Happy Birthday Shantel

Wow, I can’t hardly believe our baby girl is turning 25 tomorrow. As I’m thinking back over the years, and our lives together, I want you to know what an honor, and privilege, it has been for Papa and I to adopt you, and be your parents. We are sharing an incredible journey together, one that has had extreme, heart-shattering challenges, as well as overwhelming joys. I remember the day you were born like it happened yesterday, and I wanted to take this opportunity, on your 25th birthday, to share with you some of my fondest memories. This post is a little long, but it’s full of things I want you to know, and to have documented for you to reread in the future.

I was the labor coach when you were born, and Papa was there as well, so from the moment we first saw you coming into this world, you had our hearts. Of course, we had no idea then, what challenges we would face together. We had no way of knowing that from the day you were born, cancer had already started working to rob you of your eyes, and thus your sight, and that within two and a half years, you would be blind for life. But, now, looking back, we know it was meant to be that we would all make this journey together.

I’m posting the only picture I have of you when you still had your natural eyes. I love this picture because it shows you as our beautiful baby girl all dressed up in your first Christmas dress. It was all white, layered lace, with just three red bows across your chest, and you have a white lace headband in your dark, curly, hair. I remember so well when Papa and I took you to have this picture made. We had to wait for a long time in line, you were tired, and fell asleep in my arms. Thankfully, just as it was time for your picture, you woke up happy and smiling, as you always did, and we got a precious picture that I treasure.

 Shortly after you recovered from the surgeries to remove both your eyes, we enrolled you in the Foundation For Blind Children in Phoenix. It was a day program that you went to four day’s a week. They were wonderful, and  instrumental, in helping us learn how to help you live blind, in a sighted world. You were the youngest child ever, at the Foundation For Blind Children School, to learn to walk with a long cane. That is because you were so strong, and it takes a lot of strength in your arm and wrist to hold the long cane correctly, and move it from side to side to keep yourself safe in your space. I posted a picture that shows you, and your two little friends from the Foundation For Blind Children, holding hands as you participated in a fashion show to help support the Foundation For Blind Children School. You were only three and a half in this picture, and already mastering the long cane.

I took you to religion classes, and helped teach you about Jesus, and beamed with pride as I walked you down the aisle to receive him in the Holy Eucharist the day you made your first Holy Communion. But as you were learning about Jesus, you taught me so much more. You taught me about having absolute, unconditional love, compassion, and empathy for all people, not just those in your family, or those that are easy to love, just like Jesus teaches us to do. You taught me what real inner strength is, and that no matter how hard things get, if you have faith, and love in your heart, all things will work out as they are meant to be. You taught me that there are worse things than being blind, and that seeing with your heart is a true gift from God. I posted a picture of you in your communion dress standing with me in front of some beautiful roses just outside the church.

Your love knows no boundaries Shantel. You love all people, and all beings, even Carmen, the cat you insisted you had to have. She made herself irresistible to you when we went to find a cat for you at the Humane Society. We agreed that the cat that came up, and was the friendliest to you, would be the one we would get. Then, once we got her home, you said she turned on you. She didn’t like that you always put your hand above her head when you went to pet her, so she would swat and scratch you. You said you thought she must have been a “bait and switch” cat, because she didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with you once we got her home. But you continued to try, and try, to win her over because you loved her, even when she wasn’t being very loveable to you. We all loved that cat for 12 years, and it was a sad day when she had to be put down. I posted a picture of Carmen here.

As much as it sometimes got on my very last nerve, Shantel, I really did love all our baking times together every Sunday, even though I don’t like to bake. The main reason I loved those times so much, was because of your passion and love of baking. I learned so much from you during those baking sessions. I learned that things don’t have to look perfect, to be perfect. I posted a picture of you licking the beater after you mixed up some kind of sweet desert.

And I always admired the love, and special bonding time, you and Papa had every time you would cook or bake Christmas cookies together. I posted a picture of you and Papa cooking, and baking, together in your apartment.

