Abandoned Anchorage tarantula waits for chance to be reunited with owner

Posted: Monday, July 16, 2001

ANCHORAGE - A Mexican red leg tarantula has been in limbo since its owner, on his way to a new job, left the spider at an airline ticket counter.

Dave the tarantula accompanied his owner, Eric Detmer, to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport earlier this month. Detmer was running late for a plane to Denver carrying him to a new job when he stepped up to the Alaska Airlines counter and plopped down Dave's glass aquarium with the hand-sized tarantula inside.

The ticket agent told Detmer he could not take Dave aboard the aircraft.

Detmer, Dave's owner for almost 18 years, had to make a snap decision. The plane was leaving, and his wife and son were getting anxious to board. Detmer turned and walked away, leaving his beloved arachnid on the counter.

The ticket agent did the right thing, Alaska Airlines spokesman Jack Walsh said from Seattle. Though hedgehogs, chinchillas and even potbellied pigs can ride in the cabin, spiders have to go by air cargo.

Since that day, Dave's life has been in turmoil.

He ended up at the municipal animal control shelter, where he stayed for a week. The staff fed him crickets and wondered about his fate until Detmer's friend Sam Cunard picked him up.

"I e-mailed my buddy saying I was Dave and saying, 'How dare you leave me at the airport?"' Cunard said. Detmer said he would pay to have Dave shipped to Colorado.

For Cunard's wife, Carole, Dave's departure can't come soon enough. Some friends helped spider-sit, but the novelty quickly wore off and Dave always returned to the Cunards. When he's there, Carole insists that her husband put Dave's aquarium in the tub and close the bathroom door.

"If you look really closely, you can see one little eyeball staring at you," she said. "He's nasty-looking."

Carole Cunard doesn't want to handle the spider for fear of being bitten. But that's not a problem, said Robert "Spider Bob" Breene, director of the American Tarantula Society in Carlsbad, N.M. He said most tarantulas don't bite and if they did, "Nobody anywhere has ever been reported as dying from a tarantula bite."

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