You are probably reading the title of this post and wondering, “What the hell is she talking about now?”
Allow me to explain.
Even though I am not vegan, I’ve always been a sucker for God’s creatures, be they furry, feathered, finned or well, freaky. I come by the “be fearless” part of my “have fun and be fearless” tagline honestly. I seem to have been born without the “typical girl” fear of creepy crawly creatures. Most little girls will run to cuddle the cute lost puppy that wanders up to the front porch or rescue the tiny mewing kitten that suddenly appears in the yard without a moments hesitation. Yeah, I did that too. In fact, if I had a dollar for every stray, homeless baby animal I’ve rescued I’d be on a beach in Maui writing this blog.
However, my need to initiate search and rescue ops went beyond what most folks would consider the “norm”. Oh sure, there were plenty of puppies and kittens along with birds, bunnies, squirrels-pretty much any poor unsuspecting animal I could find, which surely needed saving (which clearly explains some of the choices I’ve made in regards to the men I’ve been with throughout the years, but that’s another post…) But there were also the more, ahem, “non-traditional” creatures that benefited from my first aid…
Ah, the memories of childhood…I can still hear my Mom yelling at me “Leave that thing alone-you don’t know where it’s been! You might get rabies! Or lice! Or warts!” The stories of those giant needles being inserted into my stomach to treat the rabies I’d contracted from the baby bunny, while my head was being shaved due to the lice I picked up from the baby bird-all this happening while my body spontaneously sprouted hundreds of giant warts brought on by catching all those tiny frogs somehow did not deter me from my missions of mercy. Plus, I was too smart for my own good as a kid and was quick to point out that warts were caused by viruses, not frogs and that rabbits couldn’t even carry, much less transmit, rabies. My poor Mother…
Yep, my need to rescue did not stop at cute little fuzzy creatures. I’d pick up anything in hopes of helping it live to slither another day (once again explaining my past taste in men). Snakes, frogs, lizards, caterpillars, spiders and yes, earthworms. If I even suspected a creature was in distress, it was Little Nurse Annamarie to the rescue! Sometimes, my efforts paid off and the critter was saved and released (albeit, begrudgingly) back into the wild. Sometimes, however, fate has other plans. Not all of my tiny “patients” made it. I took the losses to heart, weeping hysterically that somewhere there was a caterpillar family missing a sister or a bunch of little spider babies that would never see their mother again. Then there were the funerals. And the burials. All of us kids- myself, sister and cousins- standing in a circle around the gravesite, choking back the tears during the eulogies. The agony! The sorrow! The pageantry! You know, the kind of melodramatics that can only be properly organized and executed by a 10 year old girl.
Now, most kids kind of grow out of the need to pick up every critter they find. Especially girls. If you’re a girl and still hunting for snakes past the age of 11 or 12, well, you’re kind of thought of as a little odd. After all, there are way more important things to think about.
Like lip gloss.
And “high” heels (I can still see that pair of 2 inch suede clogs with the sheepskin lining I coveted at age 12…ah, bliss…).
Don’t get me wrong, I love all those “girly” things too. My obsession for sexy sky high heels is only matched by my passion for the perfect lip gloss. And there have been quite a few boys along the way…
However, I never seemed to grow out of my love for critters. Yes, there have been many cats and dogs throughout the years (I love my current three dogs and two cats like kids) but there have also been more, “exotic” babies as well. Like Boris and Natasha, my dwarf Siberian hamsters (and the army of baby hamsters they produced) Then there was Ming, my pitch black Siamese fighting fish that lived to the ripe old age of four. Turtle, the (yeah, you guessed it) turtle who would eat out of my hand. Or most recently the late, great Hades, a 6 inch long preying mantis that I hatched from an egg case. He passed away in November of last year and yes, I cried. And yes, I buried him in the back yard. I wept for all of them. And I gave them all proper burials in tiny caskets. Although nowadays, the crazy melodramatics of my childhood have now been replaced with a more quiet grieving over the loss of a friend.
And yes, thirty years later, I’m still in the Search and Rescue biz.
I’ll never forget one day-oh, a good ten or so years ago-when my Mom and I were out for a walk. The sun finally decided to make an appearance after several days of torrential rain and we were eager to get a little fresh, dry air. As we we got to the point in our route where actual sidewalks made their appearance, we started to notice the bodies of dead earthworms everywhere. Poor little guys. The rains had flushed them out of their comfy little worm burrows and on to the sidewalk, where they dried up and died when the sun came out. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some movement. It was a lone earthworm, still alive and wriggling like mad in an attempt to get back to the soft grassy area. I watched him for a couple of seconds as the sun warmed my shoulders. Then I reached down, carefully picked it up, placed him on the grass and said, “There you go, little guy.”
My Mom just kinda stared and me and shuddered. I looked at her, shrugged and said, ” I can’t help it. I feel bad for them. I mean, drying to death on a sidewalk must be a really bad way to go.” Again, my Mom just kinda looked at me. Then she said, “What are you, the patron saint of earthworms?” I watched as my little friend squirmed his way into the soft earth and shrugged, “Yeah, I guess so.”
The nickname stuck. My rescuing missions have gotten all sorts of reactions, from “That’s pretty cool. I wouldn’t do it, but it’s cool that you do.” to “Seriously? It’s just an earthworm.” It’s especially amusing to notice the morbidly-curious, slightly grossed-out reactions I sometimes get when I’m all gussied up, in a dress and 5 inch heels, stooping down to save one of my wiggly friends.
