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.)