Saturday, June 1, 2013

What?


Much of the eastern United States is bracing for the deafening return of the 17-year cicada. The cicada lives most of its life underground. It could be worse. It is related to the spittlebug, which, as we've previously mentioned, lives in a nest of its own wet farts. The cicadas hatch in a tree but then drop to the ground and begin to burrow, finally staking out a homestead up to eight feet below ground, out of the reach of predators, until they start to feel safe again, which, depending on the species' anxiety level, can be up to seventeen years. Then something compels them all to tunnel back up to the surface. This corresponds to the age humans are at their horniest, too.

In Greek myth, which for my money could take any religion in a cage-fight, a fellow named Tithonus captured the fancy of Eos, Goddess of the Dawn, and she asked Zeus to kindly make him immortal. Unfortunately for both of them, she neglected to request that he be forever young, and in due order he was stove-up and drooling on himself for eternity. At some point he was turned into a cicada, which made him easier to clean up after, but was still doomed to live forever, against his wishes.

The slobber hole
It might have seemed to the Greeks that the cicadas lived forever, boiling up out of the ground at regular intervals and keeping everyone awake, but they don't. In fact, if Tithonus is still miserably showing up every 17 years, he'd do well to park himself in the back yard of any Eastern subdivision, where veterinarians are warning people not to let their pets eat too many cicadas. They say "pets," but they mean dogs. A cat isn't going to gorge himself on cicadas. He's going to bat one around for a while and then go off looking for rare migratory songbirds to murder. A dog, however, will totally eat as many of anything as he can stuff into the slobber hole. And their wrappers, too. The problem is with the wrappers.

Cicadas aren't poisonous. The vets are concerned that the dogs will eat too many exoskeletons, made of a tough substance called chitin that is also responsible for keeping lobster meat together, and then the dog will get backed up something fierce, unless he is able to ralph up the bugs. Which dogs are certainly known to do. They will put anything in the pipe, and they don't care which direction it goes. But a highly constipated dog full of cicadas runs the risk of a major gastrointestinal bug eruption in his latter years worthy of an Alien sequel.

It is my opinion that the veterinarians are hyping the dangers. Any decent sized American dog,
Chitin consumption
particularly a Labrador retriever, is not going to be done in by a little chitin consumption. I have seen a dog carry off a pair of Carhartt overalls and, when confronted, back into the bushes and swallow the whole thing. Then comes the agonizing hours waiting to see if it comes out bib first, or breech. But you can't kill a Labrador retriever.  People have tried. Carhartt owners.

53 comments:

  1. Not funny. This is indeed a serious matter...especially for Carhartt owners. Continued nonchalance for Labs.

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    1. NOT FUNNY? Tear my heart out with that kind of talk.

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  2. My Lab ate a thorny Holly leaf...darn near killed her, but she did finally crap it out!

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    1. She must be one of your more delicate Labs.

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  3. the spittlebug, which, as we've previously mentioned, lives in a nest of its own wet farts.

    I knew guys in college who were like that.

    It sounds like the solution to the cicada noise problem is to breed a large rapid-reaction force of Labrador retrievers, and keep 'em hungry until they're deployed to wherever an infestation breaks out. Even if the scarfed cicadas are later barfed back up, they'll presumably have learned their lesson and quieten down.

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    1. Hardly. Have you ever heard the Cicada Lab Alarm call?

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  4. We have a very well behaved lab who never eats anything..... Oh, there was the time I spilled a tray of beads on the floor and He helped clean those up with the gusto of a Hoover; we had glitter poop for days! You could see the backyard from space on a sunny day!

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    1. I invite you to imagine how much this image cheers me up.

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  5. awh sure and once they throw up or poop them out, they'll eat them again...mhh only once digested

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    1. I learned that one early, from a roommate whose dog threw up in the middle of the night, and instead of getting up and cleaning it up, she waited for the dog to do it. Have I mentioned I've become more of a cat person?

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  6. Nest of Wet Farts, also known as the US Congress. You're welcome.

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  7. We don't have cicadas here, but that photo brought back memories of a plague of grasshoppers. You couldn't walk across the yard without generating a bow wave of shimmering wings. The corpses accumulated on the car radiator to the point that we had to scrape them off every few miles because the engine was overheating, and the highway built up tire tracks of crushed bugs. The smell of engine-roasted grasshoppers is indescribable. And it lingers in the car approximately forever.

    Good luck with your cicadas. *shudder*

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    1. Oh, we don't have cicadas out here either, but I do remember those grasshopper plagues when we drove out to North Dakota in the Peugeot. We had the windshield wipers on high and had to peer through yellow slime.

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    2. As the grasshopper said when he hit the windshield, That was fun. If I had the guts I'd do it again.

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  8. Oh that is where my carhartt's went. I thought my brother, Mr. Always Carhartt, stole them.
    The sound of cicadas make me running for the ear plugs but if it's every 17 years for them, what the heck.

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    1. Well, it's every seventeen years for some of them, and fewer for some of them, plus different broods show up at different times. Growing up in northern Va., I remember them but they didn't bother me. Now what bothers me is going into a loud restaurant where you have to shout to your dinnermates to be heard.

