In Defense Of The Pet Snail
In Defense Of The Pet Snail
This story was edited for radio by Martha Ann Overland.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
You know, we could all use a good companion these days. A dog - but they shed. A cat - but they scratch. How about a snail?
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Snails are so hot right now.
SIMON: Social media is filled with posts of pet snails, suddenly - videos of snails munching salads set to smooth jazz, even a snail song from the New Zealand singer Benee.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SNAIL")
BENEE: (Singing) I'm like a snail. You're a guy. Kind of mad I can't fly. When it's day, hide away, but come out when it rains.
SIMON: Comedian and celebrity chef Nadia Giosia, aka Nadia G., discovered snails as potential pets, not appetizers, when she ordered some houseplants online.
NADIA G: And then all of a sudden, this little rock plops down.
SIMON: That rock turned out to be a snail. It was kind of cute, but...
NADIA G: Everywhere that you look online, they're like, don't touch snails. They've got rat lungworm disease. And we're in the midst of a pandemic. You know, the last thing I need with crappy health insurance is rat lungworm.
SIMON: But you'd have to eat a raw snail to get that disease. She just couldn't bring herself to do that.
NADIA G: And a week goes by, and we kind of start bonding. He's pretty adorable.
SIMON: She named the snail Leroy, later added a pal, Edna. Nadia G. says that part of the appeal of snails is their expressiveness. She really believes in that.
NADIA G: You know, sometimes they're wiggling around, and I would imagine that that means they're having a good time, kind of like how a dog wags their tail. Other times, their antennas/eye stalks get super droopy. And that's when they're in what I like to call snecstacy (ph).
SIMON: Chicago area artists Aleia Murawski and Sam Copeland were way ahead of the snail curve. They saw artistic possibilities in the itsy-bitsy mollusks about five years ago when they were working on miniature still lifes.
ALEIA MURAWSKI: And so we had this light bulb moment where we realized the sets that we were creating were roughly snail-sized. And so we introduced them into our projects. And they really activated our work and made it come to life.
SIMON: Their current star is named Velveeta. And you can see them - snails, by the way, are hermaphrodites - on Instagram and TikTok. They could be working at the computer keyboard, bowling, dating or reenacting scary scenes from "The Exorcist," "The Shining" or "Poltergeist."
MURAWSKI: They're great actors (laughter). I mean, it's definitely a collaboration because we can't will the snail to do anything. We can only hope that they'll be interested in what's around them. And that's what's so wonderful about working with snails is that they have this curiosity.
SIMON: And lunch - all it takes is a little bit of cucumber juice to get the most out of these swirly shelled thespians, whether they're nudging a mini bowling ball or dramatically exiting a room.
MURAWSKI: Often, we're so blown away. Like, they really do seem invested in finding out what's around them and exploring the scene around them. And it's very charming because they - you know, we made this miniature Ouija board, and we put it in front of them. And the snail moved the planchette around. And we're just like, we couldn't ever ask for anything more magical than that.
SIMON: Of course, British snails get all the best roles. Aleia Murawski says that Velveeta and her friends are helping her get through this pandemic.
MURAWSKI: So many scenes that I create are, you know, me processing the world and some of my fears and also dreams. And it just makes everything feel funnier and silly and kind of workable. Yeah, I'm so grateful for these tiny creatures.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'VE GOT A FRIEND")
CAROLE KING: (Singing) When you're down and troubled and you need some love and care...
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