Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Crab Whisperer

Because I have enough mammals currently living in my home, there is a freeze on acquiring any additional hairy pets.  So when my daughter decided that she wanted to buy an ‘animal’ with her birthday money this year, her choice was between the turtles and hermit crabs. 

The turtles were out of her price range.

I mistakenly assumed that crustaceans, unlike old cats and wet dogs, would not smell.  And maybe it’s not the crabs that smell, but their food.  Either way, it took an entire weekend for me to realize that I have zero tolerance for all pets, crustaceans included, except those cooked up in my own womb.

First crab lesson of the day: they live in a crabitat which is, in our case, a small travel tote with a purple lid.  I was surprised to discover that not all hermit crabs are created equal.  Leah purchased two, and while one is friendly and serene, the other is an angry pincher that nearly gave my daughter a blood blister his first day at the Belknap home (How we decided this crab was male I will never know).

“Can we take him back to PetCo and ask for a hermit crab that doesn’t pinch?” my daughter asked.

“Uhm.  I don’t think the return policy covers pinching crabs, Sweetie,” I replied.  “In fact, I think they expect their crabs to pinch.”

Pinchers, as we so lovingly call him, was initially unhappy in his new digs.  In fact, each time I cleaned his cage, he would tear it apart like a rock star trashing his hotel room.  The water dish would get overturned before being dragged to the other side of the cage, holes would be dug throughout, all the extra shells would be moved and sometimes buried before the pesky thing would sit defiantly atop Sunny, the hermit crab with, according to Leah, an equally sunny disposition. 

After some time, Pinchers seemed to acclimate to his new environment.  What I didn’t realize is that he was slowly slipping into a crab funk, or crusdepression.  He stopped trashing his crabitat and, instead, buried himself deep into the sand, refusing to come out.  Leah thought he was dead, and while I explained that he was probably molting, she mourned her supposed loss more than once.  Turns out he was neither dead nor molting—he was simply sulking.

But I didn’t realize how bad things had become until yesterday, when I heard a loud pop at the kitchen counter.  There, by the crabitat, lay Pinchers, who had somehow managed to climb up the side of his tote and through the small opening in the lid before throwing himself from atop the cage to the counter: Pinchers had attempted crabicide.

Luckily his shell broke the fall, and I was able to return him to his cage unharmed, but I couldn’t help but feel bad that Pinchers appeared to be so forlorn.  Should we travel to the beach where we can release him back to his natural habitat?  Should I talk with the good people at PetCo and see what measures can be taken to improve his well being? 

And then I realized that I was worrying about a hermit crab for which there would be no therapy nor Prozac.  So I did the best next thing, and I cut up a hot dog and put it in his cage. 

Just call me the Crab Whisperer.

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