Shady Reptile Pet ID: 4004
My hang out: Elmwood, IL (USA)

My mug shots …

Here’s my story …

Now, I was just like you once, believe it or not. I thought there was no way that a reptile like a slithery snake could possibly have a distinct personality. I mean, what do they do? Slither around, sleep, and eat… occasionally poop. That’s it. Boy, did I ever find out how wrong I was when Ava came into my life.

Now, I was just as flabbergasted as the next mom, when my four-year-old daughter approached me and said, “Mom, I want to ask Santa for a snake for Christmas.” Hold up. What? Did I hear her correctly? A snake?
“Child,” I said to her, “You’ve never even touched a snake before. How could you know that you want one as a pet? Let’s go to the pet store, and meet some snakes before we do anything crazy…”

It was at this point, that I hoped fervently that she would meet said snakes, and be thoroughly repulsed. Not that I had anything particular AGAINST snakes, I just had no clue what I was doing. I hadn’t the slightest clue how to keep a reptile alive. Now, I had owned cats and dogs and fish and even rats for a while. But snakes? I’d never owned any reptile. Ever.

So, off we went to the pet store. We get the first snake out of the cage, and my daughter takes it gingerly in her hands. This snake is calm and she gently hugs it, as it slithers slowly in her hands. This is not looking promising- off to the next snake. She gets this tiny little noodle out of the cage. It’s full of energy, slithering all over her- in her hair, on her face, around her neck. My daughter giggles with delight at this scaly intruder. Shoot. I guess we are asking Santa for a snake for Christmas.

So, now begins the frantic search, thank you Google. “How to care for a snake,” “What you need to have a pet snake,” and “How do I keep a snake alive” were my top 3 searches. I read and read and read some more. As the letter went out to Santa, I became more confident that I could somehow keep this slithery reptile alive.

The big day came, and my daughter rushed into the living room, as excited as could be to get her snake. The disappointment was apparent in her eyes, when there was no snake to be found. All that was under the tree from Santa was a small envelope with her name on it. She tentatively walked over to the tree, and plucked the envelope from underneath it. She opened it up, and a gift card fell out, along with a letter addressed to her. “Read it to me?” she asked with little tears in her eyes. I unfolded the letter and began to read.
“Dearest Lana,
I am sorry I could not deliver a snake to you, like you wanted this Christmas. Can I tell you a little secret? Santa… is scared of snakes! Can you believe it?! So, I did the best I could for you, and I’ve given you a gift card to the pet store, so you can go pick out your very own, favorite snake, that is just right for you! Merry Christmas!

It was so cute, watching that girl’s tears dry up, and a smile slowly creep across her face as I read the letter. She anxiously make plans to go to the pet store the VERY NEXT DAY and get her new friend for life.

The big day arrived quickly, and off to the pet store we went. Now, believe me, I’m just as shocked as you that she picked out that little wiggly noodle that made her giggle with delight, just a few days back. We got the snake, who she quickly dubbed “Ava,” and all the accessories that I had ardently read up about. Hopefully, I could pull this off, and keep this tiny creature alive!

Well, the first month went great. Ava was eating well, drinking well, and even pooping well. She was still the friendliest little noodle, who love to cuddle with my daughter all the time, to her delight. Now, after one month came something new- time to change the bedding.

Back to the pet store we went. “Lizard Litter” was the name of the bedding that had come in her kit. Lizard litter… lizard litter… where could you be? I scanned the reptile shelves. Any and every kind of bedding you could imagine. Every kind of shaved wood, dirt, even coconut shells… but no lizard litter. I even ask a sales associate, “Where is your lizard litter?”
“Oh, that only comes in the starter packs. We don’t carry it by itself. Let me help you find something comparable!”

Now, let me tell you, I had looked high and low in the reptile section, and there was nothing that looked even CLOSE to lizard litter. But the associate walks over confidently, grabs a bag of random shaved wood litter, and hands it to me with a smile. “Here you go,” she says, sounding so sure of herself. I take the bedding with gracious thanks, and check out, and go home.

Now, my daughter holds Ava, while I do the dirty work. I get the tank all cleaned up, and the fresh bedding in, and everything put back right where it belongs. Perfect. I tell her to bring Ava in, and we place her back in her tank. I look on expectantly, assuming she will be so happy with her clean, tidy living space. Boy was I wrong.

She lays in her cage, not slithering, not really doing anything. And then, she starts to twitch. Over and over. Twitch. Twitch. Twitch. What is going on? Is something wrong? Is she having a seizure? I look at my daughter, and see has fear in her eyes, and I’m sure the look in my eyes is reflecting the same back at her. “Take her back out, baby,” I try to say calmly.

My daughter takes Ava out of her tank. She begins happily slithering around, making my daughter giggle with relief. Fine. Like nothing ever happened. What in the…? I take the snake from my daughter and lower her back into the cage. As soon as she touches her bedding. Twitch. Twitch. Twitch. Take her back out. Fine. Back in. Twitch.

Is this… is this snake… throwing a fit? I pick her up, and put a small blanket in her cage, on top of her clean bedding. She starts slithering around happily, until she comes to the end of the blanket, and hits the bedding. Twitch. Oh my goodness. She is literally throwing a fit about this bedding. Of all the snakes we get, we have to get the diva snake.

I leave the small blanket in her tank for the time being, and we head back to the pet store. “I need your softest bedding,” I tell the associate, who looks quizzically at me. “Our snake is a diva,” I respond simply. The associate gets us this bedding that looks like dirt, but it is finely ground coconut shells. I take the bedding, thank her, pay, and head back home.

“Here we go again,” I think to myself, and I switch the bedding once more. My daughter slowly lowers the snake to the new new bedding, and we watch in anticipation.

Ava sniffs the bedding with her tongue, and then… happily dives beneath the surface of the bedding, burying herself in coconut goodness. She pokes her little head out at us, with a satisfied look on her face. Our diva is happy.

Author: Kristina T.

View video of Ava

Shady Pet Awards/Notes:

  • Shady Pets (Series 1) Yellow #4 Shady Reptile Card.
  • Pets Gone Shady (Series 2) Yellow #4 – Shady Reptile Card.
  • 3rd Place – ShadyPets Kickstarter Photo Contest
  • Honorable Mention – Amazing Stories Contest