Monday, September 15, 2008

Take our snake, please!

Wanted: Loving home for our beloved ball-python, Sabrielle:

She helps around the house and makes a wicked pan of lasagna. She is cuddly and remembers her manners. She is tidy and odor free. She speaks 4 different languages. She lays golden eggs.

Not buying it, are you? How about if I throw in a 19 year old?

Our son Jon wanted a snake for many years, but our answer was always “NO.” As a boy, he idolized Steve Irwin and wanted to be a snake expert. So… when my oldest son, David, went to college, leaving Jon without his lifelong buddy, we felt a suitable replacement would be the snake he’s always wanted. Fred came home with a young ball python in August of 2005 as a 16th birthday gift for Jon.

Initially, “Sabrielle” was pretty cool. I got brave enough to feel her black and white skin when Jon was holding her. Jon handled her frequently, so she got used to him. Jon was buying food and reptile bark---all was well.

Eventually though, disgusting things that have to do with owning snakes started to rear their ugly, reptilian, “scaley” heads. Snakes spend every free moment trying to get free. They don’t relax the vigil. They test the perimeters, “Jurassic Park” style, constantly looking for weaknesses.

The feeding procedures are not for those with weak stomachs. They eat frozen mice that you thaw and “offer” by wiggling, so the snake thinks it’s killing a live mouse. Fred and Jon rigged a “feeding” bin with a slot and a cardboard paddle like a spatula. It was genius…and grotesque.

Interesting fact: When snakes eat, they GROW…and shed their skin, which does not come off in one, right-side-out tube like on T.V.; it comes off in flakes that cover the bottom of the cage. The last flap of skin to shed is always over its eyes, rendering it blind. When it’s blind, it doesn’t know the different between a yummy mouse and your hand.

For months I swore Sabrielle smelled. I insisted Jon keep his door shut at all times (now, what the smell was doing to Jon and his lungs in the room together with “Putrid the Snake” was of no consequence to me). However, when he went to college, we noticed the room, minus Jon, did not stink at all. We now blame his shoes.

With Jon away at college, and a promise he’d find a home or person to care for it for her, Fred offered to take care of Sabrielle for a while.

Things I said I’d never do:

1. Touch a bag of frozen mouse. Did it. Asked for a two-pack. A woman in line asked me what I had, and when I said they were frozen mice for a snake, she asked me if, when they were thawed, they came back to life (I’m not kidding).

2. Keep “said frozen mouse” in our laundry room freezer. Did that too. That’s one way to starve me off of ice cream.

3. Prance around the house with it wrapped about me like Brittney Spears. Nope. Still wouldn’t do that--not unless it made me look thinner.

It’s been a full year of snake-sitting now. Jon returned home last weekend, just in time to feed Sabrielle. He left the mouse out to thaw, but had to leave in a hurry. He reminded Fred to feed her and then left.

Hours later…

I said, “Fred, did you ever feed Jon’s snake?” “No. I didn’t. I’ll do it now.” Fred got up.

We walked into the “Jon/Sabrielle Suite” and found that, unlike his usual thawing method of leaving it on top of the grate above the snake terrarium with a light on, he tried to hurry things along by putting the mouse, on top of its rodent dinner bag, on the room heater…ON FULL BLAST! The fur-singed smell of mouse fricassee wafted through the room, driving the snake into a frenzy. Half-crazy by the smell of baking mouse, Sabrielle was jutting her head up at the top of the grate, nearly pushing it up and off.

Are you sure you won’t take the 19 year old?


Jenie Altruda said...

I cannot believe you have a snake in your house... I will NEVER visit. As much as I love you, I would NEVER sleep in a house that has a snake. Can you imagine what Grandma Hazel would have to say about this????

Heidi said...

Grandma would have freaked out--as my Mother would have. You're not the only relative that won't visit us. Good news--snake goes bye-bye next week to a non-kill reptile reserve. Anyone want to come to our desnaking party?