I will always treasure all the early mornings you and I spent at McDonald’s, just before I would drop you off for your college classes. You would eat while I drilled you on your lessons for the day. Sometimes I thought you were not paying attention, as you seemed more interested in eating, so I would ask you to repeat what I just said, and you always would repeat it back to me verbatim. I posted a picture of you eating your McDonald’s breakfast.

I so enjoyed watching you meet, and bond, with who I believe will be your lifelong friend, Jaz.  You met in college, and still remain great friends today. I knew Jaz would be a lifelong friend when I saw that she allowed you to be you. She accepted you just the way you are, and never tried to change anything about you. She always walks beside you, not in front of, or behind you. She talks to you, not at you, and she really enjoys hearing your opinion on things. She learns as much from you as you learn from her. What a great person she is inside and out. We love her, and consider her part of our family. I posted a picture of you and Jaz walking together at college.

Papa and I loved that you love our love of hiking, and that you would ask Papa and I to take you hiking every chance we could. I loved that you trusted me as your sighted guide out on the hiking trails, an even more difficult world to maneuver without sight. So many great times, and memories, we made together while we were hiking the trails. I posted a picture of you and I out on the hiking trails.

And, oh my, how I love, how you do love to eat! Every time we take you out to eat, it is pure joy on your face. I posted a picture of you enjoying your king crab legs at Joe’s Crab Shack on Easter.

The day you got the keys to your first apartment, shortly after your 21st birthday, was such a bitter/sweet day for me. I knew that day would come, and it is what Papa and I worked so hard to prepare you for. From the day you lost your sight, our full focus and attention was to help you truly become an independent adult. But as much as my mind knew you were ready, and this was the right thing for you, my heart struggled so with letting you go. I tried so hard to keep my selfish feelings tucked inside (I posted a picture of you holding your apartment keys in your hand),

so I wouldn’t take away from your excitement, and joy, of starting out to make a life of your own, on your own. I posted a picture of you laughing while stuffing more of your things into a hamper as you were packing to move out.

As Papa and I drove you to your apartment, and new life, it was like I was watching it all happen in slow motion. You were ready, excited, and showed no fear. But I, was by far, not prepared for the panic, fear, and emotions, I was going through. I posted a picture of you sitting with your stuff in your lap as we drove you to your first apartment.

I remember how happy you were with the brand new sofa and coffee table you bought with your own money, that you saved up from birthday’s, and your graduation from college money. I posted a picture of your sofa and coffee table.

You were so happy to have brand new appliances in your little kitchen, and talked about all the cooking and baking you would do. I posted a picture of your kitchen.

Your sense of humor is what always got Papa and I through the really tough times of chemo treatments, and years of fighting for your rights in the school systems. I remember when you were in first grade, and you had to have your tonsils out, and the teacher sent home an art project for you to complete. You had to glue feathers, candy corn, and uncooked macaroni on a picture of a turkey as part of a demonstration of how the first Thanksgiving went… You dropped a piece of candy corn on the floor while we were working on the project, and you just bent down, scooped the candy corn off the tile floor, and ate it. I told you not to eat things off the floor. At the end of glueing the candy corn, feathers and macaroni on the picture of the turkey, you got up and knocked the remaining macaroni on the floor. I told you to pick up the macaroni, and you said “you know I’m blind”. I said “well, you weren’t blind when you dropped the candy corn so pick up the macaroni. You just smiled that same “thought I got you smile you still have today” and picked up all the macaroni.

In addition to your great sense of humor helping us get through the hard times, Shantel, we also had great friends that always stepped up, and supported us in every way. Friends like Holly and Chuck, who were there every step of the way from day one, providing emotional support, encouraging us, visiting us, and welcoming us into their lives, and home. If not for their love, emotional support, and generosity, we would not have been able to buy our first home where we planned to raise you. They also loaned us the money to retain a lawyer when we had to fight the school system to get them to provide your school work, correctly, in braille, in a timely manner to give you a level playing field with your sighted peers. Over the years, we became so much more than friends, we became a real family, so much so that we named them in our will as the people we wanted to take you, and raise you, in the event something happened to us. I don’t know what we would ever do without them in our lives. We love them so.

