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A 9-year-old boy's dream of a pet octopus is a sensation as thousands follow Terrance's story online

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The one thing 9-year-old Cal Clifford wanted more than anything since he was a toddler was a pet octopus.

The boy's family in rural Edmond, Okla., humoured him with toy versions of an eight-legged mollusk, but as Cal got older it became clear that only the real thing would do.

The child's father, 36-year-old dentist Cameron Clifford, researched the possibility with a local aquarium store and before long Terrance the California two-spot octopus, also known as a bimac, was living in a watery enclosure at the family home southwest of Oklahoma City.

“We really like to encourage our children's interests,” said the older Clifford. “It's magical to see a kid embrace their dreams and bring them to fruition. Cal has been infatuated with the natural world and with marine biology since he was very little."

A popular TikTok saga was launched with the father narrating the tale of Terrance the cephalopod, using a faux British accent generated by the social media app. Eventually, hundreds of thousands of people were following. 

Within weeks, the tale took a surprise twist when it was learned Terrance was actually a female as it laid some 50 eggs that the family initially assumed were unfertilized. Several weeks after that, teeny near-transparent octopus babies began hatching and were given names like Rocket Larry, Squid Cudi, Swim Shady, Jay-Sea and Sea-Yoncé.

Cal had burst into tears at the family dinner table when his father first announced that the local aquarium store had told him adopting an octopus would be possible.

Father and son together researched what was needed, deciding on a saltwater tank and water cycling system and ensuring they would be able to source food for the soft-bodied sea creature.

The family's younger son, Lyle, and mom, Kari, also joined the project in their own ways. A family friend who is a reptile scientist has provided support and advice.

While female octopuses usually die soon after laying their eggs, Clifford said Terrance remains alive four months later.

Individual containers holding hatchlings from Terrance, the pet octopus, are seen in Edmond, Okla. (Cameron Clifford via AP)

Clifford said the family has gained much from the experience.

“Aside from the physical, financial and emotional requirements of owning a species such as a bimac, you will learn a lot about yourself in the process,” the Arizona-born Clifford told TikTok followers in his app-generated accent. “There's always some valve or seal that's not completely closed, and your storm resistant carpet isn't rated for gallons and gallons of seawater. You'll learn that seawater and electricity don't always get along."

“You will learn new things and meet incredible people and will learn that wildlife is magnificent," he added. “But most of all, you'll learn to love a not-so-tiny octopus like Terrance.”

The Clifford family, from left to right; Cameron, Cal, Lyle and Kari. (Cameron Clifford via AP)

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