In My Room: Lindsay Falbo By: Jenna Jarjoura and Hannah Bernstein

Lindsay Falbo wakes up every morning and begins setting up her room not just for school but for all her roommates. She moves a sheet to cover the railing of her bed — to protect from poop droppings — and releases her bird, Pear.

Falbo’s next step is to turn on the lights in all the enclosures. She begins to tend to the specific needs of the individual animals; every day varies as she follows a strict feeding schedule.

Falbo always had company even throughout isolation. She spent time fixing all the animals' enclosures and doing deep cleanings around her room. For Falbo, this was a great distraction from everything; She was able to put her energy, love and frustration into the major task of cleaning. But most of her time was spent just taking care of the animals.

“I've always loved my room, but during Covid-19, I'd say this is a safe haven,” Falbo said. “I know if I didn't have all the animals and plants in my room and I would probably not go into my room as much, but since I do have them, it's been great during Covid-19; I have something that constantly keeps me busy. [This] gets my mind off of everything else going on, and it's just nice to be able to take care of other things.”

Once Falbo started fifth grade the passion for animals commenced. From animals to plants, she has created an oasis out of a room — she made it her heaven.

Today, Falbo has over 30 creatures in her room.

Falbo’s first pet was a Cockatiel, Coconut, who she got in second grade before the captivation began. It was a long coming, but after admitting Coconut into Falbo’s family, she had to give her to her grandmother because of some of Coconut’s aggressive behaviors. After a few years, Falbo welcomed Coconut back into her room once her grandmother was moving. Now 11 years old, Coconut was diagnosed with Chronic Egg-laying syndrome which causes her to repeatedly lay eggs that are infertile and hollow and affects her mood.

“Ever since she's been living with me, and she also enjoys looking at everything like all the animals and stuff,” Falbo said. “I think birds enjoy other creatures. She's pretty cool, but she's mean; she doesn't like to be on me like pear does. She likes to have her space, and she'll come to me occasionally to get head scratches, but she's mostly nesting which makes her mean.”

Falbo got Storm, a Blue Tongue Skink, in the fall of 2018 when she was very young. Storm has typical blue tones which is a defense mechanism in the wild — they flash the colors at predators. The vibrant colors are usually a signifier of poison, and they use it as a decoy.

“Skinks are really cool; they recognize faces and Storm knows if I bring out a can of food she knows it's for her and will come out. They're just smart. You can see that they have some intelligence going on in their eyeballs. They are really easy demeanors to handle.”

Falbo got Scarlet, a Bearded Dragon (Hypomelanistic morph), in the summer of 2018. Scarlet is an animal that Falbo takes around with her. She has been to the arboretum, downtown and she was even featured in Falbo’s senior pictures. Scarlet is usually a bright orange color and turns brown when she is shedding.

Bearded Dragons shed in patches as they grow, so Scarlet will shed off her old scales to reveal her nice, vibrant scales which occur all at once.

Falbo got Pear, a dove, during quarantine when her cat brought him to the front door. Pear was younger than a fledgling and was not ready to be on his own yet. He had an injured wing and all the bird rescuers were closed due to COVID.

“I had to take care of him myself, and he's holding out,” Falbo said. “He still has a weird wing and I don't think he would do very well out in the wild. So he's just here with me. He enjoys all the animals. He travels around to all the different enclosures and even the snake enclosures. He enjoys being here so I don't feel like I’m depriving him of anything by keeping him.”

Featured above are all of Falbo's geckos. Starting from the top left is a male standing's day gecko that Falbo interchangeably calls Kiwi and Fisher. From there: there's Luna, a super snow dalmation female leopard gecko; Puma, a male patternless leopard gecko; Java, a female bell albino leopard gecko; Tang, a male hybino leopard gecko that had a regenerated tail when Falbo bought him; Calypso, a female whiteout african fat tail gecko; Cairo, a male amelanistic fat-tail gecko; Cinnamon, male crested gecko (morph unknown); and Jupiter, a male leopard gecko.

Depending on the health of the geckos, the more expensive they will be to purchase. The way one can determine the health of a gecko is by its tail. In Falbo’s experience, each gecko is around 20 dollars. In her room, the geckos are all in solitary enclosures.

Finnegan is four years old. He loves to eat fallen bird seeds from Coconut’s cage and other animals that have similar diets. Falbo got Finnegan from the Reptile Expo; he was originally abandoned. Now in Falbo’s room, Finnegan roams free and is litter trained!

The Angelfish is the centerpiece of Falbo’s 38-gallon tank. She has a lot of Rainbowfish, as well as a Catfish.

Artemis (left), a male albino ball python and Tigress (right), a female orange dream ball python, were both purchased by Falbo her freshman year. Her parents didn’t know that Falbo got the snakes for a while, which has become more common as Falbo pays for most if not all the expenses that go towards her animals — her parents didn’t know about them until her friend made a DIY YouTube video about DIY enclosures.

Falbo keeps, Bruno, a male Russian tortoise in a DIY enclosure that she made from tabletops that were bought at IKEA. The enclosure is a table on top of a tabletop paneled with silicone.

Featured above are all of Falbo's aquatic turtles. Versace, a male Reeve's turtle (yawning) and Gucci, male Midland painted turtle; Salvatore, female centrata diamondback terrapin; Gucci (top) and Valentino (bottom); Versace, a male Reeve's turtle; Louis a male European pond turtle; Franklin and Scooter, who looks just like her but is more shy. Both are female yellow belly sliders that Falbo got from an old friend; Vuitton, a male midland painted turtle; Gabbana, a female Asian leaf turtle; Fendi, a male loggerhead musk turtle; Dolce, male centrata diamondback terrapin; Sunnei, Japanese pond turtle

The passion has extended beyond just taking care of the animals; Falbo is involved in the animal community. She uses YouTube regularly to find tutorials and new ideas for enclosures. DIYs were not big when Falbo started using YouTube in middle school, but the community has grown over the past years. Falbo used to create content on YouTube but is currently inactive. She also uses platforms like Reddit and Instagram.

The community has helped Falbo find creative ways to keep the cost of maintenance low. Providing for all the animals can become costly, but she uses resources to find her way around costs. At the local fish doctor, Falbo is a regular; she can usually get discounts on supplies.

COVID lockdown was a hard time for Falbo. The exotic vets were all booked up — it is hard for Falbo to get medicine for her animals in general — but it was extremely hard during the pandemic. She had the deaths of a few lizards and one frog, but most of the animals are healthy, Falbo said.

Falbo’s parents also have been taking into consideration how she will support all of the animals in the coming years when she leaves for college. She has been taking care of all of the animals independently, and her parents are afraid of how all the animals might restrain Falbo in the future.

“I mean they let me have them,” Falbo said. “They let me do it but they want me to downsize. I guess they think that when I go to college I'm going to want to do things that I won't be able to do because I have animals, but I don't think that's the case. I've already been doing this since fifth grade and the passion is only growing stronger.”