And our dear friends, Robin and Bob, who always welcomed all of us into their home for the many parties they had, that we would not have been able to attend if they had not welcomed you as well. That alone, provided emotional support to us, and gave Papa and I an outlet to having a social life while keeping you safe. They also fell in love with you, so much so that they gifted all of us with an all expense paid trip to New York City for your graduation from High School. You always said you wanted to visit New York City, and ride the subway, and eat all the great food. There was no way we could afford to have taken you on a trip like that in New York City. Special friends like that are hard to find, and when you have them, you never let them go.

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. We were beyond blessed to have more than a village, Shantel, we had good-hearted people, that did more than give us a passing glance, while patting us on the back and thinking, tough break… Holly and Chuck, Robin and Bob, got involved, and helped us along the way. With their emotional support, and their generous hearts, they made our lives easier during very difficult times. We are forever grateful, and know that we are truly blessed that each of them are in our lives.

You still have that same beautiful sense of humor, and free spirit, Shantel, in everything you do. I love that you meet every challenge life gives you with a peaceful, joyful, heart. I love that you never let life’s challenges bring you down, and that you never let yourself feel sorry for yourself, but instead, you find ways to make your world work for you.

The next picture is of you with three cowgirl hats stacked together on your head. We were shopping for Halloween decorations, and knowing, unlike me, you never liked anything to do with cowgirl or cowboy stuff, I asked you to let me put one of the hats on you and take a picture. You smiled that same smile I love so much, and put not one, but three, cowgirl hats on your head.

You are our greatest joy Shantel. You are our heart and our soul. You are our hero, and you have always inspired us to want to be the best people we can be. Papa and I love you. We are so proud of the beautiful woman you are, and we are so thankful, and grateful, we were blessed as to be your parents. We would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Happy Birthday, baby girl. You’ll always be our baby girl. I posted a picture of you, me, and Papa, together on one of out family outings.

 

With all our love,

Papa and Mom

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Going Back To McDowell

As most of you know, Bill and I planned to be at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills Arizona for the winter. We actually spent two days there before we were asked to come back to San Tan Mountain Regional Park in Queen Creek Arizona for a few weeks to help out because they were left short-handed after a couple of full-time staff members left.

We were happy to come and do whatever we could to help out. However, now we have been given the word that we are needed back at McDowell Mountain so we are busy pack things up and getting our rig ready to move out and head back to McDowell on Sunday 10/30.

Bill and I enjoyed the time we spent at San Tan last winter, and San Tan will always hold a special place in our hearts. San Tan is a beautiful day use park with unique cactus formations like the one in the picture below. It always reminds me of a Sea Horse.

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San Tan has beautiful hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails.

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And some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.

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I always enjoyed meeting the many visitors and volunteers that come to San Tan Park. Like this youth group that spent a week camping in tents next to our rig last winter. They would go out every morning and help clean and maintain the trails, but when they came back to camp in the evening they would unwind dancing to their music… Well I never want to miss an opportunity to dance, so I ran right out there and joined them, much to their surprise and delight… 🙂

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As much as I love horses, I was always excited when Matt, from MD Ranch, would invite Bill and I to go on a trail ride with him…

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It’s been a year of fun and exciting travel for Bill and I, but it has also been a year of heartache and loss. I lost my mother this past March.

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Then, in July, we lost my beautiful, and fun-loving sister-in-law Bea, the wife of my brother Danny. Bea is shown below with our precious daughter, Shantel. Danny and Bea have always been so good to Shantel over the years. While we were away each summer they would pick Shantel up and take her out to eat at least once a month,

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And then, just a few weeks ago, we lost our beloved cat, Carmen.

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Death is part of the circle of life, and it’s a hard fact of life… But I believe loving also means letting go when it’s time, knowing there is more to life than what we experience here.

Now, I’m ready to turn my thoughts to another new beginning, and looking forward to making new memories at McDowell Mountain Regional Park. I’m excited to meet our co-hosts there and all the visitors that will come to enjoy that Park. McDowell Park is three times the size of San Tan and not only offers over 65 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails…,but it also offers camping sites for visitors to enjoy… The picture below is our campsite at McDowell.

