Friday, November 4, 2011

Mercy Killing

As many of you know, I keep a pet snail named Pumpkin Cadash. I've had her since she was a baby, so little you had to be extra careful picking her up or you'd accidentally squish her. She's now almost an inch in diameter. Moved up from a small glass jar to a half gallon terrarium complete with substrate, rocks to eat off of (keeps the veggies out of the loam), and a fake plant for exercise. She leads a happy snail life.

Last night Aaron went to the office to drop off our rent. He confessed when he returned that he had accidentally stepped on a snail. I could see he felt really bad about it, probably more because he knew it made me sad. He explained that he saw a snail on the sidewalk that looked like it had crossed the entire parking lot to get there (they are usually confined to the little park-like area beneath our bedroom window). Out of curiosity he was maneuvering around trying to see its trail in the streetlights. So preoccupied with this task was he, that he failed to notice the second snail in the crack of the pavement. Crunch!

I asked him if he thought it was minor or severe, because snails can theoretically survive without their shell so long as the shards hadn't impaled its soft innards, or the pressure hadn't crushed its body entirely. He replied that it was pretty bad and that he stepped on him again after-the-fact out of mercy. The only kindness he could offer it after having mashed it into the sidewalk. We presumed it dead. I pouted all night, though it was the right thing to do.

This morning after finally crawling out of bed around 9:00 AM, I made myself some coffee and got dressed. I then went to the office to put our Netflix in the outbox.  It's remarkably chillier than I had thought it would be and my long-sleeve shirt wasn't enough to keep me cozy, so I walked quickly. I dropped off the DVD, made small talk with the property manager, and headed back. That's when it caught my eye -- the snail Aaron had stepped on last night in the crack of the pavement -- STILL ALIVE. Writhing around in the cold, fractured remnants of its own shell. I was mortified.

That shiny part is his exposed insides.
I immediately scooped him up and brought him back with me. Aside from the obvious, he seemed well enough. The weight of Aaron's foot had not caused internal bleeding and by the looks of it, he had narrowly escaped being impaled by his own shell as well. The only dangers he faced were baking in the sun, being eaten by an animal, or freezing to death. I rinsed him off under some tepid water to warm him up and carefully removed all of the loose shell fragments. I then hunted down the jar Pumpkin used to call home and lined it with shredded cabbage and ground egg shell (excellent source of calcium). I doubt he'll feel much like eating any time soon, but cabbage is one of my snail's favorites, so I figure if anything could serve as an enticer cabbage would probably be it.

So long as he wasn't left out in the cold for too long, I think he may pull through. It'll take time, but if I can encourage him to consume enough calcium daily he should be able to rebuild his shell. If so I can release him back into the wild. If not, he'll need to be kept in captivity perpetually otherwise he'll be eaten.

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