Wednesday, November 13, 2013

let's talk about salamanders.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved amphibians and reptiles. Maybe it was because I had quite a few Kermit the Frog toys as a kid, or maybe it was because I lived in the country and the springtime frogs were a lot more fun to play with than the lazy farm cats. Maybe it was all the time I spent watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a child. Who knows. In any case, amphibians and reptiles were right up my alley.
Turtle power!
While turtles were always contenders for the top of the list, my favorites were always salamanders. Call me crazy, but I think they are ADORABLE.
Look at that face!
Whenever it rained, we had an abundance of salamanders in the yard. Who knows what first inspired me to pick one up, but salamanders and I have been friends ever since (except for the one that tried to bite me, but “bite” is a pretty strong word… the one that tried to gum me, I guess we can say).

Salamanders loved the paved roads, too. I remember them lounging all over the road as my dad tried to drive us to our babysitter’s house. I say “tried” because he would have to creep along, urged by his children not to run over any salamanders. A couple of times, he even let us out of the pickup so we could scoop up the salamanders and deposit them safely in the ditch.

Like any child who loves a certain creature, I decided that I needed a salamander as a pet. I had a small aquarium from my days as a fish owner (remember how badly I failed at that?), so I set out to find a new resident for my little plastic aquarium.

How well did that work? The catching of the salamander was no problem. I just had to wait for it to rain, and the salamanders would come out in droves. We’d find them relaxing on the concrete, not seeming to care about the family dog (who, in turn, didn’t really care about them). All I had to do was choose my salamander (which usually ended up being the one that thrashed around the least when I picked it up). However, my pet salamanders never lasted longer than a day or two… not because I accidentally killed them, but because I ended up feeling bad for them and in turn set them free. This was mostly thanks to my mother, who would say things like “don’t you think his family misses him? I bet they’re really worried. You should let him go.” Well played, Mom.

My favorite salamander story (what, you don’t have a favorite salamander story?) took place in college. It was my senior year, and I lived in a junky house on Third Street with my friends Sara and Nate. It was early spring, and it was raining as I rode my bike home one evening. Along the way, I spotted a salamander on the sidewalk, so naturally, I picked it up and brought it home to show my roommates. When I walked in the door, I found Sara, Nate, and James all gathered in the living room. I presented my salamander: Sara said, “CUTE!” and immediately came over to hold it, while James and Nate both said, “EWW! GET IT OUT OF HERE!” and relocated to the kitchen.

While my days of trying to keep salamanders as pets are over (which can be blamed in part on James), I will still happily go outside and look for them after a rainfall. You should try it sometime! You might make a new (albeit slimy) friend!

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