Lying in my hammock, slung between a tree and a telephone pole in a
corner of our tiny backyard, I find myself thinking about the utility
of pets, between futile slaps at the persistently pesky mosquitoes. Speaking of skeeters, I
often marvel at their infinitesimal ingenuity and am shocked
and awed by the insidious malevolence of these tiny parasitic predators.
anyone knows who has chased a cagey mosquito around a closed room, they
have a variety of evasive and camouflage tactics to evade detection and
elimination. They are able to seek out hidden hideaways, under
beds, behind picture frames, among disorderly or discarded reading material and dirty laundry strewn
on the floor or in inaccessible spots in the middle of the ceiling.
They also seem to have an instinctual ability to choose blendable backgrounds
to alight upon, fading into invisibility while waiting on wood trim,
brown paper or dark fabrics until their prey tires of the search and
turns his attention elsewhere, at which point they head for the jugular,
or any of its myriad tributaries.
On top of these intellectual abilities, which would certainly place
them in the top 10% of American high school seniors, they seem blessed
with prodigious extrasensory perception. Time and again, as I slyly and
silently prepare to wipe one off the face of the earth and my leg,
they suddenly interrupt their vampirish blood-mining and take off, milliseconds
before my slapping palm leaves an angry red welt on my already abused
Now, how they have developed such a staggering array of tactics and
strategies armed only with a brain smaller than the dots on one of the
"i’s" in this sentence is, as far as I am concerned, one of nature’s
abiding mysteries. They must have been designed and built by the
Japanese. Our brains are, what, about a million times bigger
than theirs? And how often are they able to outsmart us, leaving us waving
in vain at empty air or searching unsuccessfully high and low for their
hidden lairs? So much for the theory of bigger brains being an evolutionary
Which brings me back to pets (thought I’d forgotten?) Across myriad
human cultures, far and away the most common domesticated animals are
Cats and Dogs. Although now much loved members of mostly human families,
each had a well-established laboral role leading to their adoption as
popular pets. Dogs, the first wild animals to be domesticated, with their
super-human senses of smell and hearing, helped in the hunt and in protecting
the tribe from other animals and hostile humans. Cats became indispensable
a few eons later when agriculture became established and stockpiles of
grain needed to be protected against rodents and other vermin.
Over the millennia, these two species developed a series of traits that
endeared them to their human masters, such as purring, fetching, lap-sitting
and allowing themselves to be dressed in ridiculous costumes by young
humans, which eventually insinuated them from the barnyard into
our living quarters.
Now my question is this – why, after so many generations of interspecies
interaction, have we not made pets out of some animal which feasts on
mosquitoes. Frogs or lizards, for example. One would think
that, at least in tropical climates where mosquitoes are endemic, some
smart tribe would have trained some aesthetically unobjectionable amphibian
species to sit unobtrusively on our shoulders, or hop silently over our
prone bodies in hammocks, lapping up those pesky skeeters by the mouthful. They
wouldn’t need to eat much else, and could perhaps be toilet trained
or otherwise doo-doo domesticated, so that their interactions with humans
would be antiseptic and unscented.
As I lie in my hammock now, too lazy to go inside for the currently
acceptable conventional and chemical anti-insect agents, slowly swelling
into one gigantic mosquito bite, I wonder about things like that. An
evolutionary opportunity left by the wayside? Or an oxymoronic
blogger with too much time on his hands? You decide.