Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feeding a snake

This entry is about FEEDING A SNAKE.

I am giving you ample notice that I will be FEEDING A SNAKE. You may not want to scroll to the bottom of this entry because there WILL BE PICTURES.

But I will tell you a funny story at the beginning, which may lull you into a false sense of security and you might forget, even temporarily that I will be FEEDING A SNAKE, so don't worry. I will keep reminding you that this entry is about FEEDING A SNAKE.

Kelly has a friend who has a snake and two leopard geckos.

Here. I don't think you will be afraid of the photo of one of the leopard geckos...

There. That wasn't hard. You are very brave. No, the gecko is not attacking my daughter. She put it there.

Yes, I know. Creepy, if you ask me. Who puts a lizard on their neck on purpose?

Anyways, this friend was going on vacation, and the people who were going to take care of the snake and lizards backed out at the last minute because they didn't realize that they would have to be FEEDING A SNAKE (see how I reminded you that this entry will be about FEEDING A SNAKE?) and so suddenly, Kelly's friend (or rather, her friend's mom, because all the hard stuff eventually falls onto the mother's shoulders, doesn't it?) was stuck with not having anyone to FEED THE SNAKE while they were gone.

So of course, I said "We can take your snake" and that comment was followed very quickly by those ominous words coming out of my mouth... "Besides... how hard can it be?"

Oh, famous last words, how I curse my tongue for uttering them!

So, Sunday afternoon, Kelly's friend and her dad come over, and they've got two big tanks in the car. One has the geckos. The other one has the snake.

Ok, I know you're brave, so I'm going to show you a picture of a snake. And Kelly. So just think of it as a picture of Kelly. Maybe with something on her hand. It will be OK. I haven't gotten to the funny part of the story yet. Stay with me. I will not be FEEDING THE SNAKE for another day. It's still at the light-and-fluffy part of the story.

So here is Kelly, showing us all how wonderful Rhythm the Corn Snake is...

There. I shrunk the one picture so it wasn't all that bad, was it?

Kelly just looks so at ease with the snake, I think "Well, that's going to be an easy thing to deal with while she's gone" because I've just realized that Kelly has volunteered to take care of pets and she's not even going to be home.

Oh well.

Repeat after me: How hard can it be?

Kelly shows me the snake, but I have stuff on my hands, so I just watch. She says that he will just go very still when he is calm and happy, but that you can tell if he is upset because he starts moving really quickly and looks agitated.

I do not want to ever have a quick and agitated snake.

OK, so Monday rolls around, and Kelly flies off to Canada.

And after Nate and I get back from the wetland sunset hike, I realize that it is FEEDING THE SNAKE day.

Ok. How hard can it be?

I clean out the "feeding tub", which is this high-sided plastic bucket that they always feed the snake in. It's conditioning responses. He knows that when he goes into the yellow bucket, he will find food. Conversely, he should then also eventually realize that when a hand comes into his cage, it does NOT have food. I think those neural pathways in his brain have not yet formed.

Anyways, I clean out the tub, and I put the light in the tub to warm it. Then I go into the freezer and take out an individually wrapped pinkie mouse.

[image not available]

Just a reminder... I will be FEEDING A SNAKE soon. There's still a bit more fun story, but the pictures may be starting soon afterwards. Anything with a bright yellow hue is probably a "FEEDING THE SNAKE" photo, if you want to avoid it. I'm just saying...

So the pinkie mouse is defrosting in a bowl of warm water, and I say to myself "Well, it's probably time to move the snake to the feeding tub. I go over to the cage, and Ken moves along the sofa to the far end. He says encouraging things like "I'll just watch from over here." and "Do you want me to hold your camera for you?"

At no time does he say "Hey, you want some help getting that quick, agitated snake out of his cage?" I think he just wanted me to prove to myself that I had what it took to FEED A SNAKE.

He is a wonderful encourager, that way.

I looked into the tank, and I suddenly got very worried.