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Yes, I’m ready for a new beginning, and definitely ready to let some good times roll! I even think I feel my altered personality, Bella (shown below), nudging me to let her out!!! For those of you that may not know… I discovered Bella on my very first trip to New York City, when I went to visit my frissy! Bella comes out when I need to let down, and really have some FUN:):)

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Stay Tuned!

Halloween

I LOVE the holiday’s, but Halloween has never been my favorite holiday. I’m not even sure Halloween is really a holiday to begin with… But just in case it is… and because  I always decorate for the holiday’s…, I thought I should at least give a nod to Halloween in my home decor…I’m not a Halloween hater… It’s just not my favorite day of recognition….

However, I did purchase these cute little Halloween decorations. A witch ghost, I liked her purple and black stripped stockings and witch  boots, and a pumpkin wind sock, I liked the purple and lime green streamers. I decided to hang them in my living space because when you live in a tiny home,with limited tabletop spaces, you look for ways to decorate up!

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I also found this cute little Halloween bucket. I liked the colors and the candy corn decorations. I filled it with mini MilkyWay bars and sat it in front of my fall flower arrangement to welcome guests when they come to our home. Sweet don’t you think?

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And there you have it… We are all fixed up for Halloween. Ha! 🙂 🙂

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If you love Halloween I hope you are enjoying decorating your space, and that you have the best Halloween ever!

** I want to take a moment here to thank everyone that took the time to share your condolences for the passing of our precious cat Carmen this past week. Your kind words made a very difficult time a little easier. Now that I’ve taken the time I needed to process the loss, I’m ready to move on.

Stay Tuned!

A Very Sad Day

We had to have our beautiful cat Carmen put down today and she took a piece of my heart with her.

I didn’t intend to let a cat capture my heart and run my life…, but it happened. I called her my princess and she fit the part. She would wake me up every morning at 5:00 a.m. no matter if I wanted to get up or not. She would walk over my head until I had no choice but to get up… She demanded to be fed then she would get back up on the bed and go back to sleep.

When our daughter, Shantel, was 10 years old our family cat, Nikki, died. We were all heartbroken, but Shantel cried for days and days. Then, after a few months, she begged for another cat. We gave in and rescued a beautiful 4 month old short hair tabby cat from the Arizona Human Society, and named her Carmen.

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Right from the get-go Carmen took control of our home. She was feisty, funny, and sassy, and had no problem making her wishes known. She completely attached herself to me and acted as if I was her mother. Everywhere I went, Carmen was sure to follow, and make herself completely at home.

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If I was working on the computer, she thought that was her invitation to come and get a belly rub…

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Because she seemed to always be around me, I found myself starting to talk to her more and more, and she had me convinced that she understood what I was saying. Is this not the face of an intelligent and alert cat?

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She loved her fancy feather bird/fish, and would play with it anytime we were out of the house. I would find this little cat toy all over the house.

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When Shantel graduated college, and moved into her own apartment, she was not allowed to have a pet so we kept Carmen with us. Carmen would not have liked to leave her home, and I know she would not like being away from me.

When Bill and I made the decision to become full-time RVers, I thought it would be a good idea to get Carmen harnessed trained so she would be able to sit outside with us in the mornings and evenings. I bought the harness and placed it on the bed where she slept in the hopes she would warm up to the idea of trying the harness on soon. But she let me know straight away that she was NOT at all interested in doing any such thing…

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I finally had to wrestle her to the ground to get the harness on her much to her complete annoyance

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She took about three pissed off steps then fell to the ground and acted like she was paralyzed! OMG, she was a drama QUEEN! 🙂

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This past week Carmen started refusing to eat. I tried everything to get her to eat. I tried different cat foods, baby food, pumpkin, tuna, cooked ground turkey, chicken stock etc. She would just look at the food and walk away. She was drinking very little water and stopped using her litter box. We took her to her Vet and he said it was just old age and her body was shutting down and there was really nothing more he could do for her. As hard as it was to let her go I agreed that I knew it was time to let her go. So with my arms wrapped around her I told her she was my princess, that I love her and thanked her for being my furry baby girl. I kissed her and told her good-bye as the Vet gave her the medications that ended her suffering and put her in a place of blissful peace…

Carmen, my life was enriched for thirteen years because you were in it.

