Columns » Bob Lancaster

Dog-peter gnat update



Followers of the dog-peter gnat situation — it isn't a "crisis," as some of them would have you believe — accuse me of dereliction this summer for "ignoring the problem" and not providing updates.

"Who'll do it if you don't?" one of them implores.

Who indeed.

There's no coverage of the dog-peter gnat situation in the mainstream media, the alternative media or the tabs. There are no dog-peter gnat weblogs. There are no chat rooms or message boards to keep dog-peter gnat philes and phobes current on the nitty-gritty of dog-peter gnatiana.

There are only a handful of references in the vast Google vaults — notably, not to blow my own horn, a recounting of some of the past attention the topic has received in this newspaper in this very column. Also G-noted are a song by a Florida balladeer with the notorious D.P.G. in the title, and a cookbook recipe that recommends dog-peter gnats as a seasoning that looks like black pepper and tastes something like Tabasco sauce.

My guess is that this last is mere burlesque rather than haute cuisine. Even if you were able to collect enough of the little fuggers to make a sprinkling, the taste, I'd be willing to bet, would be more like Vienna sausages than Tabasco sauce.

Notice these last two citations contain no up-to-date information or useful data on the dog-peter gnat. Nothing newsy or educational. They're largely just gag humor, in more than one sense of the word. Nothing on the big dog-peter gnat surge in Japan after the tsunami — a plague complicated by the leaked nuclear radioactivity which for a few spooky days had dog-peter gnats the size of roosters chasing terrified survivor Pekinese across the Nipponese coastal plain like monster knobgobbler Nosferatus.

Also completely ignored by the international media and the search engines have been tribal reports out of Africa of gnatlike locusts ravaging the savannahs, bringing special agitation to the forked-penised rhinoscerosi. These aren't the dog-peter gnats our own mutts have to endure, but rather a cousin subspecies that natives of the parched African Horn where they originate call the camel-peter gnat. The camel-peter and dog-peter gnats differ only in size and in their choice of which mammalian tallywhacker they prefer spending their brief lives maniacally and pointlessly orbiting.

I've never been in a biology classroom where the dog-peter gnat was mentioned, or in a biology lab where one was dissected. I've seen fungus gnats cut open and studied down to their minutest particulars, and sand gnats, and fruit gnats. Even the great gnatologist Fabre, who wrote full-length gnatographies of a dozen varieties of the critter, is mute concerning the dog-peter gnat. So is Darwin. So is Benjamin Franklin. So is the Old Farmers Almanac. Both Gnatty Bumppo and Gnat "King" Cole dropped the initial "G" from their first names to discourage people from associating them with the dog-peter gnat. I think I know the reason for this aversion, and I bet you do too.

If it sought out the dog's ear, or the corner of the dog's mouth — even if we were obliged for accuracy's sake to call it the dog-anus gnat — the professors and the entomological press would give it its due; it would get coverage comparable to that of the sabertooth mosquito, the Gypsy moth, the dung beetle. But there's just enough of Puritan left in us, or Victorian, and at least 265,000 other kinds of gnat or near-gnat that are just as deserving of attention and that don't have the name baggage this one does.

What Huckabee calls the Ewww! factor translates into benign neglect of the dog-peter gnat situation, and those of us on the dog-peter cutting edge can rationalize that neglect because the dog-peter gnat isn't venomous like the fire ant, isn't a mortal threat like the killer bee,  but is merely gratuitously irksome, an infernal nuisance to our Best Friend, and it's nasty in an icky glandular-secretion way that repulses the Phyllis Schlafly in us all.  

So I plead guilty to the dereliction. I've just had other things on my mind. Less important things admittedly. Like how they've just ruint tomatoes, the climate, discourse, and wise governance. How they've romanced stupidity. How they're trying to steal our Social Security and force our womenfolk to bear and rear rapists' spawn. Etc. Against that backdrop, on these shores, in these climes, at this time, the dog-peter gnat situation just hasn't seemed to matter much.

Insofar as giving it my personal attention, I worked up a grant proposal to study the effects of dog-peter gnats on the mental health of various pet dog breeds, but they never got back to me. I heard by the grapevine that Republican congressmen wanted to use the money instead to "hike the Appalachian Trail," if you know what I mean, Vern.

I found in some of Pasteur's research notes proof positive that you can't get rabies from a dog-peter gnat flying into your eye — even one that's lately cavorted around a mad-dog's nads. And there's this: More dogs are wearing pants, thus depriving the dog-peter gnat of precious habitat. That's a start, but it'll take a lot more dog duds to have a meaningful reductive effect. And snugger ones. More snug dog pants, even for strays. Maybe especially for strays.

Add a comment