As you know, last week, I went up to New York City.
The boys were down in Florida. So for a few days, Rocky was alone. This is okay, and actually one of the reasons why, after years (decades) of being hounded about a pet, I finally gave in to this particular animal. You can leave him and not have to pay people to take care of him.
So I returned from NYC early afternoon on Friday, and Rocky was, indeed, still alive. Go, Rocky. Later that evening, I changed his water, said good-night and went to bed. I had Saturday to do things and then would be heading down to get the boys on Sunday.
Saturday morning, I got out of bed, got ready to go exercise, peaked in the front room to check on the snake…and saw….the door to his cage opened wide.
Rocky had had enough, apparently, and run away.
What happened? I must have been careless and not secured the latch properly, and in his nighttime strolls around his tank, Rocky made the tremendous discovery of a loose door and naturally made the most of it.
So yes, I panicked.
I didn’t care two hoots about a snake around the house. I’ve learned over the past weeks that these ball pythons are gentle creatures who don’t do much more than slide, wrap themselves around your arm, and stare.
No, what upset me was the prospect of telling Rocky’s 9-year old owner the next day that his PET WAS MISSING AND IT WAS MY FAULT.
I mean, the second part of that is bad as is the Worst Mother 2014 award, but of course, not nearly as awful as the first. The thought of the sadness upon receiving this news was just too much.
So I took a quick look, foolishly hoping that would do the trick. He’d just turn up or come when I called.
They are called “ball” pythons because they like to, well, curl up in balls. During the day, or when stressed, they get in a dark, warm place and wrap themselves up to stay. So, sez The Internet, when your ball python escapes, look behind books and bookcases, in drawers, in clothes baskets…all of which I did for a while.
I don’t have a cluttered house and really, when it comes to the main level, the hiding places are limited. What I was worried about was the prospect of Rocky traveling down into the basement, which is finished , with two large rooms and a double garage. That’s not too cluttered either, but there I do have one room with quite a few large plastic bins stacked up, and I thought…well, I’m going to have to move them all. I was also concerned that if he got down there, he would find a way outside, and then the game would really be up.
So I was peaking and moving, sort of randomly, increasingly sick as I imagined the conversation the next day and Michael’s tears. Then I decided, I’m going to stop imagining that conversation because that conversation is NOT going to happen because I am GOING TO FIND THE SNAKE. I had almost 24 hours. I was GOING TO FIND THE SNAKE.
It was time to get methodical. I needed to clean house anyway. I started in the front room, where the tank is, and which also happens to be the school room. I removed the books from every bookshelf, dusted, and returned the books, shoving them all the way back so that if did find his way there, he couldn’t get behind them and I wouldn’t have to repeat the process. I moved said bookshelves, took out every cushion, cleaned out the art materials.
Move on to the dining room, which has hardly any hiding places, then the boys’ rooms, which have more, the bathrooms and the living room. No snake. I was feeling sick again and by that time convinced he had gone downstairs. I returned to The Internet which assured me that these snakes rarely go further than 10-15 feet from their enclosure when they escape. Okay. Maybe he wouldn’t have gone downstairs. Time to search the kitchen.
Again, not too many places for Rocky there. All the cabinet doors had been closed. There is one small bookcase which I searched, cleaned and moved. One small cube-storage unit. Same procedure. No snake. Scooch out the refrigerator, which stands across a corner. No snake in the corner. Bend down, peek into the exposed innards of the fridge.
SNAKE! SNAKE! SNAKESNAKESNAKESNAKE!
I poked him. He moved.
SNAKE THAT ISN’T DEAD!
Do you know how happy I was? Any clue?
In retrospect, that was actually the first place I should have looked, because all of the ‘HELP MY SNAKE ESCAPED discussions seem to lead off with “behind and inside the fridge” as a popular python destination.
Now my challenge was to get him out. I hadn’t moved the refrigerator far enough to actually get my whole body back there, and the way he was positioned, I was afraid that if I did move it, he would be crushed. So I did my best to reach him, but, naturally, he reacted by….slithering in the other direction, completely out of sight. I had no idea where he’d gone – I couldn’t see any glint of his body, I couldn’t discern any opening…for a while I was afraid he’d found a way into the refrigerator or freezer from behind and was freezing to death, but then I reasoned that he wouldn’t move toward cold.
Well, at least I knew where he was. It was late afternoon and I needed to go to Mass, and I could actually go with a bit lighter heart, knowing the snake wasn’t on the loose downstairs or, even worse, outside. I closed off the kitchen and went off, so relieved.
When I returned (a little more than 12 hours to go in this operation! We can do this! ), I looked, but still couldn’t see him, nor could I for most of the evening, as I periodically tried to search him out. Here was the thing: I knew at night he would come out…if he was alive. I was just afraid that he wasn’t, you know, alive. That I had, indeed squished him, or that he had frozen to death. So instead of having the “Rocky escaped and it’s my fault and I’m SO sorry” conversation, I would have the “Rocky might be stuck and/or dead somewhere in the refrigerator” conversation.
But then, around 11…glory be. Amid the dusty metal and tubing, a beautiful pattern of tan and black. Still in those innards, but in a different spot than before, and moving..clearly readying himself for his nocturnal prowling.
In other words: Not dead.
So it was time do to what they tell you to do when you’ve got the snake cornered, but you can’t reach him.
With one door to the kitchen closed, and the other blocked with some posterboard, I put out his water dish in the middle of the floor, turned out the lights in the kitchen, pulled up my chair just beyond the barricade, took out my Kindle, and did just that.
It only took about fifteen minutes. I glanced up, and there he was, stretched out in all his Rockyish glory, gliding across the floor.
I never imagined I would be elated to see a snake on my kitchen floor.
No, I wouldn’t have to have that conversation.
Sorry Rocky, Independence Day is over. I picked him up, put him in the tank , closed and latched the door…
… with a particularly hefty hole punch on top of it. Just in case someone got any ideas.