During our recent move, our dog stayed with my in-laws for a few days. She’s stayed there often. It’s a typical ranch house with flower and vegetable gardens in the back – no water feature of any kind.
The night of the move, when she came home, I noticed blood coming from one of her hind legs. When I rubbed the area, small, dark wormy things, about ½ inch long, fell off. Exhausted, grossed out, and assuming they were slugs, I threw them in the trash. Then my husband suggested we try and bag one just in case it was a parasite and the vet needed a sample. Luckily, another one did fall off and he gleefully scooped it up in a plastic bag which he then stashed in the fridge.
I didn’t bother looking at the creature in the bag until the next morning. It sure looked like a leech to me. I telephoned the vet and made an appointment so she could remove any remaining “things” – whatever they were – from my dog’s leg. When I showed her the sample, she confirmed that it was indeed a leech.
I have since found out that certain leeches – called terrestrial leeches – live on land, in moist environments, eating worms among other things. Most of the information on terrestrial leeches comes from places like Australia where they are a big problem, and actually attack people.
But lo and behold, just this past September, a couple in New Jersey came upon a terrestrial leech in their backyard. They kept it alive until they found a scientist who was interested in having it, and it has since been designated a new species: Haemopis ottorum. You can read the story here.
So if this leech has gone undetected in New Jersey, as scientists claim, for centuries, is it possible we have our own terrestrial leeches right here in Rhode Island? The leeches on my dog were much smaller than the Jersey monster – appropriately sized for “Little Rhody.”
I did not take any pictures of “our” leeches, and the vet was grossed out by the sample leech and unfortunately threw it away. How did my dog end up with them? Where did they come from? I may never know.
Thanks for making me laugh. Both with the title of this entry, and by letting us know that your vet was “grossed out” … Funny.
Hope your doggie is doing better though!
The dog didn’t even notice! Typical.
OK, now you have me freaked out! TERRESTRIAL LEECHES?!! YUUUCK! My dad used to trap leeches to sell at bait shops. He would have to collect them via boat, so it really never bothered me – I knew as a land dweller I was cool. but TERRESTRIAL LEECHES?!!
I must never tell my husband. He hates creepy crawlies.
Awe, who am I kidding, I’m going right now to tell him! 🙂
Thanks for reading my tale of woe! It was quite a shock to find them.
Uhmmmm, Dirty N, there are certain facts I am happy not to know and this is one of them. I am a tough gardener but this topic left me squirming. Thanks for grossing me out – the first time in decades.
Kidding aside, thanks for new info.
I know, the topic of leeches makes most people squirm. But this really happened to me, and I felt that I should share my experience with my fellow gardeners…like you!
There are leeches in RI, during visits to the Oxbows area of the Pawtuxet river in Cranston myself and two friends found them crawling on boots and up pants.
So gross. But have you ever gotten them on land, in somebody’s city backyard? That’s what freaked me out.
My name is Wil Ott, it was my mother, father and I who discovered haemopis ottorum. I was this first to identify it as a leech and discovered how strange it was that it did not like to be submerged in water like all other aquatic leeches in the surrounding environment. Most likely your dog was probably not attacked by terrestrial leeches. Good of you to point out that places in Indonesia and Australia have serious issues with terrestrial leeches, even though there they too live in rather swampy environments. Our leech haemopis ottorum was not at all interest in blood. It would eat only earthworms. It was smart of you to keep one of the leeches on your dog. It is very important we learn about existing species and find new species (even leeches) so that we can learn about them so that we do not accidentally or purposefully harm them. I enjoyed reading your article thank you. I am a nature documentary photographer and photojournalist. Feel free to follow my blog or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Best, Wil Ott
I have emailed you, and please pardon the misspelling of your first name.
So they WERE leeches. Wow! Never thought I’d come across those in these parts.