They were gifts, the two hermit crabs. Given to us by dear friends who were moving across the country and needed to leave their pets behind them. So when Buddy, now 5 ½, lost them in our house, I couldn’t help but feel terrible.
Joe and Sally didn’t do much. They were pretty easy by pet standards, and honestly, if you forgot to feed them for a few days (okay, maybe even a week) they didn’t seem to mind. Occasionally I’d allow the kids to get them out of the cage and watch them maneuver obstacles on the family room floor. But on most days, they just hung in their tank.
I left on Friday afternoon for a home school conference and wouldn’t return until the following Saturday afternoon. My husband and several friends were helping to watch the kiddos for me while I was gone. When I returned home on Saturday afternoon the house was a disaster: play-doh crusties ground into the living room carpet, shoes strewn through every room and hall, and three meals worth of food droppings caking the hardwood floors below the dining room table. But the kids were happy and still breathing, so I couldn’t complain too much.
I threw a load of dishes in the sink and began picking up laundry. Carrying the first pile (yes, there was more than one) down to the laundry room, I notice the lid on the hermit crabs’ tank was up. “Huh, that‘s a little peculiar,” I thought. Looking inside I noticed that Joe and Sally were not snuggled into the sand as usual.
“Peanut!!!! Buddy!!!!” I yelled. “Where exactly are Joe and Sally?”
Buddy immediately looked guilty. “I took them out to play.”
“Okay, fine. So where are they now?” I asked. He ran downstairs to the table where he had set them, looking confused that they were no longer there.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I left them right here!”
“When? When did you leave them here? Who was watching you when you got them out?”
“Ms. Brenda,” he said. She was here early Friday afternoon.
“Just great,” I concluded. “The crabs have been missing for more than 30 hours already, and no one even noticed.”
We searched high and low that day. Nothing. We searched the next day, too. Still nothing. Inspired by a conference session about decluttering the home, I decided to go through the house room by room cleaning and purging. On the third day since Sally had disappeared, I found her huddled next to the downstairs couch when I was moving it to vacuum. I carefully reached out my finger to touch the shell thinking she was probably dead. Movement. She survived.
Sally had originally been Buddy’s crab. But since he was the one who almost killed her and she was now our only hermit crab, we decided it was only fair for Sally to now belong to Peanut. She renamed her Sparkles.
Days and weeks went by, and we all assumed Joe was dead. The crazy summer rainstorms had kept our basement unusually cool and hermit crabs like it to be a warm 80 degrees. Besides, he had no food and no water.
4 weeks since the incident:
For Peanut's seventh birthday, we moved her room downstairs. I set up a monitor so I could hear if she needed me at night. It was a big adjustment to be on a separate level from mom and dad, so she occasionally got scared in the dark and called for me to come down and comfort her.
One night I was lying next to her in bed, praying and singing as she slowly fell back to sleep. Right as her breathing slowed and she‘d finally dozed off, I heard a noise in the ceiling above my head. I froze.
“Oh my goodness!” I thought, “We have a mouse! There is a mouse in my daughters room!!!!” I stood still listening for a few minutes. The mouse was scratching at the ceiling tiles, scurrying around on the ceiling. I was mortified! How could I, in good conscience, allow my daughter to sleep in the same room as a mouse!
I stood from her bed and listened more carefully. The sound was actually coming from the wall, like the mouse had fallen behind the drywall. “Great!” I thought. “Now he’s trapped back there and there’s no way to get him out. We’re going to have a stinky smell for weeks!”
The scratching moved toward the electrical outlet. Smart mouse. He was going to chew his way out at the corner of the socket. I stood there staring at the wall, in the dark, waiting for that little critter to peep his eyes through the hole. I didn’t have a plan, exactly, but I was NOT going to let him make a home in my home.
Movement! I inched closer to the wall. Crawling over the top of Peanut's CD player that sits on her floor, I saw a form. But it was big and slow and not very mouse-like.
“Joe!!!!” I yelled. “You survived!!!“ I couldn’t believe it. I noticed a tipped over cup of water next to the CD player. He must have hunkered down next to his only water source and waited for rescuers. He was missing for 30 days, but he made it. We put Joe back in the tank with Sparkles and watched as they swapped war stories.