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Rest in peace my beautiful, funny, Princess. You were loved and you are missed.

A Change Is Coming

Our cat Carmen can feel it…

 

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Our time here in Wyoming is quickly coming to an end. In two weeks we will start our motorhome up, pull out, and head back to Arizona for the winter months. What does it take to get one of these big rigs ready to roll down the highway you might ask…? Well, it takes some planing, time, and a lot of organizing. Bill is already hard at work pulling everything out from the bay areas under our coach.

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Once each bay area compartment (six in all) is completely cleared out, everything is organized, and anything that can be put into traveling crates is so the contents shift as little as possible while moving down the road.

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Even my handy-dandy PVC pipe clothes line Bill made me will be taken apart and packed into one of the bay areas.

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As well as our zero gravity chairs we sit in when we want to relax outside, or watch TV outside when the weather cooperates…

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My part of getting ready to move out happens the morning of the move. Early that morning I will pull everything off that you see on any counter top or shelf, and pack it all into a special traveling basket I have that fits perfectly under the dinette table. Then, when we pull our three slides in, everything is snug as a bug, and nothing moves or gets broken…

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Even the foot stools, in the picture below, will go up on the reclining chairs. They have a special “seat belt” that holds them in place while the coach is in motion.

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Pictures, flowers, pillows, throw blankets etc… everything that makes our motorhome our home…, will be packed away until we reach our final destination in Arizona.

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When we arrive at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, near Fountain Hills Arizona, where we will be camp hosts for the winter months, I will put everything back in its proper place, including our welcome log that will be placed just outside our door to welcome our family and friends into our home…

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But my part of packing won’t happen for another two weeks, and I have it down to a science now, so it only takes me about forty-five minutes to one hour to have the inside ready to roll on down the road.

For now, my job is to continue the laundry, and watch to make sure the Italian beef I have slow cooking in the crockpot for dinner keeps slow cooking… OMG, it smells so good in here.

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Bill and I so love this traveling retirement lifestyle. We have enjoyed our time in Wyoming, but are ready to get back to Arizona for the winter and see family and friends there, and we are very much looking forward to our Oregon gig we landed for next summer. We will be relief lighthouse hosts at Bullards Beach State Park. Neither Bill or I have been to Oregon before, and we are so thankful to our co-workers here in Wyoming, Bob and Becky Yockey, for hooking us up with the Oregon gig for next summer. They spent a summer there and loved it so we know we will too. Bob and Becky are pulling out this Friday and heading to Colorado. We will miss them but will see them again sometime in Arizona.

Stay Tuned!

Tarantula Molting

Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but it is me, talking about spiders and snakes (but not scorpions…).  I still don’t want anything to do with scorpions, but I am trying to learn all I can about the other desert creatures we have here in our nature center at San Tan Mountain Regional Park… Why, because I live here 6 months out of the year so I decided I wanted to take advantage of every learning opportunity I have while I’m here, and it helps me answer questions our park guests have when they visit our nature center.

I have come to love the coyotes that live in the area. Right now, while the weather is so nice, we sleep with our windows open, and I just love to hear them howl every night. We don’t have to worry about anyone coming in our windows at night, because first of all, we are secured within a fenced compound that we lock up at night, and second, our motorhome windows are up so high anyone would need a ladder to climb in..

I have also come to love our snakes, and tarantula, that we have in the nature center for our park visitors to enjoy. All of them are rescue creatures, or donations from schools within the area, so they have always lived in captivity being fed by humans, and could not survive in the desert on their own.

