December 14, 2020 – Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.

When my youngest son was in middle school, one of his teachers took him (and his fellow classmates) on a field trip to see a nearby exhibit of native species to the region. It had lizards and snakes and all kinds of ‘critters’ that could be found in that part of the world. When my son came home from school that day, he was beyond excited! He shared all about the experience and how interesting it was and then he made a request. “Can I have a snake?” he asked. Woah! That definitely came from left field! A snake? It was something none of the kids had ever asked for before. I’d had requests for puppies and kittens and bunnies and turtles, but a snake? Never! “Dad and I will think it over,” I responded. We then went about our day. And yes, I thought about it. Some of you are probably thinking I was just humoring him. There’s no way I’d ever welcome a living, breathing, slithering snake into my home, is there? Well, if you’ve ever had a child, at least for me, when they get excited about something and make a request, it’s hard to not at least entertain the notion. When you see their eyes light up and that big smile on their face, it’s tough to just say, “No!”

The next morning, I went into work. We always had a morning meeting where we’d talk about work stuff and personal stuff and everything in between. I brought up how my son had asked for a snake. My boss at the time, a very dear friend of mine actually, hates snakes! She is terrified of them!! She said there was no way she’d accommodate such a request. In her book, the only good snake is a dead snake. But she applauded me for my courage. As fate would have it, later in the day, her boss (my ‘big’ boss) mentioned to her that his son was getting rid of his pet snake. But not just the snake, the whole habitat! And it was ‘free’. There’s that word that hooks me nearly every single time. Free. Anyway, as soon as he mentioned that to her, she immediately shared the ‘great’ news with me! And I have to admit, I was excited! My son made a request and within a day, everything came together and I didn’t even have to shell out a dime. Life doesn’t always work that way, but it’s nice when it does.

I believe it was the following day that we drove over to the home of my ‘big’ boss and retrieved the snake along with all of its ‘stuff’. The son of my ‘big’ boss said his goodbyes to his soon-to-be former pet snake and then we loaded it up into the truck and made our way home. Getting everything set up took a little doing but it wasn’t too bad. We had a long horizontal dresser that worked well to place the ‘vivarium’ on top of. And then it was just a matter of adding its special rock, some shavings (bedding), filling its water dish and turning on the heat lamp. And of course, we also had to place the top securely on the container once we had the snake securely inside. We hadn’t figured out the ‘food’ part yet but it didn’t take long. Snakes, as you probably know, enjoy rodents. And when you purchase a rodent, you can purchase them dead or alive. If the rodent is already dead, you have to hang onto it with tongs or some other implement and move it around inside of the cage in order to entice the snake; otherwise, it generally won’t eat it. If it’s alive, you place it inside of the cage and then leave the room as fast as you can so you don’t have to watch it get murdered. That part really bothered me, by the way.

Things got interesting pretty quickly once we brought that snake home. It didn’t take long for it to discover that with very little effort, it could escape its cage. We found out that the snake was much like Harry Houdini when our son woke us one morning and said the snake was missing. Missing?! You want to see some folks scramble? Well, we scrambled. We looked high and low and eventually found the snake burrowed way in the back of our son’s closet. Our son returned it to its cage and resecured the lid and we all breathed a sigh of relief. A couple of days went by and then it happened again. When my son came to tell me, I already knew. Oh, crap! Not again! The hunt for Mr. Snake resumed but this time it decided not to hang out in our son’s closet along with his baseball bat and Pokémon cards and assorted toys. This time, after a great deal of searching, we found Mr. Snake in OUR closet! Let me just tell you, I am not exactly a fan of snakes myself. And this snake was a ball python, approximately 3 feet in length. I didn’t mind if it got loose and ended up in our son’s closet, but when it ended up in ours? Now, we have a problem.

Clearly, this snake was finding a way out of the cage and the only way out was through the lid. Obviously, the fasteners on all sides were not working as intended. We all thought about a solution and decided that maybe if we placed a 25 pound weight on top of the lid, that should prevent the snake from making a jailbreak. It seemed to work, at least initially it did. But it didn’t take long for Mr. Snake to realize that with very little effort, it was able to push up on that lid (weight or no weight) and slither away to freedom. And my husband and I were made aware of this when my son announced once again that his snake was AWOL. NOOOOOOOO! Momma is starting to become unhappy. I didn’t count on conducting multiple ‘search and rescue’ operations for something I wasn’t terribly thrilled about having in my home in the first place. It had me rattled! Where did it go this time? Well, apparently it had such a great time when it went in our room the time before, that it thought it’d come back and take another look around. And once it got sleepy, it coiled up in a shoe and took a nap.

