Last Friday night I was doing my weekly chores of mopping the floor (exciting life, I know) and I had to stop to let one of my pets get out of the way. Now most people have dogs, cats, birds and the like, but this particular stray happens to be a spider. I’m a humane type person and don’t believe in killing things just because I can (all creatures great and small, right?) so I typically would capture the creepy crawlies around the house in a cup and gently escort them outside. But I’m also lazy, so if it is something like a tiny harmless spider, I may let him (or her) hang out. Now I don’t have a dirty house full of spider webs, but I also don’t have flies, mosquitoes, cinch bugs, or other pests either. So I found myself telling Mr. Spider, out loud even, “c’mon, move up the wall or you’ll get mopped”. So of the two spiders I know of, we have a deal – they can hang out in the warm, dry house and eat anything they catch, as long as they don’t crawl in my mouth while I’m asleep. It’s been working out pretty good so far. I think.
Occasionally at the end of the summer, at least one of the family of the southeastern five-lined skinks (a salamander/gecko/lizard type critter about 5” long) that patrols my foundation for bugs manages to squeeze into the house to take a look see. Usually he stays outside getting anything that attempts to crawl under the house siding. It’s fruitless trying to catch him, the little bugger is too fast, so I tell him to eat up and get out, and he usually leaves in a day or two (when he realizes he’s almost too fat to slide through the hole he found to get in). Trouble is he poops. Can you litter box train a skink? Amazingly I don’t have ants or any other creepy crawlies either. Between Mr. Spider and Mr. Skink, they keep the place pretty bug free.
I have my outside pets too. Each year a family of toads takes up residence under the splash blocks of my downspouts. Each time I cut the grass I have to herd them from the safety of their chosen spots to a safe hiding place so I don’t get them with the mower or weed whacker. I have actually built homes for them in the landscape areas that I don’t mow, but they won’t use them. After 10 years I’ve never hit one! But I have taken the bright blue tail off a slow skink or two by accident. Cool thing I discovered about these toads is they can change colors. I noticed a strange bump on one of me downspouts once while I was trimming hedges. Turns out it was a toad that crawled up the downspout and turned exactly the same light sandy brown color of the metal. Talented toad.
Once a year Zippy returns to my front bushes. Zippy is a non-poisonous zipper spider about 3 inches long that looks kind of menacing with an all black body and bright yellow markings, but weaves this cool zipper like pattern into her web. Turns out she is a natural at pest control, and I’ve even seen her catch and devour a moth. Now I know it’s not the same one each year, but I find it kind of cool that they always pick the same spot. I wonder if the mark their territory. Every now and then I’ll catch her sunbathing in the middle of her web and I’ll twang on it to catch her reaction. She just raises one leg a bit (I think she knows I’m messing with her, probably an obscene gesture in spider language).
Then there’s the praying mantis that sits on my woodpile. He’s a male (he’s brown not green) and I suspect he hangs out by me because if he goes home his wife will eat him (they do that you know). He hunts at night and stays perfectly still in the day. I noticed him while cutting lawn one day and I watched him for a good 20 minutes. And he, in turn watched me back. If I moved my head, he moved his – his beady little eyes following my every move. I offered him a leaf, but I don’t think he likes them. He comes and goes, but I get one at least every summer if I look around enough.
Every fall comes the invasion of lady bugs. They say its good luck if one lands on you, so I don’t much mind them until they try to get in the house. They all end up on the window. I don’t get it, why try to get in if all you do is look out? Unlike Mr. Toad and Mr. Skink, they don’t have a prearranged rental agreement with me to stay in the house, so they get herded into the bug box and taken outside.
For me my “pets” are great stress relievers, and I see them every day (almost). Some days I just walk around the house after work to see who’s where. So how about you? Any unusual things you call pets? How do yours help with stress?
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