Contrary to popular belief, there was a time when Sandy and I were not together, and I spent most of my time in a constant quest to annihilate any comer in MarioKart (for SNES, not N64, those voodoo 3D graphics are not welcome). At that time, I was preparing to begin my student teaching experience and decided that I was interested in a bizarre pet. I grew up in a divided household, my father enjoys grumbling about pets while at the same time sneaking behind the back of my mother to acquire them. The roster in my childhood included cats, dogs, and the occasional fish (I will never get over the horror of my dad sticking a shiner from JR’s Sport Shop into my goldfish bowl, which led to a savage attack fitting of Shark Week). Never did the roster include anything considered exotic, though we did keep a Tiger Salamander caught in the wild for a while.
With my impending independence, I felt a wacky pet would be a good pickup for me to make, considering that I was going to be a biology teacher and they were supposed to keep strange animals. I did some research initially zoomed in on to possibilities: Bearded Dragon and Red-Eared Slider. The turtle seemed cute, but carried with it the potential for a hideously messy tank, plus the possibility of transmitting Salmonella, E.coli, or Ebola. I switched to Beardie, which would have been cool if the tank I had picked up for free from a teacher at the elementary school wasn’t the biggest piece of shit in the history of herpetology. So, I considered a new option: snake. I only considered one type of snake, the aptly named E. guttata, or Corn Snake. If my knowledge of specialty pet stores and the interesting people who run them had been as great then as now I might have considered a more exotic option. However, while Corn Snakes are considered the most common species of pet snake, any snake seemed sufficient to freak many of the people I knew out, so that’s what I went with.
I went on a mission with my sister, who at the time was completely pissed off that my mom had denied her a parakeet, which left her completely willing to be an accomplice in any activity that would make my mom uncomfortable (it was still three months till I moved into my apartment, so snake living in her house would certainly qualify). We journeyed to Appleton, which as everyone knows is the only place where anything can legally be purchased. I surprised my sister at the Grand Chute Petco by actually following through and buying the drastically over-priced snake kit, which included the tank, a heating pad, a couple of accessories for the tank, but should have included snake tongs and plane tickets to Florida considering what I paid for it (This was before Craigslist and its magical powers entered its prime). I think my sister had expected me to pussy out at the last minute, the putting down of cash on the table showed I was serious. There were no Corn Snakes of my liking at that store, but the manager informed us that a bright orange specimen was available at the other Petco in Appleton, which I assumed was a mythological place since I had never been to that side of the city before. However, 30 minutes of driving and two stops at gas stations later we found the other Petco, which was the most exciting find for me since I figured out how to beat Jurassic Park for Super Nintendo when I was 13.
And there he was, a cute little bugger covered in orange blotches, no more than 8 inches long. I asked the Petco Employee to pull him from his enclosure. The snake immediately curled around my hand and to my excitement decided not to bite me. Having passed the test, I purchased him for the paltry sum of $37.99. I took him in a cardboard box to a friend’s house, which was a wasted trip considering this friend, having apparently been sexually assaulted by a tiny snake in the past, refused to come out of her room. I then took the little guy home (or girl, I never took the time suggested in the book to probe the cloaca for the presence of a hemipenes, and simply decided that “he” would be a male) and named him Clyde. This was my sister’s suggestion and seemed like a good name for a cute snake.
This series of events took place in May of 2007, and Clyde has been a member of my home since then. In April 2009, we decided to merge with Sandy and her cats to form the Lil’ Pets family. While Clyde is certainly a full member, his leglessness has been discriminated against by our family, some freinds, and several freaked out landlords who apparently believe that snakes have the power to blind you like the Basilisk or something if they break free. He has grown to a monstrous four feet in length, and regularly causes absolute terror while he hunts down his favored prey, frozen mice. The presence of said mice has caused a spin-off issue, since people seem alarmed at their presence in our freezer. I have yet to contract Bubonic Plague from the frozen mice, but I realize I am playing with fire. Clyde is a loyal Lil’ Pet, and contrary to stereotypes about snakes has only attempted to bite one time in his four year tenure with me. I realize that the presence of a snake makes some, including both Sandy’s and my mother, quite uneasy. That’s OK, I can understand being petrified of a creature with teeth AT LEAST a millimeter long.