There have been a few times in my life when I’ve wanted to give money to some charity instead of buying flowers or giving a gift, especially for those people that seem to have EVERYTHING.  And I have… our local library and ambulance have benefited… the Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, Shriner’s Hospital, St. Jude Children’s Hospital… and a couple of colleges and universities… We’ve all done that…  Right?

Well, Vernon received something for his birthday that I had never heard of… Vernon received a RAT!  Yes, a RAT! Well, not a real life rat… one was “adopted” in his name, and, of course, these aren’t just your run of the mill, scary movie, trash eating, disgusting RATS, these are well trained, life saving, superhero RATS!!

Vernon now has a rat, newly born and named WYOhero, that will grow, be trained, and eventually save lives.

How?  Why?  Where?  Huh?

First these are African Giant Pouched rats… not New York Subway rats!  They live up to eight years and are native to Africa, where much of their life saving is being done.

With clicker training, the rats are being trained in landmine detection and tuberculosis identification.  Yup, the easy way to make your dog learn to sit, killer whales to jump, and dolphins to spin, is being used to train rats to detect TNT and the scent of tuberculosis in spit.  Who knew?? There’s a great video on vimeo on how this is done.

Vernon’s rat is a newborn, and after 8 weeks of growth and socialization from his handlers, he will begin his training.  Vernon will get to choose which job WYOhero will be given.

Once trained in explosion detection, the rat is shipped to where he is needed, with focus on Angola and Mozambique and some in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam.  Tuberculosis rats are working in Tanzania.  He is placed in a harness, and he works his little heart out!

I mean, REALLY???  How cool is this???

Vernon will receive email updates and pictures… which we got the other day… yup.  It’s a pink and wrinkly little rat baby!

Now, being the dog person I am, I huffed up a little and said, “Well, what’s the deal with rats stealing what dogs have been doing for a while?  What’s wrong with dogs?”  Well, nothing… but rats are better in a few respects.

1)They have a good sense of smell.

2)Easily trainable, intelligent, living up to eight years.

3)Too lightweight to set off landmines.

4)Adapted to local environment and easily obtainable.

5)Rats don’t bond with their trainers, so sending them anywhere at anytime is easier than having to send a dog/trainer team.

6)They are cheap to breed, feed, maintain, and transport.

7)At four months or so, a rat can be working while that little puppy is chasing a ball…

You can’t argue with that…

If you think you might want to check out this charity and possibly “buy” a rat for yourself or a loved one… Go to apopo.org.  It sounds like a great way to spend some money, and save a life!  Thanks, C., for buying WYOhero for Vernon!

(Feel free to share this post!!! Let’s save more lives!)


WYOhero — 10 Comments

  1. Our son is a Vet Tech in the large animal intensive care teaching unit at Texas A & M. I think he would appreciate this unique gift! I’ll check into it, thanks! He’d enjoy telling his friends that he had a pet rat!

  2. Gosh, what an interesting post Carol. I had no idea that rats could be trained that way. Detecting land mines can save so many lives, especially children playing with no idea what is under their feet. We have a dusting of snow this morning. The hills will look wonderful once the sun is up and shining.

    • It is great, isn’t it? I remember my trip to England very fondly, and every time you mention your hills… I can just see them! Plus I have a photo of England in my bedroom from a friend… that helps too!

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