Tornado sirens blared as the Nelson family rushed to the safety of the basement. “We have to go get Rudy!” someone shouted. Sophomore Grace Nelson ran upstairs to rescue her beloved tortoise, bringing him down in a box poked with holes. “It’s going to be okay, Rudy,” Nelson said. As she comforted her frightened tortoise, Nelson felt something warm on her leg. Rudy had peed on her.
After three years with Rudy, Nelson has become used to the tortoise’s quirks and needs. “We love our tortoise,” Nelson said. “He is a great part of our family. He is calm and doesn’t make much noise, so he’s not much of a bother.”
Rudy lives in a heated cage that simulates the temperature of his natural environment. He eats a nutritional diet of lettuce and sup- plemented water. “My sister really wanted a turtle, but you have to feed turtles live goldfish … so we got a tortoise instead,” Nelson said.
Nelson values Rudy’s listening ear and the many opportunities she has to learn from him. “We sometimes go over and talk to him in the cage. He’s fun to watch. They are very unique creatures,” she said.
Unique creatures call for unique diets. When freshman Eleanor Ricketts goes to the pet store, she does not head to the dog or cat food aisles. She is there for hedgehog food. Olive the hedgehog joined the Ricketts family just over a year ago.
Once a day, Olive roams free in her hamster ball and explores
all the nooks and crannies of Ricketts’ house. “[Olive’s ball] is small, and you have to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere it shouldn’t,” Ricketts said. This lesson came at the price of a hole in the wall.
One day, Olive was investigating the bathroom floor and found the perfect place to burrow. Somehow, she ended up stuck behind the drawers for hours. Ricketts’ family had to saw a hole in the back of the drawers to free the hedgehog. “[Olive] was freaking out when we were trying to grab her through the hole we cut,” Ricketts said. “She hisses at us a lot when she is scared of us.”
Screech! Senior Hannah Lazio heard a high-pitched noise coming from her twin sister Taylor’s, room. She went in to see Bolt the leopard gecko screeching at a bug trapped inside his cage. As the girls watched, he snapped up the bug as a tasty snack, a nice break from his usual mealworms.
Six months ago, Bolt moved into his new home, a heated terrarium in Taylor’s room. “Bolt doesn’t like me very much; I don’t know why. He likes my sister more,” Hannah said.
Despite picking favorites, Bolt has been a positive addition to the Lazio family. Hannah enjoys taking Bolt outside to play and has gotten used to some of his strange, gecko habits. “I have learned that if Bolt gets really scared his tail will fall off. Then he will eat it to get back the nutrients he lost, which is pretty weird,” Hannah said. The leopard gecko has shown the Lazios that everyone and everything deals with stress differently.
Whether it’s getting peed on in a tornado, sawing a hole in
a bathroom wall, or watching a small reptile eat its own tail, these pet owners have braved difficult, and sometimes disgusting, situations. Though they may not be fluffy dogs and cats, Rudy, Olive, and Bolt have found loving homes and people who accept all their quirks.