Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In Petaluma, CA: Roger Dier's 1000-Rat Depression

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,


The Intruder

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)


  1. Howdy.. we are having a 12-15 fire season... surely enough to cause some serious depressions. :-)

    Oh and he could not be lazy... carting around 250 lbs every 5 days... that's not laziness.. it is just stupidity.

  2. Yeah, how does a depressed person care for 1000 rats?

    And notice, I changed my profile to 270 lbs.--I've put on twenty-five since returning from Mexico and quitting smoking.


  3. I had read an article about the rat man, but it was much more interesting to read your hilarious take on the poor guy. I like the kilorat idea too. How many rats does it take to figure out your are depressed?

  4. was this force of nature that overwhelmed me

    will be my excuse from now on - for everything! ;)

    petaluma - my mum would take us to a place called 'over the tracks' - does not sound too appealing, but the french fries were delicious!

    p.s. enjoyed the poem as always - excellent voice.

  5. Judge not lest ye be judged. Isn't that how the saying goes?

    I'm not sure that anyone has the right to evaluate the validity or severity of anyone else's depression especially from the distant vantage point of a newspaper article. To suggest that this man is not depressed or less depressed than you reminds me of that other saying about not casting the first stone. Seems once you start pitching rocks, they're likely to come hurtling back upon you. Depression, whether mild or severe, is still depression. I would never assume that it manifests the same in every person. Do you think a happy person could live with and feed that many rats? I got up and went to school every day during the depths of my first depression back in adolescence. I put on my Eleanor Rigby and pretended I was alive. Does that mean that because I didn't lay in bed unable to mood that I wasn't as severely depressed as I in fact was?

    I'm not trying to be contentious here. I guess I'm just a bit surprised that you'd look in on this stranger's life and deem him un-depressed merely by the information provided in the article. As a sufferer of depression, surely you know how silent and insidious and strange and isolating the disease is, CE.

    Meanwhile, did you know that this strange phenomena of collecting/hoarding (of animals, in this case) is now recognized as a kind of mental illness?

  6. Dear LKD,

    Your spirited defense of the unfortunate is admirable. I see your compassion.

    For me, black humor is one of the things that can sometimes save me from myself in depression, if only briefly, and this story cheered me immensely.

    BTW, I did not discount his depression; I named it a 1000 kilorat depression, which certainly qualifies for depression.

    As for: "Do you think a happy person could live with and feed that many rats?"

    In a word, yes. Although I daresay their cages would be clean and further reproduction curtailed.

    In Roger's dilemma we see the loss of control in mild depressioin; he feels, like Sisyphus, bound to the rats but at his wit's end at how to continue. I've been at that level and deeper; unable to stop practicing medicine whle psychotically depressed because it would have been a dereliction of duty. And besides, what else did I have to pass the endless minutes?

    There is something about the comic that is always cruel. Clowns have as much pathos as goodwill.

    Thus, and this makes my piece unfunny, Roger is funny because but for the grace of God there go I.

    It may be upbringing or sensibility that causes us to differ here slightly; I grew up with a witty mother and sarcastic sibs. In my family we try not to take anything too seriously lest it bite us.

    Thanks for your comment,



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