No hero to rescue me means I have to figure out how to save myself

My husband Jim and I had a deal: he would rescue me from spiders and beetles and I would rescue him from snakes.

We were each other’s heroes.

Little spiders don’t bother me much, although they should because I was bitten by one once that made me very ill. It’s the bigger ones that make my skin try to jump off my body. Same with larger beetles. EWWWWWWWWW.

Jim’s phobia of snakes, though, was worse than my aversion to spiders and beetles. It was beyond squeamish. He was terrified. His fear stemmed from a childhood experience in which a snake wrapped around his leg when he was running through a field. Consequently, it didn’t matter whether the snake was a 2-inch baby or a 2-foot adult. A snake was a snake.

I cannot tell you how many times Jim sent me forth to rid his world of a snake. The things we do for love.

Snakes startle me, but once I know where they are, I’m happy to make room for them in my path. If I saw a snake before Jim did and could surreptitiously encourage it to move along quickly, I did. If Jim saw it first, the game plan changed, and the snake’s fate was less positive. I will spare you the gory details, but sometimes the plan involved a shovel.

I got really good at reading his “I saw a snake” body language.

Jim felt about spiders and beetles the way I feel about snakes: live and let live. He couldn’t understand my reaction to the creepy crawlies, but would rescue me just the same. And it’s not just actual creepy crawlies that trigger my fear. I’m so in tune to the shapes of my adversaries that a creepy-looking plant or crawly-looking leaf formation can cause near panic.

This is a tomato stem splayed against my backsplash in my kitchen. My first instinct was to recoil from the spider shape.

This is a tomato stem splayed against my backsplash in my kitchen. My instinct was to recoil from the spider shape.

It’s a common occurrence to find a spider in a sink or in the corner of a room in my old farmhouse, with its rockwall foundation and natural cracks and crevices. After the “GOD HELP ME, A SPIDER” response, my first instinct is to call out to Jim, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2010.

Sometimes I still do that, but quickly realize I’m on my own, and I have to deal with it myself — with great trepidation and dread that the critter will turn on me and do me in.

Beetles and arachnids aren’t my only issues. Recently when I let the dogs out into their fenced area, I happened to go outside with them to watch their antics.

Suddenly all four of my Brittany dogs converged on one area of the fence. I saw movement and thought in the dimming light it might be Gracie the Golden Retriever from next door. Wrong color though. Quickly I realized it was a humongous porcupine.

This porcupine, staring at me from my front steps, was the bane of my existence for the better part of a week.

This porcupine, staring at me from my front steps, was the bane of my existence for the better part of a week.

I yelled to the dogs, who came on the run, for the most part. I had to keep encouraging a couple for whom the pull of the porcupine was great, but they came. Miraculously, none of them had quills. I secured the dogs in the house, alerted my neighbors to the porcupine, and went to a meeting.

Upon my return, my headlights picked up an unfamiliar object close to the house foundation. There, nestled in for the night, was the porcupine. It was gone from that spot the next morning. Problem solved. Right?


As I drove out of my garage to head to work, I glanced up at my front steps, and the porcupine was at my front door. I got out to take some photos, and once it spotted me, it started to come down the steps toward me. I didn’t wait to find out its intentions. It sure was huge, was not frightened of me and didn’t seem to know it was supposed to be nocturnal.

The creature clearly had no fear of me, which made me a little nervous.

The creature clearly had no fear of me, which made me a little nervous.

The last straw was when the animal pooped on the back stairs after having entered the garage through the doggie door.

I called someone the Maine Warden Service recommended, but employing him was cost-prohibitive. Finally the timing and the animal’s location converged so my neighbor could help me take care of the problem.

This whole porcupine thing, which occupied my mind and my nonworking hours and had me living in fear of the dogs getting “quilled” for the better part of a week, normally would have been a “Jim problem.”

And as usual my hero would have come to my rescue. Spiders. Beetles. Porcupines. Skunks. Mice. Squirrels. The occasional bear. All in his purview.

Having to woman-up and face my own demons has been an unpleasant aspect of widowhood. But I am practical and usually capable, and I try to come up with my own solutions — unless help presents itself.

One recent morning, I was in the shower and happened to look down toward the end of the tub, only to discover I was sharing space with an active spider the size of a dime. Upon seeing my eight-legged companion in the tub, I made a noise of alarm that apparently triggered my nearly 2-year-old dog Quincy’s protection instinct.

He stuck his head in the shower, saw the spider, jumped IN the tub, grabbed said spider and flew back out of the tub.

I don’t know if Quincy took the spider elsewhere and let it go, or if he ate it. I never saw it again, so I suspect the latter.

My neighbor. My dog. I guess I still do have heroes.

My hero, Quincy!

Quincy, my hero!



Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.