When I was younger and until I was in my early twenties, I had a major affinity for pet snakes. This hobby was encouraged by my father and lamented by my mother and step mother. MILK, for her part, was ambivilent to the snakes except that she was constantly trying to rescue their meals when I wasn’t looking. This led to several white mice living at large in our house until the cat noticed them or they escaped into the world.
I’ve since reached the conclusion that, for my money, the animals in my life will be the standard domesticated ones such as cats and dogs. You know, animals that actually like you back…or, at least appreciate the warm habitat and plentiful food. I’m sure one of the boys will want a reptile at some point but, for now, we’re sticking with the old tried and true cats and dogs. Don’t get me started on birds… they are for themselves as far as I’m concerned.
Anyway here is a quick line up of some of the more memorable pet serpents to pass through my life, this is by no means a complete list.
Snake #1. “Nudgy” The first snake I ever adopted was a red sided garter snake bought at some pet store, probably in a mall. Nudgy had the distinction of being my slithery pal when I was recovering from Appendicitis as a kid. Kind of a consolation prize for losing an organ. I had him (or her – don’t wanna be sexist here) for a few years before s/he died. Nudgy was an extremely enthusiastic snake; if you filled its water bowl with gold fish it would go nuts until it ate them all and got all bloated and smiley. This was tremendously entertaining. Also, like most garter snakes, when you picked it up to bond with it, Nudgy would crap all over you. That’s how garter snakes show love. With feces. You’d think this would deter me. Nope.
Snake #2. “Bitey” Bitey was labeled as a “Chain Snake,” and procured at the creepy pet department in the back of a garden furniture store. I think it was some type of King Snake. This shop always had a really questionable selection of “pets,” including baby Caimans at one time – because what everybody needs is a pet crocodile (not that I didn’t beg my dad for a week). Anyway I saved up my paper route money to buy this little guy because it looked really cool. That was pretty much the entire rationale for every purchase I made at that age…and at subsequent ages. When I was at the store attempting to collect my new friend, it was a little nippy. By which I mean it really, really wanted to take a piece out of the clerk, and me, and the counter. Dad took a healthy step back and asked me if I was sure that this was the best choice as a pet. “Ow, shoot, ow, yipe, he’s just nervous,” I said as the snake snapped at anything that got too close. This was its entire floor show for the week that I had it. I think dad may have given it back to the store when I was staying at mom’s.
Snake #3 Unnamed Garter Snake. I only had this snake for a few days before it escaped. I talked mom into buying it for me at a strip mall in San Jose. It lived in a converted aquarium in my bedroom. Mom, who is a die hard animal lover, started giving me crap about not holding my snake (as if snakes really need love, and you can all stop with the “holding your snake” jokes). So to prove her wrong, I walk into the kitchen and show her that I’m giving my snake the attention it so desperately craves. “See” I say, “I do play with him.” At this point the snake freaks out, gets away from me, lands on the floor and slithers under the stove with the speed of a frightened roach. We never saw it again. Mom sold the house and probably didn’t disclose that one.
Snake #4 “Kenmore. AKA Kenny”. This snake was named because it escaped it’s terrarium and hid in the dirty laundry. It went through a full wash cycle and scared the crap out of me when I opened the washing machine to find a 4 foot Ball Python staring at me. I don’t imagine he was any happier about the experience. Cleaner…but not happier.
Snake #5 “Peaches” the Red Tailed Boa Constrictor. Purchased as a newborn by Dr Wife when she was in college. Baby Boa Constrictors are one of the cutest things ever, if you’re into snakes. They are about a foot long, will wrap around anything and, for the most part, are very docile. Peaches used to coil around the bun in Dr. Wife’s hair while she studied. You know how puppies only grow to love you more as the years go by? Snakes are not puppies. After a couple years, peaches was six feet long and becoming very aggressive. There are few pet experiences more exciting than opening the lid to a cage and ending up with six feet of snake clamped onto your hand. I sold her to a guy who had a boyfriend for her.
Snake #6 ” Ka” the Amazon Tree Boa. This little guy was the devil. Or at least a close relative. What I didn’t pick up on from the small amount of research that I did before I ordered this beauty, was that because of their bird-based diet, tree snakes strike immediately at any movement in front of them. They also have the longest teeth of any nonvenomous snake. Talk about fun! I sold this one to a dentist who has a very cool display in her office. Apparently, what people really need to calm them down at the dentist office is a hyper-aggressive snake with huge teeth striking at the glass when they walk by. Puts the kiddos right at ease, I’m sure.
So there you have it, snakes. The gift that keeps on giving.
Grams still shudders recalling the time she was in charge of the house while I was out of country. Encountering an escaped snake neatly coiled in the vacuum cleaner cord almost did her in. I heard her screams all the way to Tokyo. Snakes are not loving pets, except maybe for boas since they give great hugs.
After all, a hug is just a strangle you haven’t finished yet.
I have a simple and easily applied rule: never take as a pet, an animal who sees you as food. When a snake, regardless of size, licks his lips at you, that ought to be a sign.
Can’t believe Lazer isn’t on the list. Not only did it freak out chipper the kitten, but it was an escape artist!