He was not in his cave. He was not lying out anywhere. He was not tangled up in his vines. He was not curled up in his hollow log.




Oh great. First I kill Nate's buddy's frog, and then I lose a snake. There will be a Scarlet K (Not a Special K) painted on my door, and I will have to wear the Scarlet Letter on my bodice. I am a pet KILLER!

And then I remember that sometimes Rhythm likes to hide UNDER stuff. So I lift up the water dish. Nope. I lift up his cave. Nope. I lift up his hollow log. Nope.

And then I start (look away!) running my fingers through the mossy bedding in the bottom of the cage. I could hear a symphony in my head of the bass line from Jaws underneath the shrieking violins from Psycho. Ken was very kind to NOT stand behind me and grab my shoulder at any time, because I probably would have had a stroke.

Rhythm, it turns out, was laying right against the edge of the cage at teh back, squashed down into the corner, lengthwise. He'd managed to squirm himself under the bedding AND under the newspaper base, but when my little searching fingernails came up against him, he shot out of there in a big snakey hurry, and went up a corner.

I may have shrieked.

Ken may have laughed like a loon and nearly dropped my camera.

My memory is a little hazy there.

But now that Rhythm was out in the open, it was just a matter of picking him up, right?

How hard can it be?

Well, plenty hard, if you happen to all of a sudden realize that you really and truly ARE afraid of snakes, and had just been putting on a brave show for your daughter by saying that you could take care of a snake while she was gone, and now you were going to have to just SUCK IT UP and FEED THE SNAKE because you promised, and it was too late to recall your child from Canada, so she could take over for you, and do something that she was SAD she wasn't going to be able to do. And it was up to you to step in and be the agent for your daughter, even if the very thought of touching that snake made your bowels want to unclench and release their contents onto the family room floor.

I will say that my attempts to catch the snake did give Ken a good laugh. I hear laughing is a good work-out. I think Ken may have pulled a muscle or two.

I think I need one of those Snake Rake Pincher thingies that all the Animal Planet dudes have when they go out into the desert to capture man-eating snakes with deathly poisonous fangs.

Eventually, though, I got Rhythm into his feeding bucket.

HERE COME THE PHOTOS OF FEEDING A SNAKE. Don't say you weren't warned.

Rhythm starts 'hunting' in the feeding bucket.

I checked on the pinkie mouse. As I suspected, it had had PLENTY of time to thaw out, and even warm up a little bit. It'll be like Rhythm's getting a warm-blooded snack after all. He should be THANKING ME!

I dangle the dead pinkie mouse over Rhythm's head, hanging the food by the tail on these long, LONG tweezers. In my mind, I'm thinking "I wonder if snakes can jump out of high-sided tubs and bite the hand that feeds them?" Apparently snake handling is not for me after all! Who knew?

Rhythm lunges for the prey, and I shriek like a girl and drop the pinkie mouse into the tub. Ken laughs like a loon and neglects to take a photo of the action until Rhythm is well underway.

The first strike was to the side of the head.

You can see that Rhythm is see-sawing down the body, unhinging his jaws, so the prey will be aligned to slide down head-first.


Pinkie Mouse waves "Bye bye"

And then Rhythm turned his head, lifting the mouse. I wonder if gravity helps things to go down or something.

Bottoms up!

You can really see how his throat stretches out to accommodate the prey.

And then it was just a bunch of s-curve slithering to work the mouse down his body. You could watch the bulge move down rather quickly.

With a few flicks of his tongue, it was done, and he went back into the corner of the pail where the lamp was, and curled up for a little heat-bath.

I was very, VERY happy, then to learn that one does not handle the snake for 48 hours after feeding, because the snake might REGURGITATE the food if it is handled.

So I have not been touching the snake. But tomorrow is another feeding day, and I should probably handle the snake tonight. Nate is DYING to play with it. And I should probably be a 'good mom' and let him help. Maybe tomorrow, HE can be the one that moves the snake into the feeding bucket.


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