be considered fairly mild. I mean, he's still feeding the rats! So his depression must weigh less than 250 lbs.
Later in the same article Roger is quoted: "I did not set out to do this. I do acknowledge irresponsibility and there's a case for laziness, denial, incompetence and just plain foolishness." But, "It was not all my fault," he added. "It was this force of nature that overwhelmed me." More: "I was aware of the crushing burden of having to take care of them all," he said.
For starters, whether I were depressed or manic, I would have it together not to be overwhelmed by pet rats. I mean, one would have to be beyond using toilet paper to be so neglectful of reality--nearly catatonic with self-neglect--and this guy wasn't. I think this 60-something dude is just an elder slacker.
Seriously, how depressed could he be? He still has feelings for the rats, which means he still has some positive feelings for himself. And he can't bear to face the holocaust of their future; he's the Oskar Schindler of rodents! So much to live for.
In another article I learned that "animal hoarders" are typically women and involve cats, which made Roger's case even more interesting.
In a true depression I would not feel qualified to care for rats.
Maybe I could manage one dog or cat. Yet the serious depressive might give his beloved pet up for fear that association with its owner could be having a deleterious effect upon the poor animal.
So, a 1000-rat depression I take as a mild depression. Henceforth I propose that all depressions be estimated in kilorats. The upper limit might be 10 kilorats, for which I nominate melancholic catatonia. Naturally, the depression of suicides must be excluded, not only because they must communicate from beyond the grave but because their participation would be unfair to those of us who have never summoned the courage. Besides, suicide is for wimps. I've had worse depressions when I felt that suicide would draw unwarranted attention to myself, which I did not deserve, hence suicide would be crediting myself with too much importance. I'd give that sort of depression nine kilorats, as well as any depression requiring ECT. Right now I'd rate myself at two kilorats; my depression has been slowly improving, as you can see by the lighter material offered today.
I have a poem today that shares something with Mr. Dier's rat problem, below. Watch your kilorats. If you get over three, please see a doctor, but don't bother me, I just play one on the Net.
Until the next post,
Evil seeped through floorboards.
Only the dead could endure it.
From a faint bud it blossomed
into a putrid flower
stuffing every pore, rank as hell.
So I imagined
a dead whale beneath the house
in blubbery liquefaction,
or corpses bloated with gas,
or death itself, if it has a smell.
The red velvet of my guitar case
began to stink.
We called a professional.
I led him to the crawl space vent
where it reeked so thickly
I thought the air had died.
Gowned and masked
for his grotesque midwifery,
he pulled a rigid possum out,
pink tail curled like a stiff worm dangling,
fur falling out in chunks
like some cheap carnival toy.
And the sharp-toothed grin
on that pointed face
with its obsidian eyes
looked mean, even vengeful,
as if he decomposed to spite us.
(published in Afternoon Magazine, no archives now available)