Shady Reptile Pet ID: 4010
My hang out: Poway, CA

My mug shots …

Here’s the story written by my mom and published on August 7, 1980 ... (Bernie Lansky did the drawing/scanned from the newspaper story)

My problem with reptiles undoubtedly began when I begat three sons. If my husband had only gifted me with daughters. How many girls do you know who love snakes.

It really started when a science teacher visited my first-born’s third grade to teach metrics. He brought along a six-foot boa constrictor, stretched it out and invited the children to measure it. My son didn’t learn anything about metrics, but from that day on he was fascinated with snakes.

But – while I developed Excedrin Headaches Number 14 through 48 learning to cope with the situation – I was determined not to display my intense dislike for reptiles. After all, I had no right to pawn my neurosis off onto my children. So I ground my teeth, developed an eye twitch and carried on with a smile.

An assortment of reptiles soon slithered through the house – banded by king snakes, a pencil-thin green snake, baby boas and striped garter snakes. None of them lasted very long, however. They either escaped from their terrarium homes or refused to eat and withered away.

Every time (and there were many) that I heard the distress call, “Hey, Mom, I can’t find my snake!” I reached for the aspirin bottle, hoping that the search and rescue crew would find the escapee before he found my bed and closet.

My lack of enthusiasm must have been obvious when my son announced his future plans. “I’ve decided to be a herpetologist – a snake expert – when I grow up.”

“Fine, sounds like an interesting job,” I mumbled, “but I haven’t  seen too many ads for herpetologists in the classified section recently. Do you think you’d be comfortable living on unemployment insurance?”

“But I love snakes, and I already know almost every thing about them,” he argued.

“Wouldn’t you rather be an orthodontist?”

Not long after we moved to Poway where the terrain was a natural for snakes – rosy boas, gopher snakes, red racers – and they all made their appearance at our house. And it was the small colorful creature that caused snakes to finally be barred from the premises – forever.

As I stepped out of the shower one evening, a little black, yellow and red fellow slithered along the outside ledge of the shower stall. I wasn’t about to examine the exact arrangement of the stripes for I was quite certain a deadly coral snake had invaded my bathroom. In one lightening-fast move, I withdrew to the safety of the shower stall, slammed the sliding door shut and began yelling my head off. I emerged from the shower only after repeated assurances that the visitor was not a venomous demon, but a harmless long-nosed snake out for an unscheduled evening stroll. It sure looked like a coral snake to me.

So much for indoor snakes!

Then, during one summertime visit to the grandparents in western Oregon, my neo- herpetologist had a relapse of sorts. He selected the very best snakes he could find, put them in a large coffee can and tucked them into the back seat of car for the 1,100 mile drive home. When one rather foolishly slid along the ledge by my window, the secret was out. The snakes (and very nearly the kid) made the rest of the trip in the trunk.

Still, I had to admire my son’s business sense. He took the snakes to local pet shops, sold them, and pocketed $40 – enough to buy a beagle puppy, and as he became more involved with training the dog, he became less enchanted with snakes.

That, I thought, was the end of our snake encounters.

But we went to Oregon again – and my youngest son discovered that woodpiles and tall, thick grass were perfect hiding places for garter snakes. But he only played with them awhile, then returned them to their hideaways. (much to the snakes’ relief, I’m sure.)

Then we were on the road for home, and I was at the wheel – when a snake popped up through the air vent on the dash. We were eyeball to eyeball. I shrieked.

“You found him!” cried my youngest, in sheer delight. (He later confessed that he had been playing with the snake on the hood of the car when it crawled into the vent on the hood and disappeared.) “Oh, thanks, Mom!”

Thanks for what? The wayward reptile had disappeared again. Three more times he poked his head up, and three more times he eluded the excited little hand that made a grab for him.

“This is it!” I yelled, as I pulled off the freeway onto a woodsy , dirt road and ordered everyone – except the guilty child – to vacate the car. We waited silently for the elusive snake. He popped up through the vent, surveyed the scene, and then crawled onto the dash. A lightening quick hand, well practiced at catching the creatures, snatched him up and (upon my insistence) set him free in the forest – a much better home for snakes than the dashboard of our car.

Now if I’m just really lucky, and the snakes around Poway have sense enough to hide from me – and my sons – it will be a fine summer.

Author:   Mary Rauch

Published in the San Diego Union, August 7, 1980; “Snaking Through the Summer”

Read the introduction to this story from her son, Brian, founder of Shady Pets.

Shady Pet Awards/Notes:

  • True Story

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