Lee Pitts: Don’t Pet the Spider
In 20 million American homes man’s best friend isn’t a dog, it’s a legally owned python, chimp, Madagascar hissing cockroach or other exotic pet. It occurs to me that we could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by turning endangered and threatened species into house pets. Who wouldn’t want a poison dart frog, mountain gorilla, sumatran orangutan, Slevin’s skink (a lizard), Oliver Ridley Turtle or Hector’s dolphin in their home? Why should Hector, Slevin or Oliver get to have all the fun? An Ozark hellbender would make a perfect pet, which I admit, sounds more like my college roommate than it does an endangered amphibian.
It’s time to think “outside the cage” and adopt an endangered clam, fern, lichen, snail, arachnid or invertebrate as your pet. Here are my top ten prospects.
#1 Black Rhino- Be the first on your block to own this endangered living fossil. Mostly outside pets, after a brief period of socialization you and your rhino will be curled up on the couch watching Dancing With the Stars in no time. Set aside two hours daily for play and dust baths.
#2 Goliath Bird Eating Spider- A member of the tarantula family, they can be as big as a dinner plate. They DO NOT like to be petted. I repeat, DO NOT PET THE SPIDER! Their venom is not lethal but they do flick tiny hairs at people that hurt like heck and can be dangerous if swallowed. It has a reputation for stealing birds out of nests so keep it separated at all times from your endangered Golden cheeked warbler.
#3 Howell’s spectacular thelypody- Listen up guys. Since their habitat is being threatened by the mowing of grass, you’ll have the perfect excuse not to mow the lawn on Sunday when you’re trying to watch the game. Just tell your wife, “I can’t because I don’t want to mow a thelypody, and not just a good thelypoy but a spectacular one.
#4 Rafflesia- This is the biggest flower on the planet, measuring three feet across and weighing up to 24 pounds. Not recommended for small condos. Just like some of my relatives, this strange flower does not have any visible means of support and is parasitic in nature. Again, like some of my kin, It has a disgusting odor that smells like rotting flesh, hence the nickname, “the meat flower”. Other than that it can make a friendly, intelligent and semi-portable pet.
#5 Fassett’s locoweed- I have no idea who Fassett is but this threatened species has been around for over 10,000 years. Unlike a dog, you’ll never have to walk it, pick up its poop, buy it tailored clothes or take it to a beauty parlor. Cattle are said to go crazy over it.
#6 Welwitaschia mirablis- The “onion of the desert” is a cosmetically challenged plant consisting just two leaves that wrap around themselves like two teenagers in love. May pout if not enough attention is paid. It can live for up to 1,500 years so make sure to leave a provision in your will for its caretaking.
#7 New Mexico ridge nosed rattlesnake- The official state reptile of Arizona, leading us to wonder why it’s not the Arizona ridge nosed rattlesnake? It probably won’t kill you if you’re bitten while roughhousing with it.
#8 Frigate island beetle- These critically endangered insects are scared by loud noises and rats find them really tasty, which means you probably shouldn’t also have a…
#9 Giant Kangaroo rat- Also known as the “Developer’s nightmare” because its presence has stopped more housing tracts than stingy bankers. Get a female because the males of the species are disgusting creatures and they like to sunbathe in the nude, rubbing their sides in the sand which produces a smell that attracts little bikini clad rat babes on the beach.
#10 Agarikon- A very rare fungi that shares half its DNA with humans. It is thought that 650 million years ago these fungi and man shared common ancestors, which explains why some family members at your last reunion sat like bumps on a log while feeding on BS. Can’t be taught many tricks but they are less smelly than a ferret, don’t shed and have no sharp claws.