M. Mickelson (
Tue, 26 Aug 2003 13:34:59 -0500

Not of a technical nature, but thought some of you would enjoy this
personal tale.

There's a lesson in here for all of us.....somewhere! LOL!


I'm saddened to report that I have just lost Maggie this past weekend,
my large red-clawed crayfish. Before you decide that I'm off my rocker
for loving a crustacean, hear me out.

Both Maggie and Shredder (my fist cray who perished on Valentines Day)
were two of the most rewarding pets I've ever had. Shredder was a
castoff from a second-grade homeroom project, a mail-order science
specimen. He and a couple dozen other cray7s were poked and prodded by
8 year olds for a couple of months, and finally the families were free
to take the survivors home. I had an old tank stashed away, and with my
daughters help we were willing to try our hand at keeping a pet cray,
although we were forewarned that they do not tend to live very long. In
preparation, I scoured the internet for information on the care and
feeding of crayfish. Although websites for tropical fish abound, I was
only able to locate one source for keeping crayfish as pets. Nearly
everything else I had come across featured crayfish in recipes, or using
them exclusively as "feeders" for large fish. All who were aware of
this undertaking thought it was quite an eccentric thing to do - keeping
a crayfish as a pet! I must admit one's first close-up encounter with a
cray can be a bit-well, intimidating. Maybe even a bit frightening.
Those numerous wiggly legs, large menacing claws, and protruding black
eyes are reminiscent of something from a sci-fi classic.

I will never forget the day we brought Shredder home and transferred him
from a small empty shallow bowl into a 5 gal. tank complete with cave,
rocks, and plants. He was obviously thrilled with his new digs, and
that's an understatement! He literally leapt with joy from one end of
the tank to the other, never having experienced such freedom of movement
before. It soon became obvious that Shredder had probably never touched
an object of any kind in his entire life, except for the smooth surfaces
of some breeding tank, and the occasional pinches from other tank mates.
All ten legs were busy sifting through the gravel, picking up pieces to
examine with intense curiosity, trembling with excitement. His senses
were suddenly awakened, as if he was newly born. He quickly set to work
"decorating" and arranging rocks in the most ingenious ways, designing a
multiple level dwelling for himself.

He molted 4 times during his life with us. Each time he would hide away
in his cave, and several days later would emerge a larger, bolder, and
more confident version of himself and looking quite handsome in his
shiny new coat of armor, leaving behind the empty likeness of his former
self. It was absolutely fascinating to observe this gradual
transformation from a tiny nervous lab-subject into the proud and
stately creature he had become. Yes, I cried when he passed away. Soon
after I realized that the first thing I did every day when returning
home was to greet Shredder.

Both he and Maggie seemed to be aware of human presence, much more so
than the tropical fish could ever be. I remember how each of them in
turn would stand up on their back legs/tail with pincers fully extended,
as if asking for a hug. Both quickly learned to take food from my hand,
and this became the preferred method of feeding. Sliced raw salmon, and
frozen peas and corn were favorite foods, though they will happily
devour most anything.

But the point of this is Maggie, and the bizarre and untimely
circumstances surrounding her demise.

Last weekend I decided she had had enough confinement in a small tank
for cannibalizing her lovely boyfriend while living in the community
tank. I had just gone out and purchased a shiny new 10 gallon for her
and her pet snail, complete with a large cave and a few minnows for
excitement. She seemed so very happy to have a place of her own, and
comfortable surroundings.

Well, she spent all of two nights there, then apparently decided she had
not yet seen enough of the world, and took off on a misadventure to
explore the house. She's done this before, a few feet, and been
promptly returned to her tank. This time I assumed she could not reach
the top as it was much higher with a complete fitted hood. I searched
in vain through the entire top floor of the house for hours, but no
sign. Finally I gave in to the prospect of eventually finding her
desiccated body somewhere, someday.

Later that evening, I threw a load of towels in the washer, ran the
cycle, and went to retrieve them for the dryer. I gasped in horror, as
there was a red pincer claw clinging tenaciously to one of the towels.
Not just any claw but the battle-torn claw that was undeniably Maggie's.
Mind you the laundry room is down two flights of stairs at the farthest
end of the house from her tank! A very long distance! And to my shock
I discovered the rest of her mutilated body at the bottom of the
machine, little legs were everywhere. I can only surmise that she had
made it all that way on her own effort, then took refuge in a damp

How I wish I knew what it was she was looking for that I was unable to
provide. Maybe it was just the wanderlust. I will not ever know if she
was forced to endure at least part of the spin-cycle, or if she had
already expired. I can only hope for the latter. How was I to know, or
even envision this bizarre situation? I feel guilty and horrified, and
yet it is beyond my wildest imagination.

Do not think for a moment that a cray is a piece of cake to keep. It is
very much like having a naughty puppy in the house - digging up plants,
shredding things, running away, etc. And, it is also very rewarding to
cultivate a relationship with these critters over time.

Thanks for listening. I don't know if I will ever keep another cray.
It seems they only break your heart.

Any time you begin to feel REALLLY powerful, try telling a cat what to
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