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  9. We've lived here 25 years and had one outbreak before 1997, so I'm sure the one in the forecast is ours. In the cicada explosion we had, the parent foxes brought their three kits down the road and sat under our oak tree devouring the damn things. The parents swatted a cicada to the ground and ate it, but the kits jumped for them. At the end of the afternoon they could barely drag back up the road.

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  10. Our cicadas go into a new chorus at night that can wake one. They are here in full force and their skeleton sheds are hanging everywhere like brown turds. At least they have aerated the yard.

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    1. I used to pluck those off the maples in the back yard and...and...I don't know what I did with them. But they sure were cool.

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  11. Finally, finally, FINALLY I read about something in the newspaper before you wrote a post on it! I feel like I've won the lottery!

    Now, back to reading the actual post ...

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    1. ... aaaannd back again ... nicely done. I'll have you know, though, that cats - some cats I personally know - will eat anything as well. Strings, bugs, plastic bags. They aren't supposed to eat those things, but they do. When you aren't looking. And then it comes out one end or the other, usually the other. Cats have short digestive systems which is why they can eat all kinds of terrible things and not die.

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    2. Not my cat. Tater will eat nothing but kibble. One half cup per day please, and don't be putting any smelly fish or chicken in my face.

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  12. Our cicadas returned last year so guess we are good for another 16 years or so.

    Can't even begin to tell you the things I have assisted our pups at getting rid of out of a certain end of their beings. Ugh. None of which resembled any of the bazillion cicada exoskeletons they ate.

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  13. An open mic joke in cicada season was: what's the last thing on a cicada's mind when he flies into your windscreen?

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  14. Cats who will eat anything are responsible for the production of UDOs (Unidentified Disgusting Objects) in our home. Rather a lot of UDOs.

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    1. You know, this one (Tater) doesn't even hack up hairballs. Excretion-wise, she's kind of a gem. A little toothy, though.

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  15. I adore Labradors; but then, I have never been a Carhartt owner.

    We plucked the shells from the trees, built "corrals" in the dirt and played filthy rich rancher. Filthy.

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    1. OH! What a great idea! They would totally look like cattle. Cattle don't move much anyway.

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  16. We had a dog once who ate an entire bowl full of Christmas Hershey's kisses. The red and green foil made his poop quite festive.

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    1. You've just confirmed for me something I've thought for a long time. That is, chocolate is not poison to dogs. People say chocolate is poisonous to dogs because they do not want to share their chocolate.

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    2. I agree. We've had lots of chocolate thieving dogs and they all lived long and greedy lives. Am I the only person who absolutely loves cicada season? We have the full orchestral effort almost every year and I think most Sydney kids and adults associate the deafening chorus with end of year exams and the long summer holidays. No 17 year season for Aussie cicadas!

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    3. Are they huge and hoppy and have pouches? Please say yes.

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  17. One of my friends had a cat who ate yarn and she found out when she saw it partially hanging from its rear end. The cat had to have surgery to remove it as it entangled in the intestines.
    Another friend has a dog who ate a box of Crayola crayons. The dogs poop was very colorful and she even photographed it to show to everyone. Some looked like colored Easter eggs. It was funny to see the photos.

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    1. Shoot. I still miss when dog poop was White.

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    2. I thought the bathroom after-effects of eating red beets were colorful, but I had no idea this sort of thing happened.

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  18. It is hypocrisy to laugh at a spittle bug if you fart under the covers in bed.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. I'm not hypocritical at all. I laugh then too.

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  19. When I saw a picture of cicadas being roasted on barbeque sticks I wondered if they were being prepared by an affectionate dog owner. I prefer to think so.

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  20. Well, Murr, obviously this bugs you. I hope you don't eat too many of the critters, either. Humans are not happy when they get plugged up.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting, Life in the Urban Forest (poetry).

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  21. There'd have to be a lot of batter.

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  22. Growing up in Arizona surrounded by cottonless cottonwoods whose bark cicadas are especially fond of, my experience with the species is advanced and quite endless. If I had a nickel for every exoskeleton I plucked from a tree trunk, I'd be richer than Trump, though not nearly as much of an a-hole. We kept them in shoeboxes for while. They were a special collection item, and we traded them like baseball cards, but without the bubblegum. And that cacophony, er, symphony of dusk songs, well, I'm getting all misty thinking about it. Wait. Yeah, that bit about the spittle bug farts dragged me right out of my nostalgia funk.

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    1. Trump would have been a better man if he'd given a shit about picking cicada skeletons off of trees. We did it too. You couldn't not. Depending on the time of year, my Radio Flyer was full of cicada shells or tent caterpillars. And you're welcome about the spittle bug farts! No one can be uncheered when they think about them.

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  23. Ugh! I hate the cicadas. They are soooo gross and sooooo loud! I am dreading this season!

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  24. The things I have missed, living in Oregon. Lightning bugs, cicadas, fire ants, black flies, 3 inch long cockroaches. . . all we have are leopard and banana slugs, and that's only on the west side of the Cascades.

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  25. "But a highly constipated dog full of cicadas runs the risk of a major gastrointestinal bug eruption in his latter years worthy of an Alien sequel."

    NOW I'M GOING TO HAVE THAT IMAGE BURNT INTO MY BRAIN FOR THE REST OF THE DAY.

    If I see dozens of screaming humans and panic-stricken dogs fleeing a dog park, I'll know what happened now. And I will pity whomever has to clean up the mess.

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