Today was a very good day. I’d mentioned in an earlier blog that our family was complete, now that our new twin kitties are settling in with big Kitty, Bella the 95 pound lap dog, our array of saltwater fish, darling Ava and me. It was my mom who pointed out, after I read that particular blog to her, that I was omitting the final piece of our family puzzle. I told her I did not forget the last but not least member of our clan. It was more of an intentional delay of making the big announcement with trumpets and fireworks and drum rolls galore. I wanted to wait til he got here. So finally, this morning, our newest member of our menagerie arrived via a small white box from FedEx and the celebrating officially began. An incredible octopus! Again, in an earlier blog I’d briefly mentioned I had the tremendous pleasure of sharing nearly three short, yet magical months with an “Average Octopus”. I protest that label, as these sea creatures are the most brilliant, fascinating members of the sea kingdom. Our first octopus came to us unexpectedly. At the time, I never even thought about owning one. It never occurred to me, as I’d never seen one in a fish store around here or online at the aquarium store out of California I’d discovered while surfing the web, when I first fell in love with owning saltwater beauties in tanks of my own. But one dark mid-winter’s night I swung by our local aquatics store, just cruising through to check out their new additions, and was captivated by what I found around the back corner of the store, in a large tank all by itself. At first I did not know what it was. It looked like a strange ball of flesh, curled up and its head hung low around its bulging body beneath. It was in a tiny plastic see-through enclosure within this massive tank, and it was obviously depressed. My brain cells quickly computed that what I was gazing upon was a most despondent octopus! I bent over, and reached my fingers out to gently touch the glass as my heart fell to pieces at the spectacle. The octopus continued to sit slumped over, but every so often it would take a deep, melancholy breath, then slowly release it through its tiny air hole on the side of its pale, sad face. I, pardon the pun, was hooked! I could not find a sales associate fast enough, and when I did I breathlessly exclaimed my desire to buy the mysterious dweller. Of course, nothing can be easy, as I was told right off the bat that this guy had to have an isolated tank, no tank mates allowed, unless, of course, I was willing to offer them up as an octopus buffet. No, that was not a good idea. At the time I had 2 tanks, a 26 gallon reef tank and a 46 gallon aggressive tank. What was I to do? Well, what any nut animal lover in their sentimental mind does when faced with a situation that makes no common sense. I made common sense out of it! Nothing was going to prevent me from rescuing that gorgeous, graceful being. So, with the help of the big, burly fish store workers, I loaded up the truck with a brand spankin’ new 40 gallon hexagonal tank, live rock, octopus grub, extra sea salt, and the most amazing pet I’ve ever had the fortune of calling my own. There were so many fantastic times, such fond memories. Here I’ll recall a couple.
When our octopus joined our merry band, Ava immediately christened him “Octy”. Octy scared me to death the first time I went to feed him. I had no idea what to expect in the act, so I was completely caught off guard when he swam to my hand in a flash and wrapped all of his tentacles around my fingers and wrist holding his silver side dinner. Then he aggressively yanked my hand followed by my arm and a small portion of my torso (no embellishment here, I promise!) into the tank as he apparently wanted to drag me with him under his rock of shelter. Wow! The first time an octopus grabs you with hundreds of suction cup covered tentacles is a doozy! My natural instinct was to jerk my hand back, but I did not want to startle him. One of us was enough. So, I gently rubbed the tops of his tentacles in order to say, “hey, there, big fella, ya think ya wanna let go now?” He finally relented and folded his jelly-like body back under his safety zone.
Soon, I installed a faint blue night light on his tank, so I was able to watch him dance all around his tank in nocturnal, dreamy patterns, his legs alternating in positions including all splayed out like the petals of a flower, all tucked together like a fist full of pencils tapered at the end, yet extended out fully for better speed, and all balled up as he’d explore the sides of the tank, crawling up and down the glass. One night in particular, I could not fall asleep. It was maybe 2 AM. I rolled over and peered into his tank. At first he was no where to be seen. I worried, thinking something must be wrong as he always came out at night to get his groove on. Carefully, I slid out of bed and crawled on all fours to the edge of the glass, eyes darting all around, trying to make out his form in the near darkness. To my stunned surprise, Octy had cleverly been eyeing me! I realized he had been crouched down at the very front corner of his tank all along, sitting straight upright, eyes fixed on mine. He looked so wise and human in his commanding, seated pose, his eyes sparkled in the blue light. Something over took me and suddenly I felt compelled to reach my fingers out to the glass. I extended my palm, pushing all of my fingers out, fully extending them on the smooth, cool surface between us. Mind-blowingly, he slowly reached out his tentacles and placed them in an exact mirror of my fingers, our eyes never losing their connection. I carefully shifted my hand to the right, as in waving, and he followed my lead as we went. Now I moved my hand from side to side, in full waving motion, to see if he’d continue, AND HE DID!!! I’ve never felt before, nor since, that feeling I felt that night with another creature that was not human. Our bond was real, our understanding, though mute, was overwhelming. I’m not sure how long our communion went on, its as if time stood still for us. I’ll remember that magical night for the rest of my life. Octy’s life ended not long after our encounter. I knew going in he had to be advanced in age, he was a large specimen, around 8 or so inches in length. His kind only lasts a handful of years, and he was in the twilight of his life when I found him, thus the cruelty of life. But I wouldn’t change that experience for the world, even with the heartbreak that came attached.
So now, today, as I unleashed our new octopus friend from his plastic bag pen from shipping, I knew immediately that this one had come from good Octy stock. He balled up his thick body while stretching up his long oblong head and peeked out from his bag at me, his eyes filled with the same uncanny intelligence I’d seen once before. Incredibly, as he floated to the side of his new house he glanced back at me, and from a perched position he raised one tentacle arm in greetings, after I’d waved hello to him. Welcome home, dear, sweet creature. Welcome home.
Our family is officially, fantastically complete. Bursting with joy!