An otter carrying PVC pipes

Benjamin Harnett
2 min readDec 30, 2017

“Hey,” I say, proffering my tablet, “take a look at this.”

Originally published in The Internet Review of 2016

My wife rolls her eyes. I know she is doing this without looking.

“Is that another cute animal GIF?”

(I don’t comment on her pronunciation of GIF, a sore topic which elicits much ridicule each way.)

“No, you really need to see this.”

We are in bed, with a copy of Mysteries of the Unexplained between us, serving as an impromptu coffee tray. I take a sip of my coffee.

I try again. “This otter is coming to solve your problems.”

She reaches over to point the tablet in her direction. She smiles. There can be no doubt. This otter really is coming to solve our problems.

An otter carrying PVC pipes

It may have been 2015 or 2016 when I first saw the image of “An otter carrying PVC pipes.” It wasn’t the original posting, but had already been tagged into a meme. The otter is playing, I suppose, given PVC pipe parts as toys in an effort to enrich the day to day existence of an undoubtedly intelligent being, whose wild life, if it had one, has been circumscribed into the more limited dimensions of human captivity.

But there’s no doubt, from the steely determination of its eyes, its serious, studied grip, stern face, that, as the meme’s caption reads, “this otter is coming to solve your problems.”

I have relied on animal memes, such as this one, this stressful year, more than any year past.

It’s easy to ridicule them, or to dismiss them as appropriation or projection, but animal memes are, in my opinion, among the highest art the internet can afford, and most useful.

At once we are reminded of both our animal nature, and of the humanity of animals. The shared stresses and pleasures of life on earth.

There is in them both hope, and instruction.

The otter, coming to solve your problems, is also you. And it is us.



Benjamin Harnett

Historian, poet, digital engineer. Fiction at @mooncityreview, @longform, & @BklynQly.