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.