It doesn’t stop at earthworms. The warm weather heralds the start of “Turtle Patrol Season”. I mean, the poor little (and sometimes big) guys can’t help it that they are slow and have a strange, innate sense of direction that urges them cross any and every road within a 5 mile radius. If I see a turtle in the road, I’m gonna stop and help him cross, plain and simple. Of course, my efforts are usually greeted with a quick retraction of head and limbs and a mildly menacing “hiss” (yeah, turtles actually hiss), but does it stop me? Nope. Not even the threat of catching salmonella stops me (hey, that’s what hand sanitizers are for, right?)
Several weeks ago, I was visiting one of my stores (for the day job, not a shoe shopping expedition) and as I was about to open the door when a small dark shape on the ground caught my eye. Now, curiosity may have killed the cat, but it just encourages the Badass. I squinted my eyes and crouched down as low as my 5 inch platforms would allow. Sitting right there on the concrete, under a water spout, was a small frog.
Now, to fully understand what I did next, allow me to paint a picture of the area that I found the little guy in. This particular store is located in a fairly new shopping center, that basically, is entirely made of concrete.
So where the heck did the little guy come from anyway? We may never know, but one thing I did know. I just couldn’t let him stay there, lost in a concrete jungle with no place to go. So I did what any other self-respecting rescuer would do. I scooped the little dude up and carried him inside with me, of course!
Now, the reps that work at this store know me really well, so when I walked into the store with my hands cupped together, they wondered what surprise I had for them. “It’s a frog. Poor little guy was out there on the sidewalk. I couldn’t just leave him there.” I’m not sure if they sympathized with the plight of my little web-footed friend or if they thought I was crazy and were giving me the ” let’s just smile and maybe she’ll take the amphibian and leave some SWAG before someone notices” treatment. Maybe they were just grateful for a little entertainment after a boring day.
Which is what they got when my little friend wiggled his way out of the tiny opening in my hands and leapt to the floor.
The frog was fine.
I, on the other hand, was mortified.
My only comfort was that the customer at the register three feet away was too busy arguing about her bill to notice.
I quickly scooped him up again and whispered, “All right, dude. I’m trying to save your life here. Can ya give me a break?”
I said my goodbyes and left to hit the next store. So there I was, in the car, trying to drive the one mile to my next store-one hand on the steering wheel and one cupped around my frog prince. At this point I’d like to point out that I do not advocate driving with a frog in one hand (had to get that public service announcement in there). But desperate times called for desperate measures. And what the heck was up with my clean car that day, anyway? On any other day, there would be no fewer than 5 empty water bottles littering the floor of the Jeep. But that day, I barely had a gum wrapper in the damn car. Since I wasn’t about to let him have free run of the car, I did the best I could, holding him gently in one hand. Apparently, the little guy thought he was more qualified to operate the Jeep, because once again he wriggled out of my hand and bounced to the steering wheel, where he sat peacefully until we arrived at the next store. Oy.
When I entered the store, I was greeted by one of my favorite reps, (of the who, after hearing the saga, went to the break room, quickly ate his blueberry yogurt, washed the cup out and brought it out to me. “Here ya go. At least he won’t get away so easily. What are ya gonna do with him anyway.” “I’m gonna relocate him to one of my gardens. I’ve got a bunch of frogs and toads around so maybe he’ll find a friend and take out some of the bugs.”
So I gently placed my little friend in his “chariot” rubber banded a tissue over the to keep him inside, poked a few small holes to let some air in and left to show him to his new home. When we finally got home, the hubs came out to greet me with a smile. “Hey you! How was your—what is that?” I removed the tissue and proudly showed him my latest rescue as I told him the saga of how he came to be in the yogurt cup I was holding. Gary just smiled, shook his head and said, “Let’s go show him his new home.” So we walked to the back yard and I set the cup on it’s side so the frog could crawl out on my hand, which he did. I guessed he missed me during his time in the yogurt cup, because even when I put my hand down inside the garden to set him free, he didn’t move. Maybe it was because my hand was nice and warm. Maybe it was because we bonded. Maybe it was because the rush of escape was over and his freedom was being handed to him on a silver platter. Whatever the reason, I saw it as a photo opp..
After several minutes and a gentle little nudge from me, he hopped into the garden and started exploring. I smiled at Gary and said, “Have fun, little guy. Make friends and eat bugs.”
So “what is the point of this story?” you may be wondering. I didn’t have a point (beyond entertaining you guys) in mind when I started, but thinking about it now, in light of the recent devastation of Sandy, maybe my crazy little rescue missions could serve as a lesson in helping others. We meet people of all kinds everyday in our lives. Sometimes, they are fuzzy and soft and cute, like a kitten. Sometimes they are odd and a little scary looking, like a preying mantis. No matter what a person may look like, everyone needs help sometimes. And while you may not be into picking up earthworms, there’s lots you can do to help out folks in need in your community and in other areas. The key is to be aware of what’s going on. Ask questions. Get to know folks. Do what you can. Get involved. You may not be a Patron Saint of Earthworms, but you can be an Angel to someone in need. And that, my friends, is something way more rewarding.
Until next time..
Have Fun…and Be Fearless!