LOWELL -- Rosemary's eight legs were straight up in the air.
She wasn't being silly, wasn't in distress. It was all part of her regular molt -- when tarantulas flip onto their back to free themselves from their exoskeletons. There was only one problem.
We humans are too caring, so caring that Rosemary's well-meaning keeper flipped her back over.
Soon after this flip in April, third-grade teacher Jessica Weintraub passed by the principal's office at STEM Academy, where the Chilean Rose tarantula is housed. Weintraub saw how two of Rosemary's legs were bent.
"It was just an instinct that something's not quite right," said the teacher, a lover of animals with two cats at home. Two of the tarantula's legs had been fractured.
"But what vet would look at a tarantula?" she wondered at the time.
Fortunately for the 5-year-old arachnid, veterinarians at Boston's Angell Animal Medical Center were up to the task. The Avian and Exotics team confirmed the fractures to Rosemary's first and third right limbs.
Dr. Anne Staudenmaier opted to perform amputation surgery to alleviate the pain, and eliminate any possible future complications.
"Tarantulas flip onto their back while molting, and it's essential that they stay there until the process is complete to avoid trauma to their limbs," Staudenmaier said. "Rosemary was badly injured in the process, and likely would have died had she not been treated.
Staudenmaier performed the delicate one-hour operation to remove the fractured legs, and Rosemary left the hospital to recover at the school in late April.
Weintraub has been overseeing Rosemary's care since she returned home.
"She's as near and dear to our students as any other animal, and I'm so relieved that she will be OK," Weintraub said.
"She seems to be doing pretty well," she added. "Just an amazing operation. We're thankful for Angell, and all they've done."
After the tarantula came back to the school, a clear fluid began to "ooze" out of the amputation sites. Angell doctors told the school to put super glue on the sites, which stopped the fluid.
The sand in Rosemary's aquarium has been replaced with paper towels until her next molt, to provide more stable footing and help her recover more quickly.
By the time she undergoes her next molt -- sometime this summer -- she should be fully recovered, according to Staudenmaier.
"Animals of every species, spiders included, show remarkable ability to persevere and adjust to changed situations," the veterinarian said. "She is recovering well from the surgery and I believe she'll live a normal, pain-free life -- for perhaps as many as another 10 years."
Rosemary has lived in Principal Jason McCrevan's office for about three years.
She is featured in classroom demonstrations, teaching students about animal classifications and the ecosystem.
"All the kids think she's so cool," Weintraub said.
"It's great to prolong her life," added McCrevan. "It's good for the kids, who can empathize with animals."
While cats have nine lives, Rosemary is lucky that spiders have eight legs -- enough to spare a pair.
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.