That said, our resident female tarantula, went through her molting process this past week and it was the most amazing thing I ever witnessed up close in real-time…

One of the first things the park hosts that are working the nature center/pay booth are required to do every morning before we can open the nature center to the public is check that all our snakes, spiders, etc. are alive, and well, and still in their perspective homes… If a snake is out, we are not allowed to open the nature center to the public until it is found and returned to its home within the nature center…. Now, lucky for me… I have never come in and found one of our resident snakes out of its cage… We have two non-venomous snakes, and one VERY venomous rattle snake. Because if you are “on-duty” and a snake is out of its cage… guess who is responsible to capture it and return it to its cage… in our case… your right if you said BILL… 🙂

But now, back to the molting process of our little tarantula girl… For the past few days I noticed she had not moved at all. She had her legs tucked under her and just sat in one spot for days… I mentioned this to one of the “official staff members” and the person that cleans her cage, and feeds her, told me that she was fine…He said he touched her leg and she moved so we knew at least she was alive…

The next few days Bill and I were off, and when we went back in for our next shift we were told that the tarantula had molted, and we saw her old skin which is now sitting out on display in the nature center for teaching purposes. You can see where the back of the tarantula just opened up and allowed the tarantula to wiggle its way free… which I also learned is not an easy process.

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Once free of her old skin, our little tarantula girl looks darker and larger. This is her in the center of the picture below.

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Now this is what I learned about the molting process of a tarantula:

The molting process is something a tarantula goes through as they grow. They shed off their old skin, much like snakes. The entire molting process is a very difficult and strenuous experience for the spider.

A couple of weeks prior to molting the spider will most likely refuse to eat. You many also notice small clear droplets of liquid seeping from its leg joints, this phenomenon does not happen to all tarantulas. The spider may also lose hairs on its abdomen and will appear to have a bald spot.

The tarantula might lie on its back and appear to be dead when it is ready to molt. There may also be webbing around the body. Our little tarantula girl had some of that going on…

The molting process can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to several hours. Disturbing the spider during the molting process could result in its death.

Once the tarantula has emerged from its old skin, it will be extremely soft, tender, and sensitive. It is important to make sure the spider has plenty of fresh water but do not attempt to feed the spider for at least three days after molting. A cricket, which is food for a tarantula, can possibly harm or injure the tarantula if not enough time is given for the spider’s skin to harden.

One amazing thing associated with the molting process of tarantulas is the regeneration properties. If the spider is missing a leg, it can be regenerated during the molting process. However, the new leg will usually be smaller, and not as useful as the original leg was…, but hey, they have lots of other legs to depend on…

So there you have the nutshell version of the molting process of tarantulas.. I found the whole process amazing and just wanted to share some of what I’m learning during my time here at San Tan! Who would have thought that “I” would ever find spiders and snakes so interesting… 🙂

Oh, by the way… our resident giant scorpion died… I didn’t say anything negative… but I also did not attend its funeral either… I still don’t like those suckers… just saying. 🙂 🙂

Stay Tuned!

Update From Cactus Dog

In my last post I shared a picture of what can and does happen when people go hiking with their dogs and let them off their leash in our desert environment. Everyone thinks their dog won’t run off, and we hear it all the time that “my dog will stay right with me and won’t run off…” Well, guess what? Just like kids, they don’t always “obey” especially when they see a rabbit, or other desert resident, dash across the desert floor.

Below is the picture I shared in my last post to remind you what can and does happen when people fail to ensure their dogs are safe by keeping them on a leash at all times when hiking the trails here at San Tan.

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It took two vets, working together for several hours, to remove all the cactus needles from this little dog. The owner was VERY lucky that he found the vets he did and they gave this little dog a chance to survive the ordeal. In fact, the owner told the vet that perhaps it would be better to just put the dog down. But the vet said he felt the dog could be saved if they put the dog under sedation and at least tried to remove the cactus needles that covered his entire body, eyes, and were even in his mouth… When the vet told the owner there was a chance to save his dog, the owner told the vet if it was going to cost more than $5k, to just put the dog down because he couldn’t afford to spend anymore than that.

Today the owner stopped by San Tan to show us what the little dog looks like now.

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Yes, the owner, who really is a very nice man who just made a very common mistake, actually came back to San Tan today with his little dog, and two little boys, to show us the little dogs’ recovery, and to thank our staff for all they did to rescue his little dog on the day it happened. As you can see, his dog is on a leash, and he said he will NEVER go hiking again and let his dog off the leash. I think he is a changed man/pet owner… at least I hope so…Oh, and the vet bill was only $700.00. That man is counting his blessings for sure…

Stay Tuned!

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