Roanoke, Virginia, United States
Posted May 27, 2015
I remember the day I found Sally. I had only recently moved into a new home, being around 8 or 9 years old. This new home had had a partial basement up until that point, which was filled in with concrete when we arrived. A few days after the concrete was put in, I happened to be in the basement. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a little black head sticking out of the concrete hardened around a hole that lead down into a crawl space. Upon closer inspection, the head was connected to an upper torso. Closer still; the salamander was alive!
I made my way to my father's tools and began to gently chip away at the concrete around the nearly dead girl. Her skin was dry and her eyes were pale. I assumed she was going to die, but I had to try. When I finally managed to free her, I set up some moist dirt and a little spot of clean water to drink. I dug around under some rocks and found a few worms. And then I waited.
After only a few hours, the girl was on her feet, eating and drinking, her color coming back to show off vibrant yellow spots along a pitch black body. I considered releasing her, but she seemed to like being touched so I selfishly (now that I look back at the time) decided to domesticate her. It was easy enough, she was laid back and even a little lazy, seemingly to prefer being fed than to hunt. She was social, coming to me every time I came near. She was just the friend I needed to pick myself up after the move.
Sally stayed with me for six years before we were moving out of state and I decided to retrain her for the wild. She grudgingly started to catch her own prey when I stopped providing her with dead bugs. She was naturally timid with other humans and very afraid of dogs and cats. I am confident in her ability to survive when I released her (I did not take her with me because I feared that if something were to happen to me, she'd be released into the wrong environment).
All in all, though, Sally may have been the best companion I have had. She was very hardy, surviving days in that concrete tomb. Adaptable doesn't even begin to describe how she handled things. She easily went from wild to tame, back to wild again (though she seemed upset about that last part). She was affectionate and social, but also independent enough to be content on her own for busy schedules. I give spotted salamanders an 8 out of 10 for being companion material. They lose 2 points to try and deter people from stealing them from their habitats like I did. It is wrong and I know what I did was selfish, even if Sally seem content enough.