Tuesday, December 18, 2012


When I was little I loved animals. I saved, or tried to save baby birds. Most of my attempts were unsuccessful.

I remember the day I found a rabbit by the side of the road. I raced my bike home to tell my dad and he drove his red Volkswagen van back to get it. I watched its fur heave up and down. Its front legs pushed uselessly against the cardboard box in the backseat of the car.

"Will he be okay dad?" I was hopeful.  I remembered my picture book that Mom read to us about the group of girls who saved a rabbit with a broken leg. The wrapped its leg up with cloth and fed it with a bottle. I could do that!

"I think he broke one of his legs. I'm going to bring him to a vet." 

When my dad got back late at night he didn't have the rabbit with him. He said the doctors took good care of him. 

"Will we be able to pick him up?"

"No, he's going to stay with the vet." 

In my adult life I found out what really happened. He had broken his back and they put him to sleep. 

My dad doesn't like dogs. In fact, he hates them. He has a lot of dog stories. Dogs pooping on the lawn. Dogs chasing him up trees. Dogs trapping him in cars. So despite our attempts to cajole him into thinking our family needed a dog, it never worked. Our dad would bring home goldfish and hamsters and turtles instead. A lot of times I tried to catch my own pets.

This brings me to the memory of the two times that collecting my "pets" went terribly wrong. This is not for the faint of heart so don't read further if you don't like unpleasant stories. 

My one memory is of an old fish bowl that I had. I cleaned it out and put grass at the bottom of it. Then I placed branches and leaves and other things that a beautiful spider might want to hang off of. I'd found her in the garden. She was large with a black and yellow pattern on her back. Her legs branched from below her belly making a beautiful pattern. She was powerful, delicate, and immensely attractive. I dumped in live insects every day to keep her satisfied. I was going to show her to my 5th grade class for show and tell. Afterward I'd let her go. I told my mom I would.

As I was in the basement one day building a fort I spotted another spider. It was gnarly and brown. It was furry. I tossed it into the fishbowl. 

Wow! two spiders to show the class!

I watched the spiders do their thing. Mostly they did nothing. The beautiful gold and black spider spun her web at the top of the bowl and the gnarly brown spider walked about at the bottom. 

A strange smell started to develop that seeped from the bowl. It was a smell of wet grass and dirt and something funky and strange...

Perhaps all of the rotting dead bug caucuses were the cause of the odd smell. 

I looked at the bowl constantly. I do remember that it was slightly unpleasant to have it sitting on the mantle while eating dinner. 

The day of the big show and tell was near. I couldn't wait. I had two awesome insects to share! I got close to the fishbowl to do my daily observation but jumped back in horror! There was nothing but a shell of the beautiful yellow and black spider. Her eight legs were still attached to her web but the middle of her had been eaten. The big brown spider was still scurrying around at the bottom of the tank, perhaps on that day a bit fatter. 

Stay tuned for my other story about frogs....

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