Rick Foss and his wife Carla were scared of spiders. Now they share their Chandler home with 32 of them — make that 32 big, hairy ones. “I like to learn about things that scare me,” Rick Foss said. “We started out getting a scorpion, and now we have tarantulas.”
To help get over his fear, Rick. 34, attended a conference of the American Tarantula Society, of which he is now the group’s public relations officer. It was there he held his first tarantula.
“I fell in love,” he said.
Carla, 30, was a little more squeamish at first but got more comfortable with the idea of keeping tarantulas. Now she appears to be the primary handler in the home.
“I didn’t care about anything else — just spiders,” she said of her past spider fear. But she soon came to realize “they’re harmless and amazing.”
Since that time almost two years ago, their hobby has morphed into a side job for Rick, who is finishing a degree in marriage and family counseling, and Carla, who is an office manager for an eye doctor.
The Fosses take their beloved spiders out in the community to educate people about the harmless but intimidating looking creatures with their company, Amazing Tarantulas. Through word of mouth and their Web site, www.amazingtarantulas.com, the Fosses and their pets travel to Valley schools, churches and even birthday parties.
Becky Custer, a first-grade teacher at Desert Cove Elementary in the Paradise Valley School District, said her class loves learning about spiders — especially when the Fosses bring by their tarantulas.
“There are some kids that don’t like spiders,” Custer said. “But once they get in the classroom, the kids get hooked. It’s a great way to get them to interact and see things first hand.”
The Fosses have a variety of tarantulas including some from Mexico, Chile and Uruguay. They still have their very first tarantula named Drucilla — a Chilean rose hair — named for the pinkish peach fuzz on the spider.
Carla said it’s “a gentle, sweet spider.”
Rick said by exposing children and adults to their pet spiders they’ve coaxed some people out of their arachnophobia — even if it’s just for a short time.
“It goes to show you that you can get over anything,” he said. “There’s just something about them. It’s not just a bug, they’re different.”
• There are close to 800 species of tarantulas in the world.
• Tarantulas have eight eyes but cannot see well and rely on their hairs to sense things.
• Tarantulas have retractable claws.
• Tarantulas produce silk webs that are used for many different things — keeping the floor of their burrow clean, catching prey or building a hammock-like fort to lay in.
• Tarantulas rarely bite humans, but they do have venom. In most cases, the human reaction to a bite could be pain, swelling and cramps, but not death.
• Female tarantulas live 20 to 30 years and males live eight to 10 years.
• Tarantulas molt, shedding their exoskeleton about once a year.
SOURCE: www.amazingtarantulas.com, The American Tarantula Society