The Joy of Snakes


Among the various pets my kids have talked me into accumulating, our ball python Jawzahr (named for the mythical Persian dragon who chased the sun and moon) gets the most frequent expressions of disapproval from friends and family.

Why on earth would you want a snake? they sensibly ask.

My initial answer was, my son wanted it. He was going through his reptile phase, and he’s such a careful and attentive observer of nature, I wanted to reward his interest with a gift. But over time, I’ve become the snake’s biggest fan.

Jawzahr, unlike our other pets, is neat, quiet, and requires almost no maintenance save for regular handling and a defrosted mouse every week or so. He rewards us with his beauty and peacefulness. I unexpectedly discovered that handling him is good for my mental health, too. He is easily startled, so I must be calm and careful when holding him. This has the effect of lowering my own stress level.

Over time, we’ve learned a great deal about snakes from caring for and observing him, and while this isn’t a benefit I ever thought I wanted, it’s made my frequent wilderness hikes more enjoyable. When I encounter a snake now, I don’t experience a jolt of fear the way I once did. I know how to react, and since most snakes are harmless, I can appreciate such moments as rare chances to observe a creature in its natural habitat.

Our fish tank is a hassle, our lizards are smelly and high maintenance, and our rabbits are disdainful and prone to chewing things they shouldn’t. But the python? He’s lovely.

What’s the best pet you’ve ever had? The oddest?

(PS: If you’re in the market for a snake of your own, check at your local humane society, or look for local breeders on places like Craigslist to help keep the pressure of pet trading off wild populations. Captive-bred snakes are often easier to feed and handle than wild-caught ones too.)


  1. Eww!!! (sorry). Doesn’t he want to eat the bunnies?

    Wow, Jamie, you have a TON of pets. Last I knew, you had one cat.

    Jamie of the Jungle…

    Well, now I know who to call upon if I ever feel the need to put a snake in one of my books.

  2. No way, no how, not ever. I am so ridiculously afraid of snakes, I couldn’t sleep knowing it was in my house. Though your description of yours was compelling, I admit.

    Best pet I ever had was my cat Nickles. She loved to be held like a baby and she’d dig her nose into the crook of my neck and snuggle and sleep. Heck, my actual kid was less cuddly than this cat.

  3. LOL. So I guess you two are in the opposing camp with the rest of my friends and family…

    Cindy, no, the snake isn’t large enough to eat rabbits and won’t ever get that big. He will only get big enough to eat a rat. It’s more likely the rabbits would end up hurting or killing him if they ever came in contact. Which, we hope, won’t happen. 🙂 One of the rabbits did spot the snake once while the kids had him out playing with him, and the rabbit freaked out, naturally.

  4. Marifel

    Yes, I never thought I’d love them, but I do! Ball pythons are great. Have to love the red-tail boa, though.

    We love our dogs – I maintain that when the flock leaves the nest, we’ll be living on some acreage with 50 dogs – but our fave pet was our Blue Tongue Skink, Tasha. Yeah, she had some major smells coming from her tank, but she really was gorgeous. What a doll!

    BTW – Love the pics of your beardeds. They are lovely!

    You’d never know that we were a reptile family. Asian, suburban family, with PTA mom and SUV? No way. Trust me, if I could somehow get an enclosure into my entertainment center, I would absolutely get some snakes and a few lizard friends into a new home!

    ~Just stumbled onto your blog, btw, while searching for your backlist. Looking forward to devouring the rest of your books!

  5. Chris

    My favorite pet is, and always will be, hairless rats. Especially males. Don’t ask me why. I also have three Pythons, a tarantula, two mice, two cats, and a milksnake.

  6. Jan Griffiths

    I love all kinds of animals, and have had many reptile friends over the years; even venomous ones. I now raise Ball Pythons, and heartily recommend them for just about anyone. There is nothing cuter than a newly hatched baby Ball Python.

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