Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Snake and the Pussycat

Not too long ago, I blogged about my family’s about one year old Florida Kingsnake, Spotty Dangerous (Cecelia wanted to call him Spotty, Jack wanted to call him Dangerous, so we combined the two). He was about the only pet I could handle acquiring last year during the time of great upheaval, and he has provided an endless source of comfort and companionship to my kids, in addition to spending a week in my daughter’s second grade classroom. I can only imagine if I was an 8 year old girl handling a snake in front of my class – surely she wowed the elementary school, almost as much as when she dressed up in front of the entire school as Billy in How to Eat Fried Worms for her character book report last month.

So I wasn’t too pleased when I received a phone call from my ex a couple of weeks ago explaining that when he went to pick up the kids from my sitter, Spotty was missing.

“Surely he is in the dragon,” I said. “He can get so far down in that Chinese dragon we bought him for Christmas that you wouldn’t even know he was there. Did you check the dragon? He must be in there, he was there this morning. I haven’t opened the cage since I fed him four days ago.”

He wasn’t in the dragon. Nor was he under his water bowl. Damn it. I wasn’t really up for getting Spotty III (Spotty II quickly replaced Spotty I at the old house when my ex left the top off of the cage one day - kids don't know about that), but my brother and I built this amazing terrarium stand over Christmas – what was I supposed to do with it? I just had to find Spotty.

I went to the local pet store on Saturday for advice. “Your snake got out? This time of year, he will probably look for someplace cold and dark. Look for a good hiding place.” Great. That describes about half my house. In a couple of weeks when the leaves grow on the trees my house won’t see the sun until fall. Since Spotty lives in my bedroom, I figured he was around there somewhere – searched high and low, in drawers and cabinets, under the mattress, to no avail. I problem solved with a friend over the weekend – despite warnings from my cat’s adopted shelter about the incompatibility of cats and snakes, we reasoned that if Spotty had to stretch to eat baby mice there was no way he could hurt Katybell.

I was thrilled when I stepped into my shower Sunday morning and saw the characteristic mouse hair-filled feces. It meant Spotty was alive, and around, and that he had been looking for water, probably. My excitement led to renewed energy for a search, which was unfortunately not fruitful. I was upset when the kids came home from their Dad’s Sunday evening and I had no good news. I told them the shower story, and my daughter said, “Don’t worry, mom. I’m sure he will turn up.”

Tuesday evening as I was reading my son his chapter from Harry Potter, my daughter called excitedly from my bedroom. “Mom! Katybell found Spotty! Katybell found Spotty! Hurry and come!” Cecelia explained that she was trying to get Katybell to snuggle in bed with her, but the cat was distracted by something in my room. Cecelia followed her, and found her sniffing in a space between the walls underneath the pocket door to my bathroom. Cecelia barely saw Spotty’s head disappear into the space. Jack grabbed a flashlight and we peeked in the narrow space – sure enough, Spotty was curled up inside.

There was much laughing and dancing and hugging – I’ll spare you too much cheese, but we were ecstatic that this family member, the one that had weathered us through our big life transition, generated school science reports, and provided overall slithery comfort throughout the year, was safe. I ran to the freezer to pull out a mouse to thaw. “He’s got to be starving,” I told the kids. “He was supposed to eat the day before he disappeared, but I ran out of mice.”

After the mouse thawed, I dangled it in front of the small space for about thirty minutes until Spotty finally caught its scent. I called to my son, and instructed him to cover the space once I lured Spotty out – he is well over a foot and a half by now – so he wouldn’t disappear back into the wall with his food. When he had the mouse halfway devoured, thus rendering him completely distracted, I scooped him up and put him safely back into his cage.

Thank goodness for our cat – no one else in the house has the proper perspective and I am sure Spotty would have gone unnoticed without her keen senses. I had already planned to leave my porch door open for a couple of hours, weather permitting – I was worried Spotty might die somewhere and start to smell, and would rather him escape to the back yard than perish in our home. No more worries, now – all’s well that ends well.


  1. Giz, If anyone ever had any doubt, you have once again proven yourself to be the most awesome, coolest mom ever. This was my favorite sentence: I ran to the freezer to pull out a mouse to thaw.

    So glad you found SD.

  2. Eeeekkkk!
    What a pet!! Glad you guys all love your pet. :P

  3. I think a snake would be the coolest pet! Your kids are so lucky!

  4. Gheezsh. The things we do for pets.

    We had pet mice, one of whom was an escape artist. We ended up taking the dryer apart once.

    But then again, we washed the cat once, too.

  5. Thanks, Rock Star MD Girl!

    Spotty is a pretty cool pet. And I don't have to board him when I am on vacation.

    Thanks, Ramona!

    The Mother - you washed the CAT???!!!? In the washing machine? I had to take apart a fridge motor to get a dead rat out once - the smell drove us out of the house. The rat was not a pet, thank goodness, but I did have a pet rat in college - Oslo.

  6. Awesome story! Clearly you need to lend Katybell to the NY zoo - she would probably find the missing cobra in no time. :-)

    This story is reason number 5,634 to love cats!!

  7. I heard from my mom tonight that they found the cobra! Probably much quicker if they had a cat - but maybe a little dangerous for the cat.

    We celebrated Katybell tonight with a big old birthday celebration - my daughter decided that since she was adopted, and we don't know her birthday, that it should be on April Fool's day since she is such a crazy kitty - half the time we call her Crazybell.

    I've never been a cat lover until now!

  8. When my aquatic frog escaped my dog found it for us. Unfortunately he ate it... Your story has a much happier ending ;-D

  9. Glad you found him!!

    We just got a snake. The boys found it in the yard this week when mowing. It is a tiny little smooth earth snake. I don't know if he's going to make it because he hasn't eat yet...but if he doesn't I think we'll replace him with a bigger snake. BubTar really likes him.

  10. PA Supertammy - ha! I can't help laughing. Reminds me of the time we were celebrating a turkey and looked out in the backyard - saw the dog wrestling with what we initially thought was a stuffed animal but it turned out to be a chicken from down the road. It's end was similar to your frogs.

    Kyla - we tried to keep a lizard we found in the yard once - named him Zip - but had to let him go cause he wouldn't eat. I read it is tough for animals to go from wild to cage - did much better buying in a pet store. Good luck!


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