On August 14th I brought home our newest family member...
Should I apologize to those with a fear of Spiders? Nah!
I should say I am dumbfounded at how many people are completely creeped out by these creatures, big and small, and I am talking about the people... not the spiders. But I guess it's one huge phobia for many.
The reactions I've gotten range from people running away and not wanting to even hear about him, or see his photo, to others asking "why the hell would you want that thing?", "what is wrong with you?", "why don't you put it outside where it belongs?" Only a very few have thought how cool of a creature it is. But when some actually take a moment to hear his story, the cool level rises with the spider and for us taking him in.
I really can't get into the details on his past life. I don't know a whole lot about it anyway. All I know is he has come from a home of neglect. A home he shared with a great many other unique creatures that most people would not want in their homes. So when it was discovered the conditions all these creatures lived in and they were abandoned for a lengthy amount of time... proper authorities stepped in to rescue the animals.
I was contacted by a friend of ours about a week before this spider came to our house. I've had 5 Tarantulas over the years, some were rescues, some were truly terrifying 8 legged beasts that even scared me some but I still took care of them (actually it was only one), and I pride myself on having Maude in my life for over 22 years. That's a long time to care for one spider, don't you think?
So, of course I wanted to jump at the opportunity to bring this poor spider home and give him better life. But being married, and having no other way of putting it... "I gotta ask the wife". Ha ha! Now it wasn't about seeking permission, Angie and I don't live like that. But we have respect for each other, our feelings, and a relationship of open communication. I was going to email or text her right away about this matter since we work opposite hours and don't see each other much of the week, but I didn't. I thought about calling her at the office the next day, but chose not to. I decided to wait until the weekend since it was only a couple days away and bring up the idea of rescuing a tarantula at some point.
The weekend came and I wondered when would be the right time, or best time to do so. First morning coffee on the deck? Sometime in the lazy afternoon in the lawn chairs watching for the Hummingbirds? Over dinner? I wasn't sure how it would go. Angie had shared a few years with Maude here so she has some recollection of having a large spider in the house. She never had to take care of Maude and neither would she for this one. But it's an intimidating creature and I know she does have some uncomfortable thoughts about them escaping, harming Meadow or just disappearing in the house. I totally get that. I'd be freaking if a large spider got loose too.
It was mid-afternoon Saturday, I just looked at her and asked how she would feel about taking in a Tarantula that needed a home. There was a pause and she gave me that look which I can't describe. It was a half smile with a "you shithead" behind it. She wasn't mad, probably more shocked at the suddenness and after a brief discussion on him, where he is, why he needs a home, etc; she asked if she could think about it. Of course I was okay with that as it was better than a "no goddam way in hell is that thing coming in here!"
Long story short, some hours later, after we had friends over and there was some further discussion of this between Angie and her friend Patricia... I got the okay. And Angie thanked me for taking her feelings into consideration and talking about this before just bringing him. I couldn't do that event though I'm sure other people have with other animals elsewhere. Oh there were some conditions like her not having to feed him or clean his tank... no probs there. And lastly, she got to name him. WHAT WHAT WHAT?!?!?! That one scared me. I like dark names for such creatures, something cool, something fitting. Maude was originally spelled MOD as in "Mistress of Death". NO was the "nameless one" because of her sad story. Daisy, oh my god yes, I named a spider "Daisy" only because she was so tiny and so cute, and she moulted the first night with us, like a blooming flower. There was Sid and his name represented some wild and crazy days of my youth. And last was Abigail, much like the King Diamond album about an evil spirit, this Abigail the spider was seemingly pure evil... well, not really, just a really aggressive species someone gave to me for my birthday. I often wondered if that person did not want me to see my next birthday? LoL! So ya, with how Angie has named some frogs of ours over the years like Kermit, Robin, Pickle and Wan-wan... and she blurted out cutey words like Jellybean for this spider, I was scared. But if that was the condition, fine... I just might have to add a middle name to save some grace for him.
Moving forward a number of days, I'm picking up our newest family member and bringing him home on August 14th. It was a Thursday and I was excited, so excited that I almost called in sick, so I could spend the afternoon with him, setting him up in his new house and being there for when Angie got home as I knew she still had some nervous feelings about him being with us.
The foster people warned me this spider was a little on the aggressive side. The guy said he checked on it often and it showed aggression to him by raising it's front legs and displaying it's fangs. Yep, that's the sign to back off or you will get bit.
I found that a little odd because all I read on this species, a Golden Knee, is that they are described as a gentle giant. A docile species and they can get to be quite large at 8 to 10 inches. But with all that this one has been through, I can understand his off mood.
When I got him home, I did a quick clean and set up of his new 10 gallon tank. Our friend Chris donated the tank and stand to us, which I also picked up that day. Once the tank was ready, it was time to transfer him over. The spider was quite stand-offish about this idea of moving once again. I slowly and gently coerced him out of the tiny carrier he came in and he walked out onto the fresh new sandy bottom. He quickly found his water dish which I found interesting, and he had a long drink (suck?) from the soaking Bounty towel in it. He then explored just a little bit, found his new house being a coconut hut and disappeared inside.
Over the next 5 days Angie never saw him. Another oddity really as every other spider I've had did not have this kind of habit of hiding out all day and only coming out at night. But internet research says that all tarantulas are nocturnal and a hidden spider is a happy spider. I must have had a bunch of 8 legged freaks back in the day, not following the rules of the norm of being a tarantula because they were active day or night and seldom hid. I guess all our pets are like that because the vets have said that Misfit (our Budgie) does not follow the rules of being a typical Budgie with some of her quirks.
We started counting the days, wondering how long until Angie would see him. Imagine if it was weeks or even months?!?! Some nights he did not come out until well after midnight.
I guess I should tell you his name, eh. Well, deep breath... Hagrid. Phew! I am good with that one. Much like the character in Harry Potter, he's big and hairy. Works for me. I still struggle with thinking of a middle name, one to follow the dreaded possible "Jellybean" she kept hinting about. Whiskey? I dunno.
What was really funny is that Meadow even met Hagrid before Angie. We have fond memories of the days when Meadow and Maude were together, how Meadow had a love for Maude and a spiritual connection. Another story where I might look up the blog link to that one. So I was wondering how Meadow would take to this one. It went well. Meadow's curiosity got the best of her to start looking in the tank. And when she saw Hagrid walking around, her eyes bugged out, and she started to purr and rub her chin on the corner of the stand. She loves chin rubs but I like to think it's her acknowledging our newest family member and welcoming him.
With my quick set-up on the Thursday, I knew come the weekend I would want to add a few things when I had the time. So we picked up some peat moss to pack in a corner for increased humidity levels for our friend (tarantulas need a higher level of humidity, especially come molt time where they shed their skin). I also got him another water dish and another hiding spot in way of a half log that is hollowed out.
Go figure, the day I want to do the renovations, Hagrid is sitting out, smack dab in the middle of his tank. Now I'm not afraid to put my hand in there and work but with such creatures, you just never know what they are going to do. And how the foster care guy said he's a little aggressive, I figured best to use extra caution and perhaps try to get Hagrid to move to the other side of the tank, as far away from where I want to work as possible. I have the tank lid over the end where I want him to go, so he cannot run up the side and go over the top.
Lucky for me, he is facing the way I want him to go. So I figure getting something to give him a pat on the bum or back legs would work. What do I get? A spatula! Nice long handle, large plastic spatula thingy which isn't sharp or jagged to cut him. Note, this technique has worked with other spiders of mine. They don't like the interaction and just move along, away from the object and some species I even used my fingers.
