Some animals are less equal than others

Posted in , Travel at 15:12 by RjZ

I don’t dislike any animals. Large or small, furry or creepy. Man-eating lions, tigers and bears; cold blooded snakes, fishes and snails; we’re all passengers on the same earth and I respect them all and am fascinated by most of them.

I’m lying.

Leeches scare me. The slimy bloodsucking creatures have freaked me out since I was a child. My spine tingles and I get the willies just thinking about them. Actually, I don’t like most of the bloodsuckers. Mosquitos seem to offer little benefit to the eco-system that gnats wouldn’t fill just as well, that being annoying campers and offering food for bats. Ticks used to bother me even more until a few attached themselves to me in Costa Rica. I will never say where exactly I found the leeches. Hint: they like dark warm places.

I’ve not yet —gasp— encountered leeches —b-r-r-r-r— but I dread the day I do. The author of Indian Summer has just had her first encounter with them (well actually, I don’t know if it’s her first encounter, but I just hope so ’cause it freaks me out.) Even though her post details the fascinating countryside and complex bureaucracy that she’s encountering first-hand in Sikkim and India, you can see that all I really got out of it was a squirming thought of leeches.

But I still like all the other animals.


  1. Elena said,

    June 13, 2006 at 15:23

    Liar. What about cats?

  2. RjZ said,

    June 13, 2006 at 15:26

    I knew someone would say this. I like cats. Other people’s cats. I wouldn’t want to own a pet elephant either!

    I’ll admit it though, cat’s don’t rate as high as elephants and no where near hyraxes, but they’re much softer than leeches. yech!

  3. Elena said,

    June 13, 2006 at 15:38

    Leeches are not that bad, centipedes are much worse!

  4. Penelope said,

    June 13, 2006 at 21:11

    Aw, every animal has its good points. For example, check out the chapter on leeches in one of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read just for fun:
    Honey, mud, maggots, and other medical marvels : the science behind folk remedies and old wives’ tales, by Robert and Michèle Root-Bernstein. It’s all about modern medicine finding scientifically reliable uses for weird folk remedies.

    The chapter on leeches tells the true story of a factory worker who got her ponytail caught in a machine, ripping her scalp off whole before anyone could shut the thing off. Surgeons wanted to try reattaching the scalp, but scalp blood vessels are tiny, so very few could be reconnected. They connected enough arteries to get fresh blood in to feed the scalp as it healed back onto the patient’s head, but not enough veins to get old blood out. Unless they could get rid of the food- and oxygen-depleted blood, the scalp would swell up, get really gross, and die. Enter leeches! Doctors stuck the creepy suckers all over the scalp, and they ate all of the extra blood, while the anti-coagulant they produced kept everything flowing smoothly. Neat, huh? And once you’ve pictured a person’s entire scalp being yanked off in one piece, leeches don’t seem icky at all.

  5. Amy said,

    June 14, 2006 at 6:16

    Until NOW, I can’t say I ever even thought about leeches. haha Thanks for planting the thought / visuals in my head, Ron.

    Spiders are what gets my skin crawling… ack! And, well, I’m not “a fan” of cats either… they creep me out actually. I wouldn’t harm one of course (as I do with spiders, if I find them inside)… they just scare me.

    Speaking of animals, and books (as Penelope mentioned)… have you read, “Walter, the Story of a Rat?” It’s a “children’s book,” a quick read… but worth it. =D

  6. Penelope said,

    June 14, 2006 at 11:50

    Cool. I’ll look for that book!

    My point with my leech story (aside from “I’m really weird, and I think everyone around me should be warned,” a point I try to make often) is that there are many cool things about any animal, however bizarre or icky. I don’t want a leech for a pet (though I’d consider a tarantula!), but I am glad they exist, just in case my ponytail should get caught in a machine someday. Also, humans came up with synthetic anticoagulants, very useful for all sorts of medical applications, largely by studying and copying leech spit and similar bloodsucker goo. Cool, huh?

    We all seem to have some animal that just happens to bug us, and for understandable reasons (it sucks blood, it carries diseases, it has eight eyes, etc.). It’s nice to remember that there is something cool about every living thing. One of the smartest people I know, Rachel, who pops up on this blog from time to time, was seriously arachnophobic when I met her in high school. Even the thought of a spider freaked her out. In college, she decided to treat her phobia by finding out everything she could about spiders. Now she’s a big fan of spiders, and will happily tell you everything that’s way cool about them. (Rachel, now a Ph.D. in biology, can also tell you everything cool about bacteria, even the ones that cause pneumonia.) It’s a pretty cool plan, I think. I recommend that Ron get himself a pet leech for a while, or at least get introduced to a real, live leech.

    As for me, I’ve just realized that there is one animal that makes me really nervous–more nervous than cats (who I like a lot), or rats, or spiders, or leeches, or a wall full of many colors of bacteria colonies. (You can see one at the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco. Way cool!) It scares me more than big horses and wild foxes and raccoons. My scary animal is (drum roll)… a dog. They’re big, they jump on you and slobber a lot, lots of them are crazy, they’re running around all over the place, and they kill lots of people in news stories every year. Some are trained to do just that. Dogs freak me out. Of course, I know that this is mostly because I don’t have much experience with dogs. I’ve even met a few individual dogs who I really liked. And I don’t mind that dogs exist. It’s just that, well, they kinda make me twitchy.

  7. tim r said,

    June 28, 2006 at 15:09

    I think humans are the most frightening animals. Yechhh! :)

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