Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Captain and Lucky, we hardly knew ye...

Get out your hankies. I'm about to tell a sad tale. It looks like I'll be telling the story of how we acquired two hermit crabs, and their untimely deaths at my hands, within the very same blog posting.

About a week ago a friend kindly gave us her six year old son's two hermit crabs, with his permission. Amazingly (if you know anything about the typical life span of a pet hermit crab) they had had these two hermies since last June, so, really, going on a year. While her son really enjoyed the two crabs and learned a lot about exoskeletons, molting and other various crab habits and behaviors, the time had come where he had lost interest in them. I must say, they are a tad bit boring as pets go.

Anyhoo, Mimi was absolutely thrilled! She has always been fascinated by the hermit crab tanks at any PetSmart we've entered. One of the things I did not know about hermit crab accoutrements is that you can buy various "themed" shells for them to hang out in and move into after molting. For example, these two crabs were named Nemo and Pirate. Yes, the former was snugly ensconced in an orange and white striped, Nemo-like shell and the latter in a little black shell with a pirate painted on it.

Mimi promptly renamed them Lucky and Captain. Captain was the new Pirate and Lucky was the new Nemo. Captain is self-explanatory, Lucky requires a bit more explanation. Nemo/Lucky was probably in some stage of molting and had pretty much constantly buried himself deep into the sand of the hermit crab hotel. We got the tank home and wanted to introduce ourselves to our new pets, so we carefully dug Nemo out of the sand and I held him in my hand. He moved around a bit and so Mimi said that he was lucky to still be alive after being buried in the sand for so long! So, Lucky he became.

The next few days were crab bliss. Mimi had all her friends over to look at Lucky and Captain. We gave them a hermit crab "bath". We fed them a variety of food i.e. hermit crab flakes, pellets and powders. We changed their water and put drops of a special water conditioner to rid the tap water of apparently death-inducing (to crabs) chlorine. And I desperately tried to keep their tank at the appropriate temperature and humidity levels as prescribed by the hermit crab guru lady at

We put the tank in Mimi's bathroom so she could keep an eye on it, and we could make sure the cats couldn't get to it. I would occasionally run a hot shower for a few minutes with the door closed to boost the humidity. I also put a small space heater in there and would run it for a few minutes with the door closed to warm things up, especially after we got up in the mornings and the house was a little chilly.

And therein lies the rub. This morning, after Mimi got on the bus and as I was getting ready to go out for a client appointment, I turned on the heater for a few minutes just to knock the chill off the bathroom. I clearly recall thinking to myself "don't forget to turn the heater off before you leave." Well, I got home seven hours later. I realized as soon as I opened the bathroom door and the wall of heat hit me that those poor little crabbies were probably dead as doornails. Sure enough, there was Captain laying there, out of his shell. I dug up Lucky who, after all, wasn't so lucky. I spritzed them both with some of the special "Little Mister" spray that you use to "wake" crabs up to play. No hermie resurrection despite my frantic "come on, come on little buddies!"

The hardest part, of course, was telling Mimi. I picked her up from her science club and didn't tell her until we got home.

"Honey, Mommy has some really sad news. Captain and Lucky died. Mommy accidentally left the heater on in the bathroom all day and they got too hot."

She immediately started crying.

"I'm never going to see Captain and Lucky again? Mommy this is the saddest thing ever! What am I going to do without them!?"

She called her friend Aubrey and tearfully told her that Mommy had burned up the hermit crabs.

It really broke my heart. We snuggled up and cried a little more together.

Then she asked for some fish.

Oh, to have the grief cycle of a five year old.


Jeannie said...

Why am I laughing so hard at such a sad story?!? I can TOTALLY see myself doing the same thing! We have tried fish (betas) countless times and they have all died within 2-3 days of getting them, so we've given up on pets for a while.

Debbie G said...

Oh, those mommy moments. Just think, you're teaching her that everyone is human, even mommy! Some of us see that realization on our childrens' faces as they gaze at 3 days' worth of dishes...laundry baskets shoved in every corner of the house...they know this isn't quite the way it's supposed to be but aren't entirely sure why...