Now this thing did not come into our lives because we asked it to, but it walked in all on its own. You should also know that creepy things don't really freak me out too much so I was okay with this.
We were on a family bike ride, minding our own business, when I saw a largish something, crawling across the road. As we got closer, the kids realized it was a gigantic spider so they jumped off their bikes to take a closer look.
He was a really neat specimen of a spider, and being the homeschooling mother that I am, we got him into a bag someone had littered nearby and rode him home.
Then being the crazy homeschooling mother that I am, we got him a nice little habitat.
At first I thought he must have been a lost pet. After all, those giant things weren't indigenous to my area, were they? After some internet research I found out that yes, they are in my area, especially in the fall.
These spiders, especially the males, come out the last year of their lives to find a mate. The males develop a stirrup in their last year, which they use when they mate. Sadly, they then continue to wander around until the cold kills them. This big guy had the stirrups and was a wanderer so we had most likely saved him from a cold and lonely death.
After some more research we decided to keep him, and give him a name.
I don't remember who thought of it, but he was named Oreo.
We fed him crickets that I bought at the pets store. They needed their own little habitat and feed too, of course. Actually what you do with the crickets is called gut-loading. You feed the crickets good healthy vitamin squares, which the spider then eats, and then he gets the nutrients he needs, through the crickets.
I didn't get any pictures of the crickets, but they were a bit annoying. They weren't too loud but they were great escape artists and would always find ways to get out of their cage. A few times I would find one wandering around and would yell at the nearest child to get it back in.
Oreo was pretty big guy.
We fed him once a week or so, and got him out every now and then.
He was very mellow, and never moved very fast, except when he was chasing his cricket.
The kids had a blast with him and liked holding him and letting him walk down their arms.
As I researched more, I found that they are actually very harmless, and do all sorts of things before they bite.
First, they shoot off hairs from their abdomen. These are like little slivers. Once, near the end of his life we had a friend that was really trying to get him out to hold him, and Oreo, who wanted nothing of the sort, shot him with a few hairs.
If they are still threatened by you, they will come up on two legs to look as big as they can. Oreo never did this to us though.
Their third line of defense is the run and hide. And finally, if they feel completely trapped, they will bite. But their bite is no worse, or poisonous, than that of a bee sting.
The actual danger to having these guys as pets is that you will accidentally kill them. Tarantulas are extremely fragile and any fall would kill them. So we made sure that only people that were comfortable with spiders held him.
He was so big, that if you thought of him as a crab walking up your arm, it was mentally easier to hold him.
He was a fun little guy, who lived a happy life with us for over a year.
The last few months of his life, he started spewing out hairs any time we tried to get him out, and became quite moody - a crotchety old spider, I guess.
So that was our story of Oreo. If you live in Northern California, watch out - the fall is tarantula season.