Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dog days

Before I could write this post I had to prise a mealworm from the inner workings of my keyboard (NOT a simple task). This adventurous worm is just one of hundreds that are currently secreted in nooks and crannies in unexpected places around my house.

Why am I suffering a plague of feral mealworms? I have a pet dog.

Now there's been lots of research showing that owning a dog is beneficial. Pet owners enjoy better health (visiting doctors less frequently and popping less pills), they have lower blood pressure, better survival rates after a heart attack, increased morale, reduced loneliness and they're emotionally buffered against stressful life events.

But do pet owners suffer MORE stressful life events?
Such as invasion by mealworms?

Three days ago, arriving home from the field, I noticed a couple of mealworms wriggling across my lounge room floor. That's strange, I thought. I do breed mealworms, in big plastic tubs in my spare room. I use them to tempt reluctant mongooses to stand on a set of scales for weighing.
When I looked more closely, there were mealworms trundling all over the place. So it was with some trepidation that I ventured into the spare room. Chaos! All the mealworm tubs were overturned, the foam mattresses were torn from the beds and the floor was heaped - wall to wall - with spilled bran and fist-sized chunks of mattress foam. Sitting in the middle of the mess was Magic, my husky cross. She was nonchalantly crunching up the last member of an imprudent gerbil family who'd taken up residence beneath a mattress.

Now, I have a strong belief that companion animals are wonderful things. And not because of all those listed benefits. Pet dogs and cats are such an integral part of our everyday lives that we just take them for granted. But when you stop to think, it's utterly amazing that we're able to share so intimately in the life of a completely different species. The privilege of this relationship just takes my breath away.

But I must admit, I may not have been feeling that way today.

Today, I arrived home to find my lounge room besmeared with hundreds of little pieces of avocado skin and the broken remains of gnawed avocado stones. Magic had struck again. She'd filched a 2kg bag of avocados off the kitchen bench and happily munched the lot.
On the bright-side, while clearing up the avocado remnants, I was able to recover another half dozen free-range mealworms.

The after effects of consuming eight large, unripe avocados.


  1. "But do pet owners suffer MORE stressful life events?"
    I would also like to know. Surely other people don't get as many heart stopping moments as dog owners? But then again I think they might also not experience as many heartwarming moments, and those are the ones that count in the long run ;)

  2. Oh dear. How was the aftermath of the avocado binge?

  3. Henry,
    Warming hearts is what dogs are best at.

    Very green!

  4. Lynda,
    your description of Magic's work in that spare room reminds me of the bedroom I shared with my little sister when I was a kid.
    BTW why were their imprudent gerbils under the mattress? And where would prudent gerbils have been anyway?

  5. Jane,
    Lucky you outgrew such animal-obsessed messiness.

    Re gerbils: Don't panic, it's not a re-enactment of the Great Kalahari Hamster Debacle (in which I inadvertently ended up with >60 pet hamsters living under my bedroom floor).
    Bushveld gerbils are native to this area and they sneak into the house to filch mealworms (bugs comprise around 40% of their diet). An imprudent gerbil is one that nests in the lion's den, so to speak. Magic is, unfortunately, a far more efficient mouser than the cats.


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