Lions and spiders and bears…

After my post about spiders last week, Marcie from Helen Woodward Animal Center reminded me that their Fall Harvest Tour was happening this weekend. I remembered seeing the haunted house as it was being set up on my tour with Mike Arms a few weeks ago, and I was really excited about getting a chance to take my kids.

Like everywhere, we have our usual assortment of pumpkin patches, hay rides (but in San Diego, that translates to a ride on a tractor around a cement parking lot) and the like, but I have a special place in my heart for things that are educational. What can I say, I’m a classic nerd mom.

I mentioned to my daughter that there would be a tarantula there, and she suddenly decided that she would rather stay home and help her father clean the garage. “But there’s going to be toads, too!” I told her. “Eeew,” she said. “Toads are slimy from hanging out in the muck all day.” Then she added, “But I’ll touch a snake if they have one instead.” Whose kid is this anyway??

OK, despite my irrational distaste for spiders, I’ve never maligned a toad in my life. “That’s it,” I told her. “You’re getting some education today.”

So off we went to the center, me expertly steering the kids past the prominently placed cat adoption center (nice try though!) and onto the festivities. In between games and pumpkin painting, the kids got to meet several “spooky” residents of the center:

A beautiful rosy boa, who expertly obliged in sticking her tongue out for us to admire.

Rosy Boa

A huge Madagascar hissing cockroach, whom my son passed on holding but my daring daughter cradled in her palm without a qualm (she has yet to hear my thoughts on la cucaracha so held it without prejudice):

Hissing Cockroach!!

And an adorable Shetland/miniature horse mix, who try as he might was not spooky at all in his angel costume:




But he was still cute.

Then we went into the creepy spooky haunted house, which was full of all manner of critters (millipedes! hermit crabs! Albino rats!) I didn’t take too many pictures because I didn’t want to use the flash in the dark room, but they gave us flashlights and the kids got to peek at all the bugs.

And skulls. When asked what the skulls were, my son guessed “Tyrannosaur, Brontosaur, and Triceratops.”


We also got to meet the famous Karen, the Goliath Bird Eating Spider. And her moult:


I didn’t know spiders moulted in one big piece. I guess I never really thought about it. All I know is, if I saw that furry thing lying on the ground I would still shriek like a little kid, despite my stated goal of being benevolent to the octopeds.

At the end of the haunted house, they had a little dance area with a skeleton and some candy. My poor kids, in a rush to get to the end, had to deal with me grabbing their flashlight and holding up the line as I gestured- “come here! Check out this tarantula! Come on, look at the toad buried in the mulch! ha ha! Cool!” etc.

They’ll come around. I’m working on it.

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  • Georgia Jewel

    My older son once stood on the sidewalk outside the pet store, crying “Please , Mommy, no more pets!” I was only going in to get some hermit crabs to keep in my office. I guess the 2 cats, 2 dogs and the fish tank did him in…Luckily, my younger son is almost as crazy about animals as his mom.

  • I agree, Shetland Ponies just cannot be scary no matter how hard you try. But Karen, I gotta say, Karen = scary.

  • Okay you got me with the big roach! EEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! Creepy crawly

  • Holly

    Having worked in a neat little mom-n-pop pet store as a young adult, I grew sort of fond of tarantulas, snakes, all manner of toads and frogs, skinks, salamanders, etc. I was “reptile girl” by the time I moved on to bigger better things (ugh waitressing). I had no problem scooping up little red kneed tarantulas into a cup or a butter dish, cleaning their little houses of cricket carcasses, and putting them back kindly and gently and usually with a little cooing and baby talk (“Who’s a pretty girl or boy? You are, baby! Now go suck bugs and I will see you in the morning.”). BUT…. if I ever think a *little* spider is on or near me and could potentially touch my skin, I WILL plow you over to get away. I will not squish a spider that is on the ceiling or otherwise minding its own spider business, but let the sucker come at me and it’s WWIII.

  • Megan

    Side note from the crazy exotics vet – dysecdysis (problems molting) is one of the most common reasons for people bringing tarantulas to the vet. If they break off a leg or can’t molt all the way, they can “bleed” to death and have problems with desiccation (dehydration or drying out). Sedation + medical superglue usually does the trick. Sing it with me now: “The more you knooooow!”

    • Well that’s the word of the day for you! I can’t wait for you to start a blog! ๐Ÿ˜€

      How the heck do you sedate a tarantula? Where do you stick them?

      • Megan

        Same way you sedate dogs and cats: Isofluorane! It works pretty well. Any injections are made into the primitive heart which is located just under the dorsal surface of the abdomen. I’ve used that to euthanize a tarantula before.

  • That sounds like such a fun day! I never knew tarantulas molted all in one piece either – actually, I’m not sure I knew they molted at all. Blech!

  • Karen told me to tell you that meeting you was awesome! And as a side note… thank you for alerting me to “Zombie Erin.” I will be certain to watch her for more zombie activity. ๐Ÿ˜‰