January 20, 2006

Challenging Fears

I always had a fear of spiders. When I was about 15 I thought I'd try to deal with this by getting a pet baby tarantula. My Mom was pretty unhappy with this idea, but I suspect my Dad talked her into going along with it.

He was a little guy, with about a 5cm legspan. Well, little for a tarantula, big for a spider. His body was about 2cm long, almost 1cm wide. The pic to the right is the same kind I had, it looks just like him. It's also probably close to the same size, if you have an average-sized computer screen.

I'd throw a half-dozen crickets into the terrarium with him, and he would eat them as he got hungry. One time I built up my courage enough to stick my hand into the terrarium with the intent to let him walk across it. I put my hand in front of him as he was walking, and he stopped as soon as he touched my hand. I just sat there, waiting, my heart pounding.

Finally, I couldn't stand waiting any longer, so I reached in there with my other hand to give him a gentle little push forward. He got scared, and I had never seen him move so fast. He ran quickly onto my hand, up my arm, and under my sleeve, coming to a rest under my shirt at the base of my neck.

Absolutely petrified, without moving my entire upper body at all, I walked to the bathroom. I closed the door, and put a towel at the base of the door. Then I slowly, ever so carefully took off my shirt. There he was, just hanging out on my shoulder. He didn't seem inclined to move, and I wasn't sure what to do next... so I just stood there in the bathroom, looking in the mirror at this tarantula sitting on my shoulder.

I finally went back to my room, put my hand back in the terrarium, and used my other hand to give him a little nudge away from my neck, and he zipped right down my arm and back into the terrarium in less than one second. I had no idea they could move so fast.

He never left the terrarium alive again. Actually, it turned out that my practice of just leaving the crickets in there with him wasn't such a good idea. Tarantulas shed their skin every so often, and they are really soft and vulnerable when that happens. The crickets, detecting their advantage, ganged up on him and ate him.

Mom was delighted.

There's actually a little more to the story. When he obediently ran right back into the terrarium, I was just filled with gratitude and relief. I was so scared, and I realized he was scared too. I learned that day that spiders are just weird little beings that feel fear just like we do. I'm still a little skittish about them, but not like I used to be when I was little.


At January 22, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

Funny, I bought a baby rat snake and two tarantulas about 15 years ago for the same reasons that you got your spider.
I had to feed "pinkies" (baby mice) to the snake, which was about the length and thickness of a shoelace (maybe a bit thicker). I really didn't like this aspect of snake ownership: playing judge, jury and executioner. I fed the snake only once. Evidently, it was sick from the git-go. It died. I was relieved.
As for the tarantulas, I didn't feel as guilty feeding them crickets, though I probably would now. Anyway, I donated them to The Philadelphia Zoo's children's zoo when I moved to Japan.

At January 24, 2006, Blogger Siren said...

Have you ever read Dr Seuss' 'Pale Green Pants with Nobody Inside Them'? (from Sneetches and Other Stories). It is the same story! :)

At January 24, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

No, but I'll keep an eye out for it!


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