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Expanding my web presence

I don’t like spiders. Or, rather, I’m capable of much faster movement and louder screeches when surprised by a spider. I don’t remember feeling afraid of spiders as a kid. But I have a distinct memory of being at a zoo or science center … the kind of place that had a room full of bugs … when one of the young men in the group decided it would be funny to talk up how scary spiders are and give me a jump scare every time I got my face close enough to the glass to see one clearly. Next thing I knew, every spider I saw thereafter freaked me out.

For most of my adult life I have been able to calmly get intruding spiders into a cup with a piece of paper slid over the top, and deposit them outside, rather than smooshing them. Occasionally, I’ll see a wolf spider in my basement big enough that I have a distanced conversation with it.

“OK, I’m gonna leave you alone. You just go back out to the garage now. I don’t want to see you here when I come back. Please.”

That usually works. Sometimes I’ll point the cat toward the spider. He’s no help. They might be in this together.

But this summer, I’ve been occasionally house-sitting for someone whose menagerie includes a tarantula. I was told she did not need to be fed frequently. All I had to do was work up the courage to keep her water tray filled. Once I figure out I could do that without lifting the lid off her enclosure, I was only a little shaky.

Then came feeding time. She needed crickets. I had to go purchase a bag of crickets — and you can’t pour those in through the screened lid. So, more talking to the spider.

“Just stay over there. Don’t move. If you stay in your corner, we’re good. Please.”

She listened.

After a few weeks of occasional visits, I realized I was less shaky when refilling the water; and even said “hello” toward the enclosure on my way in.

Meanwhile, at home, I opened the linen closet one evening to find a wolf spider staring back at me from atop a stack of towels. I slammed the door. But then I thought it wouldn’t do me much good if I was worried that every time I needed a towel I might be reaching in toward a spider.

Every technique I tried failed. Every towel I moved, this thing skittered onto the next one. I was down to the bare shelf with a spider sitting on it. In the end, I got it into a cup and relatively hoisted it out into the backyard. Victory!

While piling the towels back into the closet, I realized I hadn’t cried or considered burning the house down … Hm. Strange.

Recently, the owner of the tarantula said he was considering downsizing his collection. I don’t know what got into me, I really don’t, but I said I would take the spider. That’s when he said she could live another 10-15 years. Hoo boy.

But, I was all in at this point. I started researching her species, figuring out how to make her enclosure as comfortable as possible. They like to burrow, stay warm, have regular meals … and if they’re content, they’ll rearrange things in their enclosure to suit their mood. This particular species does not like to be handled. (And, I am very much OK with that).

Oh, and if I was foolish enough to put a male in with her, she’d eat him.

The more I learned, the more I found I am actually looking forward to the day the tarantula is brought over. I’ve got a shelf cleared for her and everything. A little exposure, familiarity and education and I’ve found that phobia planted many years ago by someone who, for whatever reason, wanted me to be afraid is actually shifting to fondness.

Who’d have thought?

Imagine what else could change with a little open-minded listening and learning, The possibilities are endless.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com.

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