Pets bring wild world into living room

By Grant McGee

The Lady of the House has returned from spring break in the Florida Panhandle. She came back with tales of shopping, finding Roosevelt County Valencia peanuts on sale in the Sunshine State, shopping, all the rain, shopping, the beaches, shopping, eating lots of seafood, shopping, visiting her family and shopping.

She also returned with two hermit crabs she fondly refers to as “The Boys.”

“So they’re both males?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “They don’t reproduce in captivity, according to the hermit crab book I bought.” One is named “Bob One” and the other “Bob Two.”

“Bob One is the bigger one,” she said.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with hermit crabs. They’re land crustaceans who live in seashells. Come to think of it, they’re one of the few critters in the animal kingdom who recycle. When they outgrow one shell they find a newer, bigger one. Sometimes where shells are lacking the crabs improvise.

“The guy who sold The Boys to me said he once saw a hermit crab that had moved into a soda can,” said The Lady of the House.

Bob One and Bob Two are a long way from home. We don’t have hermit crabs ambling around Clovis, hiding in the hedges and such, waiting to munch out on your pet’s food in the yard. Hermit crabs are native to the tropics. This means a trip to the pet-a-torium to buy a good-sized aquarium, a terrarium heater and other stuff to create a little biosphere for The Boys.

It’s been a long time since I’ve kept pets in a terrarium. As a kid I used to have a huge terrarium with lizards, toads and such. On summer days I’d put my lizards on the back porch screen and they’d run around and snatch flies.

It was pretty cool stuff.

When my father got a job in the tropics, I immediately took to the palm groves in search of lizards and snakes. My first day out I found a brown racer, a plain brown snake about 5 feet long. I ran back home to put it in my snake cage. I burst through the front door. There was my mother having coffee in the living room with a friend. I ran over to her and held up the snake.

“Here, Mom, hold this while I go get my snake cage.”
Years later, I was re-telling that story and she started to laugh.

“What I never told you,” she said, “is after you left the room I turned to my friend and said, ‘Would you believe this is the first time I’ve ever held a snake?’”

As I got older I began to feel kind of bad about cooping up critters in terrariums, aquariums and cages. So I’ve avoided keeping fish, reptiles, amphibians and other animals. I get a bigger kick seeing them in the wild. For instance, I think it’s neat watching a tarantula cross the road or moving a turtle off the highway. One time I got out of my car just to watch a gila monster stomp off into the Arizona brush.

Sometime I’ll tell you about my encounter with a rattler on the north side of the Capitan Mountains.

Meanwhile, Bob One and Bob Two are in the house. I’ve taken a liking to them already.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: