I’ve got bunches of stories that my family and friends have told me I need to share and, well, this is probably the best forum to share them on. Most of them sound like fairy tales. In some cases that’s not far from the truth. I am so tempted to start with the best ones, in my humble opinion, but I’m gonna try to spread the better ones out over several months.
And with any luck, at age 56, I’ll have a few new ones to tell before I grace the ethereal with my presence.
This particular story is about my son, Stephen, now 26 and a staff sergeant in the Marines and a husband and father of my two wonderful grandchildren, that my wife and I adore.
When Stephen was a young lad around the age of 6, he decided he wanted to have a pet of his own. There was already a chinchilla in the house (a pet claimed by his sister) along with 2 dogs and a few errant cats that decided if we fed them enough they would stick around. I had also had started my life changing endeavor of becoming a licensed falconer, so I guess he was feeling a little left out. He wasn’t sure what he wanted but that wasn’t a problem. He knew that Dad could come up with a few ideas that would either piss Mom off or send her running for a stick. And he was right.
My Son’s First Pet
My first pick was a Mexican Red Kneed Tarantula. I had had one when Kelley and I had first started dating so I figured we could at least get it into the house. Stephen was really excited about the whole idea so off to the pet store we went. He picked the biggest one, a female, at my urging. If you’re gonna go all the way, you might as well go big is my motto. And why would ANYONE want to own a little tarantula?
The Tarantula Arrive Home… Quietly.
I can’t say that I remember the exact scenario of sneaking the spider into the house, of releasing it into the 10-gallon aquarium we had set up as the new creature’s home, but I do remember the feeling that Kelley (my wife) was irate. They say that the mind tends to block out horrible and horrific memories and this may be one of those instances. I seem to remember sleeping on the couch, being told to get my own dinners and a cold shoulder or two, but it is all somewhat fuzzy at this point.
Needless to say, Stephen was thrilled. He could catch crickets to feed it and only had to do that once a week. The habitat only needed to be cleaned out once a month! A little water on a sponge every few days for moisture needs and he was golden! What could be easier? It seems like a massive spider is the perfect first pet for a little boy!
Stephen Gains Popularity With His New Pet
Over the coming days, he loved showing the new member of the family to all his little friends. Nobody else had a 2 oz. spider in their room and it seems it was quite the status symbol for him. Before long EVERYONE knew he had this 8 legged arachnid, that ate medium sized mice, in his room like it was an everyday pet. Then came the unexpected (at least by Stephen),…..they wanted him to hold it. Now snakes, lizards, and most insects didn’t phase that boy. But holding this monstrosity of a spider sorta freaked him out. I had shown him, on several occasions, how to pick the tarantula up. I had shown him how to gently set it down and had explained how easily their abdomen would split open like an overripe plum if dropped from any height. He knew he had to be careful.
But the reality was he didn’t want to pick it up and he didn’t want to hold it. He certainly didn’t mind if I did it, though. “Dad!… Would you come get the tarantula out, PLEASE!” I heard every time he had a friend over. For the first few weeks, I would oblige his request. After all, I was the one who had conned him into getting the beast. But it didn’t take long for me to grow tired of the exercise. Take it out, put it back. Take it out, put it back. So… maybe this wasn’t the best first pet for a young boy?
An Eastern Shore Experience Begins Again
My next suggestion was that we get rid of the pet that was becoming more my responsibility than his. We rehomed the tarantula (before the word “rehomed” was a thing, I might add) within a week.
Although that relieved my responsibilities, for the moment, and significantly lowered his stress level, he now had lost his status with his friends and again, felt left out of the animal ownership position he had recently enjoyed. I knew I had to come to his rescue and save him from this longing to be part of the animal hoarding members of our family. I knew I could get back the respect of his 1st-grade peers that he had lost. It was, after all, my responsibility, to surprise his mother, again. If you are wondering what Stephen’s next pet was, read my story about the Rat Snake Earring. Trust me, you’ll get a laugh out of it.
Do you have a crazy first pet story to share? Tell us! I always love hearing others experiences with their animals. My mission is to educate and inspire everyone to connect with nature that’s all around them. That’s what we do here on the Eastern Shore!