So I got up behind Hagrid and just as I am about right behind him, like a millimeter away, he does the craziest thing in the blink of an eye! Crazy like what? Well, he does this insane ninja-spider move of jumping up and doing a 180, so he goes from facing away from the spatula to being face to face with it, and from there he strikes and clings to it! A full force attack on the spatula in a heart beat! I could feel the force of him striking it and it surprised me that he wrapped his legs around like he did. HOLY SHIT! Imagine if that was my hand?!?! A bite would hurt like hell and really suck; but jeezus... to hang on?!?!
I'm frozen now, still holding the handle and he's still holding on to the other end. Time went real slow now as I'm wondering what the hell to do? Do I hang on to this handle still and hope he backs off? Do I drop it in the tank and wait for him to let go? What if he starts climbing up towards my hand? What if I have to go to work and Angie comes home to see a spatula in the tank? How do I explain that one?
I recon it was only a minute or so before I made a decision on how to deal with this, but it sure felt a lot longer. I lift the spatula with Hagrid still wrapped around it, and I move towards his coconut hut. I hope when he feels the house on a toe or two, that he will move over to that. Am I thinking like a spider now? Well whatever, it worked. As soon as he connected with the hut, he started to move over to it. Once he was completely off the spatula, I start to pull away and quite happy this was over.
But it wasn't...
As I am pulling away, Hagrid gives chase to the spatula. He's in attack mode, with two legs raised and fangs beared. I lift the spatula out and he lifts to 4 legs up in the air, trying to reach the untensil.
This is him another day, totally unrelated. No way I was even thinking of trying to photograph him through this.
If I didn't need to change my boxers before, I think I did now.
That was just totally insane!
And as quick as this all happened, he just as quick left the scene and went back to his house. This enabled me to do what I had to do in peace. I always kept an eye on the house but with ample space between us and me moving slowly and quietly, he stayed inside.
Now for some, that would be it. Get that monster out of here! But it taught me a lesson, or rather gave me a reminder of how unpredictable these creatures can be. One must give them total respect... and space. It makes me wonder about his former home. Was he driven to such aggression? Or is this all a part of his stress with the transition, and me disturbing him even further, so soon after, was just too much for him?
We've not had another incident, even when I've had to do some minor cleaning here and there.
Hagrid has been with us almost one month now. I've only seen him eat once through this time. It concerns me slightly but I know they can go a very long time without eating. Maude once went 14 months when I cleaned her home. I was freaking and offered her food weekly but she never took to it, well, not until 14 months later.
I've been putting crickets in there and a day or two later, they are still motoring around. I remove them, wait a couple days, and then try again. I moved on to super worms recently and he got one of those the first day. The worm crawled into his hut and was a goner in no time. Problem with super worms is they like to burrow and do just that in his sandy bottom. I can follow their burrow tracks across the top of the sand. This makes things difficult for him to find them, especially once they stop moving. I've found crickets hiding deep in the peat moss. Argh! I do hope all this straightens itself out in due time. A new challenge for me as all my previous spiders sat out in the open and I could easily monitor their eating as they only ate crickets and almost instantly upon me tossing them in. It was so cool to see the cricket wander, the spider sitting still, the cricket passes the spider and in a flash, the spider is on top of the cricket and has it in it's fangs. So fun to watch.
Hagrid likes to put a veil of webbing across the front of his hut as well, making it difficult to see in and what he's up to... if he's eating.
He's done some landscaping behind his hut, making a web tunnel of sorts that he also likes to hide within some days, still tough to see him.
I spend some evenings after the house is dark and still, waiting for him to awaken and rise from his home...
But like I said, it's a challenge, and I'm up for it. I will continue to work with him, care for him and give him a life of peace. I have no desire to handle this spider whatsoever and I am sure he appreciates that very much.
I'm curious who is still with me here after reading this? LoL! Pleasant dreams friends!
Here is a link to one heart warming story about a spider I rescued some years ago. I will post about the others another day, and Meadow's connection with Maude. But this one is a good one. Cheers! Spider #5 blog.