Eight reasons to say no

Phidippus audax, jumping spider: The basal par...
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“Baby girl, we’re going to have to let it go before we leave for our vacation,” I say to Girl from the East as we drive home from our errands.

“Noooo,” she says, her voice descending into a low whine.  “Can’t the pet sitter feed it for us?”

As I maneuver through thick afternoon traffic, part of my brain grinds like a computer hard drive, plotting and planning the packing and preparation for our two-week road trip. The other part considers my girl’s request. I peek into the rear-view mirror. I see her face morph into a full-on pout: jutting lower lip, scrunched brow, feigned detachment.

I think of our vegetable gardens that need watering. I think of our two cats who need food, water and attention. I think of things like mail delivery and bill paying.

I think of the pet spider who lives in a bug jar on our kitchen window ledge.

I think my life is just a little crazy.

“No. I can’t ask the pet sitter to feed Spiderly Spider. That’s asking too much of anyone.”

“But why?”

Why, indeed.

How is it that a former arachnophobic (me) is now keeping a spider as a pet?

You know what’s weirdest of all? I’ve become attached to this thing.

It’s not your average spider. It’s a phidippus audax. It eats other spiders. Imagine that.

This whole crazy episode started when Girl from the East found the spider zipping around on the bright yellow walls of our downstairs bathroom.  I didn’t know what else to do with it but trap it in our bug catcher. I turned a moment of phobia making into a learning experience.

We’d keep it for a day or two, I thought. Then we Googled phidippus audax and learned all kinds of things, including their popularity  as pets (within a certain crowd, I suppose). Soon, we found ourselves hunting for insects and other spiders and watching Spiderly stalk and capture his dinner inside the bottle. While most spiders just sit in a web, which makes for a boring observational subject, this guy leaps and hops and waves his front legs like a symphony conductor.

Each day we said tomorrow will be the day we let it go.

“Can’t we take him with us,” Girl asks as we pull into the driveway and begin to unload the shopping bags.

“No. He’d be cooked alive in the car. Besides, we don’t bring our cats with us, either, because they would be sad.”

I imagine us hauling this spider halfway across the country, crawling around in hotel lobbies looking for ants,  the spider getting loose in the car … and then I notice the silence. The debate has ended.  She gets it.

So in a few days we’ll coax Spiderly out of his temporary quarters and into the food chain.
My mind turns to the wild woods of Montana, where we’ll be staying for one week of our vacation. There are some big, hairy spiders in those parts. None as tolerable as the phidippus audux.

I wonder how she’ll react when she sees one of those things ambling across the wooden floorboards?

What’s the weirdest pet you’ve ever kept? What crazy lengths do you go for your children?

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