Getting free of arachnophobia led to the receipt of a gift from his Zimbabwean stepfather — and now Sebriel Williams can’t imagine his life without his furry little buddy.
Williams has long had a love for quirky and exotic creatures. In the past, he’s had dogs, as well as a snake and a praying mantis. But even a love of all things different didn’t quite prepare him for his pet tarantula, Nymph, named for the Harry Potter character, Nymphadora Tonks. Williams has had Nymph for two years.
“I thought it was a girl at first,” he said when asked about the name he chose. “Until I found out the sexing process and let’s just say the procedure is rather dreadful as it requires a complete examination of a molt from the tarantula.” After it was determined his new pet was male, he shortened the name to Nymph.
“I initially got him as a birthday gift. There’s quite the scare factor for non-acquainted people who are scared of all things with more than two legs, but all I see is a hairy friend,” he said. “I guess a dinner plate-sized hairy pal is intimidating, but there is such a thing as a gentle giant.”
Having an exotic pet isn’t always easy, Williams says.
“The first struggle I could recall getting him in was shipping,” he said. “The particular vendor he was bought from had pretty strict shipping instructions and the temperature in my area had to be below 85 degrees, and being in the South, that proved to be a bit difficult.”
Williams also didn’t have an enclosure for him when Nymph first arrived, so he remained in a small container for a day or two. He says he was timid at first with his new pet, but that quickly cleared up, despite Nymph being unhappy with his initial accommodations.
“He wasn’t very happy when I unpacked him at the time,” he said.
Williams says his pet has a unique personality.
“My tarantula is pretty tame, or chill, I should say. I didn’t handle him until about a week afterwards, and he bolted on me, but he has a temperament for when he doesn’t mind being picked up,” he said. “I tamed him myself after some trial and error.”
Early on, in the first few months in his new home, Williams says Nymph developed a bad habit of climbing his enclosure to heights that were unsafe for him if he had fallen. Overall, he says Nymph is pretty fearless, but sudden movements and vibrations to his enclosure can scare him and make him run away and hide.
Nymph does have a couple of funny little quirks — Williams says that when he catches his pet drinking from his water dish, he stops and runs away, as if he’s been caught doing something naughty.
“Also, when I first got him, he would climb up his enclosure and sit on the bottom of the lip when I either turned off the light or left the room, and when I’d return, he’d quickly climb back down, as if he had done something wrong,” he said.
Nymph has to be kept in his enclosure, and he has to eat farm-raised Dubia roaches or worms. Eating wild crickets or insects is a risk for him, as he could catch a parasite or be exposed to insecticide.
Williams says he enjoys watching his pet take down his live insect meals, and he loves holding him — when Nymph is in the mood.
“(Nymph’s) favorite activities include sitting in one spot for a long time, secretly taking a drink from his water dish and sometimes burrowing in his substrate,” he added. “Nymph sleeps in his enclosure, and it’s his home. He’s most comfortable there.”
Nymph isn’t socialized with other animals because he is really vulnerable to injury, but he has met a few other spiders.
“One particular spider that’s common in my area is the jumping spider and one time a wild jumping spider made it inside the house and it just observed the tarantula from the outside of the enclosure,” he said. “I ended up keeping the little jumping spider as they are pretty cute, friendly and fun, but the little guy died after a month or so of me owning him.”
Nymph may not be the typical “warm and fuzzy” pet, but Williams says they still celebrate his “gotcha day,” or the day he was adopted. Williams adopted his pet after he graduated high school, so he marks the two occasions together.
“I usually get him a juicy worm as a gift,” he said.
Williams says he’s not sure if Nymph hears him, but he does talk to him.
“I talk to him once in a while. I refer to him as ‘buddy.’ I believe he would respond and say, ‘Leave me alone, hooman!’” he said.
When asked what makes his pet so special, Williams says Nymph is special just by virtue of what he is.
“I have never owned a big hairy spider before or know of anyone that does. Typically when people hear me say ‘spider,’ they get scared and I like that because then I can explain that there’s nothing to be afraid of really,” he said. “He also reminds me of my high school graduation and I believed that I would never finish. Not to mention he is an awesome addition to my room. Most people would freak but I love owning him!”