Computer exec takes this rat race down to the wire

Sure, you’ve used a mouse to do your computing. But have you tried getting wired to the internet with a rat?

Meet Judy’s Rat, a 7-inch albino rodent on a quest to wire California schools for the computer age.

“She runs. She jumps. You name it,” said Dr. Judy Reavis, a biophysician and computer executive who trained Judy’s Rat to navigate the narrow crawl spaces behind walls dragging a telephone cable by her tail.

Judy’s Rat started her career in lab research. Reavis adopted her and started training the two-and-a-half-year-old rat about a year ago.

The idea came to Reavis when a colleague told her he had tried, and failed, to train a rat to carry cable through crawl spaces on a tough wiring job.

“Not enough patience,” Reavis told him. “I’ve got the rat. I’ve got the patience.”

As president of Hermes Systems Management, a technology consulting firm, Reavis had already helped wire dozens of classrooms as part of the NetDay movement. As a radiation oncologist, she had spent several hours training rats in research labs.

It seemed like an ideal way, Reavis figured, to bring the internet to schools.

Judy’s Rat’s training required a consistent workout schedule of coaxing the rodent through plastic pipes and over wire mesh and other obstacles. Now, Judy’s Rat pulls cable through walls and above ceilings, where humans could never fit. She finds her way with the help of Reavis, who taps on walls to guide her.

At the end of the trail, Judy’s Rat knows she’ll find her favorite treats—cat food and Gummi Bears, of course—as a reward for a job well done.

“Basically, she’s a working pet,” Reavis said. Judy’s Rat has helped wire ten schools, braving run-ins with asbestos and a near-fall from two stories up.

School officials have nothing but praise for Judy and her roving rodent.

“She will go anywhere,” said Mayrene Bates, assistant superintendent for Solano County Schools. (She’s talking about Reavis, who is helping update schools in dire need of the latest technology.)

About three years ago, for example, students at Mary Farmar Elementary School in Benicia were still using old Apple II computers that the district purchased in the early 1980s.

With increased state financing, $20,000 worth of new computers from the local PTA, and the help of several volunteers —including Judy’s Rat—the school quickly has become state of the art, principal Jane West said.

Students can ask Judy’s Rat questions and hear her sing and talk on the Judy’s Rat Web Page.

Judy’s Rat

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