I do realize that ball pythons are not deadly to humans; however, a snake is a snake. And when snakes get startled, they strike. Personally, I’d rather not get bit. Even if there’s no venom, it doesn’t feel good. And we learned over time that Mr. Snake liked to break out of its cage and go exploring in the middle of the night when the rest of us were fast asleep. I don’t know about you, but I have to get up and use the restroom at least a couple of times each night. And it wasn’t very comforting thinking that at any given moment, once I eased out of the bed and set my feet upon the floor, that I could encounter our adventurous viper and possibly end up with some nice sharp teeth embedded in my ankle, leg or foot. And the reason I had this concern was because EVERY SINGLE TIME it escaped, it went straight into our bedroom. Not on occasion, or once in a while or every other time, EVERY SINGLE TIME! I was becoming a bundle of nerves. I finally had to have a heart-to-heart with our son. “I’m stressed out!” I told him. “It’s only a matter of time before I step on it by mistake and it bites me.” And it wasn’t just that that troubled me. I really had a problem with feeding it ‘live’ rodents. The whole process seemed so insidious.

In nature, when there is predator and prey, the prey has a fighting chance of evading capture and certain death. But when you just stick a little mouse or a baby rat into a cage with a hungry python and watch it get murdered and devoured, it’s troubling. They don’t have a chance in Hell. And the last time we went to buy a rodent for the snake, there weren’t any baby mice available, so we bought a baby rat. When we got home, I stood briefly and watched while my son placed it into the cage with the snake. Unfortunately, I stood long enough to hear it scream. After that, I just couldn’t bear to do it again. That is a sound that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’m not a fan of rodents, but that haunted me. And while I’m talking about rodents, remember when I mentioned a few days back that I’d heard a sound in the bathroom that would stop every time I got near? I thought it was coming from the wet/dry vacuum but was too afraid to check. It actually was coming from the hole where the toilet had been previously, which the wet/dry vacuum was directly over. My husband had stuffed a sock in it and then taped over it until he had a chance to install the new toilet.

When he removed the tape and sock this morning in order to replace the toilet, guess what he discovered? The sock was all chewed up and covered in rat poop! The other night when I’d heard those odd noises, I had literally been standing within inches of a rat with just a layer of tape separating it from me. Ack!! Anyway, back to snakes, since that is the ‘topic’ of the day. And where did I leave off? Oh, yes! I was having a conversation with my son about Mr. Snake. I thought my son would be upset when I shared my concerns with him and suggested it might be time to find his pet a new home. But as it often is with kids, having a snake and the ‘idea’ of having a snake are two very different things. And within the few months that he’d had it, he determined it just wasn’t his ‘cup of tea’. I tell you, I was so relieved that I didn’t get any pushback! I thought for sure he’d be upset and plead with me, but he was 100% in agreement. I had an ad on Craigslist within minutes. “Free snake with all the trimmings!” Who could resist? A lot of people, apparently. And the few that showed interest flaked out. It was very disappointing. But I wasn’t going to give up and give in that easily.

Mr. Snake needed to go! I started asking around to anyone that would listen. “Could you use a snake? Do you know anyone that would like a snake? Would you take it off my hands if I paid you $100?” It took a little while, but eventually a gal I knew mentioned that the science teacher at the school her boys attended had several snakes. She was going to see if he wouldn’t mind one more. After a few days, which seemed like weeks, she got back to me. He had agreed! When I heard those beautiful words, I literally jumped for joy! I couldn’t thank her enough! My son and I loaded up the truck with the snake and all its trimmings, drove it over to the school and delivered it to the science teacher before you could recite the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ in its entirety. I will forever remember that day and the immense relief I felt. That was the first snake and the last snake that has ever been or will ever be invited into our home. After that, if a pet request was ever made, it had to have feathers or fur. Anything with scales was off limits (aside from fish). Since that time, we’ve pretty much stuck with dogs. They’re like having two-year olds that never grow up, but they’re a lot of fun.

And as usual, I just glanced at the clock and it’s well past midnight. I hope you enjoyed my story and I hope it brought you some comic relief. I wasn’t laughing a lot during the whole ordeal but I can laugh about it now. Most of the things that happened were negative, but there was one positive thing that resulted from having a snake. No one wanted to stay overnight in our home. It really worked well as a guest deterrent. Anyway, I’ve had my fun and now it’s time to drag this ol’ carcass up the stairs and into bed. I wish you well and I hope to see you again tomorrow!

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