Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Snake Rescue

I guess I’m running a safe house for wayward snakes now.

For those of you who read this blog and aren’t friends with me on Facebook and/or don’t visit the CD forums, I’d like to introduce Amaunet.


We think she’s a Carmel Corn snake, but Chad (our snake breeder) is sending her picture to someone who can confirm that for us.

Here’s her pitiful story…

Snakes are easy pets to own. The smaller species don’t take up a whole lot of space (corns can live out their lives in 20 gallon tanks quite happily), they only eat about once a week and go to the bathroom only after they’ve eaten. Some snakes don’t even like to be handled and are purely eye candy; corns do like human companionship, but are happy with a snuggle once a week before you feed them. They don’t even require that much housekeeping. I scoop out the soiled bedding when I see it, and do full bedding changes every 3-6 months.

Piece of cake right?

Despite the ease of care, there are still people out there who buy or acquire a snake for a pet, and for whatever reason tire of it. In the worst cases these snakes die from neglect. Sometimes they’re freed into the wild; which in some climates is acceptable (snakes aren’t domesticated animals, they can live just fine without human intervention if they’re in the proper climate) but not in Wisconsin. Often they’re dumped at the Humane Society or pet stores where they have a better chance of survival.

This is what happened to Amaunet. She was left at a local pet store, half starved, freezing cold, and stuck in a shed that she was too weak to deal with on her own. Not having a snake expert on staff, they put her up for sale without realizing she was in dire straits.

Lucky for her she was about to meet up with a family who had a clue.

I took CJ to the pet store yesterday to pick up a heating element for his bearded dragon. We’ve been having a heck of a time keeping Roland’s cage warm enough in the frigid Wisconsin winter. So, armed with Christmas money we went in to get a more powerful heat source. His new ceramic heather makes his cage so nice and toasty warm that we all wish we could climb into the tank with him.

As we walked back to the reptile section we passed a cage precariously perched on a stack of boxes. Inside a little hidey hole peeked a cute yellow head watching us walk by. Seeing the familiar lines of a corn snake, I stopped to take a closer look. What I saw made me want to cry.

Her skin was flaking off her in patches (normally when snakes shed their skin it comes off in one continuous piece, but sometimes when it’s too dry it will flake off and the snake needs a good soak to loosen up the dead skin), and she was way too skinny. The sign said she was four years old, and came with all the equipment for a bargain basement price.

I talked to her a little bit while the kids wandered around the store, and saw she was alert and responded to me as I crooned to her though the glass. I was worried about her to say the least. I was really worried that someone without any experience would buy her and not know what they were getting into. She needed special care if she was ever going to flourish again.

As we left the store I picked up my cell phone and called John. Partly to commiserate, partly because I hoped that maybe, even with all of our Christmas spending, there was enough left in our bank account to save her. There wasn’t, which I expected, and after sharing my worry with the guy who understands me I took the kids home to make our own pets more comfy.

I have pictures of her though, so you know it’s not the end of the story. :)

It turns out that John did a side job for someone, and got paid for it shortly after my phone call. When he came home from work he brought with him a new snake baby to add to our family. He knew I’d worry about her, and he has a soft heart too (no matter how obnoxious he gets on the outside), so he made a stop after work.

He’s a good guy.

Right away we pulled her out of the tank to start getting her warmed up. I’ll admit I had a moment’s hesitation as I went to stick my hand in there. In her hungry state should could have made a strike at me, hoping I was food, or she may be holding a grudge against the human’s who cooped her up and then refused to feed her. Willing to take a bite if I had to, I scooped her up and found out quickly what a sweetie she is. She immediately wrapped herself around my arm and settled into the warmth. Her tongue was out, smelling everything around her, but she was happy to snuggle with me as I started to clean out her tank. Once John came and took her, she found the ultimate warmth around his neck and never wanted to leave that spot.

I got her cage cleaned out and disinfected, then I put her to soak in a tub of warm water to get all of the nasty dead skin off of her. The problem with a bad shed is that it will start to suffocate the healthy tissue underneath. Kauket has had a few bad sheds because of the dry air in our house, so I know how to help her remove it so that she doesn’t get injured. I have no idea how long Amaunet sat in her old skin. It came off pretty quickly after a soak, but there was some permanent damage on her tail where the tissue died. In a few weeks the tip of her tail should fall off, and then she’ll be good as new.

The next pressing concern for her was food. I have no idea what she’s been fed in the past, frozen or live, but we feed frozen mice to our snakes. So I crossed my fingers and took out a mouse to thaw for her. A lot of times if corn snakes aren’t raised on frozen mice they’ll refuse them, I hoped that she was hungry enough that she wouldn’t care.

Turns out I was right. She took the mouse and ate it right down. Her initial strike was a little weak, but since it was already dead there was no struggle for her to eat it. If someone had put a live mouse in the cage with her, she probably wouldn’t have been able to take it down in her weakened state. She may have even been fatally injured by the mouse, which can even happen to healthy snakes sometimes.

After a bath and a good meal we put her back into her warm tank and let her settle in. If a snake can look happy she looked radiant!


Above is a picture of her body after her bath but before her meal. Do you see the sharp line of her spine? That’s not supposed to be there. However, once she has a couple of months of eating well, that line should disappear.

As I was typing out this post I got a call from our breeder. He heard back from the guy in Texas with some not so good news. There’s a possibility that she may be suffering from something other than starvation. The other breeder recommended a drastic course of action, that I’m not inclined to take at this point in time.

For now, she’ll be quarantined (away from our other snakes) and watched. Hopefully though, for this poor girl who’s had such a rough life already, the only thing she’s suffering from is neglect.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent Conspiracy



If you know me, you know that Christmas isn’t my favorite holiday.  Don’t get me wrong I love the spirit of the holiday, but the stress, the rush, and the never-ending push of consumerism depresses me.

We’ve all seen it and complained about it…  Stores start putting up decorations before Halloween, radio stations switch over to Christmas carols in early November, our kids start their “I want” lists in May.

Somewhere along the line the holiday became less about peace, love, and joy, and more about profit margins, credit card bills, and materialism.  When you think about it, that’s really sad…  Will your kids think you love them more because you got them the newest game system?  Will your husband be more devoted to you because you got him the latest iPhone? 

These material things are fleeting…  They give joy for a day or a week, but they’re not meant to last.  The things that last are those that cannot be purchased, and in our rush to feed the profit margins of companies across the globe we’re destroying the true gifts of the season.

This year, on the day after Thanksgiving, a Wal-Mart employee was killed in the mad rush of people running to buy their Barbie dolls, and Transformers.  A family will have an empty spot at the dinner table on Christmas because to a crowd of holiday shoppers, their gift lists were more important than a human life.

It makes me want to cry.

No matter if you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Yule, or Kwanza, the true meaning of the season is to be with your loved ones, to spread joy and be filled with peace.  Not by the giving of things, but by giving yourself.