Not-Crazy-Renee and the Family Pet.

Not-Crazy-Renee is a homeschool Mom like myself. That somehow puts one in a different category of willingness to do bizarre things for educational purposes. Couple that with Not-Crazy-Renee being not-crazy and…well…

So Loulie wanted a pet snake.

Loulie is Not-Crazy-Renee’s oldest child. She and Noah are tight – so much so that they are already planning their marriage, and they both just turned five a few weeks apart.

Noah is not as excited about Loulie’s exotic taste in pets, especially since it would live long enough to potentially carry into their marriage like a slithery piece of unwanted baggage, but Not-Crazy-Renee was all in. I, being one of those rare snake-fascinated individuals, was also fully in support.

For weeks before Loulie’s birthday, Renee was doing research, learning, and logging onto snake forums to educate herself on everything that she needed to know about being a hospitable owner to a pet snake. And there’s way more than you’d think involved – nocturnal hours, proper humidity and temperature gradient so that they can move between warmer and cooler sides as needed, adequate numbers of hides to prevent stress, and much much more. She bought a vivarium (fancy, no?), all the accessories including a unicorn figurine to keep the new snake relationally engaged, and, finally, visited a breeder to procure the snake itself just in time for Loulie’s fifth birthday.

The snake in question is a Butter Ball Python Morph, and Loulie decided to name her Snakey Butters Buttercup – a perfect name to convey the cuddly, adorable aspects of a python.

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Loulie was very opinionated about the diet of Butterball, though – the recommended diet is one live mouse a week – Hopper sized, no Fuzzies or Pinkies. But live mice are so adorable and Loulie just couldn’t stand the thought of her precious snake killing such a beautiful creature. So she requested that they look into the other, less recommended option – frozen mice.

(Because frozen mice are alienesque and ugly, so their dead state did not bother Loulie at all. Renee is now teaching Loulie the concept of valuing all life whether attractive or not.)

Frozen mice are sold in a box on a block, and you kind of just…chisel off a mouse-in-a-baggy once a week. Then you warm that mouse – carefully – and dangle it in a believably-live way in front of a hungry Python.

It might help to also move the mouse along the cage in a realistic fashion as you would do to get a cat to play with a stuffed mouse – reverse-fishing, if you may.

However, the warming of the mouse is the complicated step.

Mickey is supposed to be warmed carefully and slowly, but time does not always allow careful, slow warming, so despite the warnings on the box,

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(Not the “not for human consumption” warning – that “do not microwave” warning,)

You might attempt to microwave the poor creature. Thank God I got the full textual play-by-play. If only everyone were fortunate enough to be friends with Not-Crazy-Renee.

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“It was in a bag!!” may be the phrase that Not-Crazy-Renee screams at me, in the tone of “We were on a break!!”, every time I refuse food from her for the rest of our lives.

And I’m okay with that. Especially after this final fact about micromouse.

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(Later, Not-Crazy-Renee admitted that when Butterick “snapped that thing up” and gave it a little squeeze, the mouse’s stomach completed the process of rupturing.)

So after the unfortunate microwave explosion incident, they decided to use safer, more proven methods of mousecicle warming.

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I began to realize that Not-Crazy-Renee was way more into ButteredRice than Loulie (despite Loulie’s obsession) when every time I texted her after her kid’s bedtime, she was in the middle of some sort of snakey endeavor.

Such as this night,

 

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And this night.

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After a few weeks of disgusting mishaps and frustrating feeding escapades,

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along with a snake exchange from Snakey Butters Buttercup the First to Snakey Butters Buttercup the Second (because SBB Sr. was snapping at the children as if they were naked dead rats and we all know that snakes should never be aggressive like that), Not-Crazy-Renee convinced Loulie that it was time to attempt a live mouse.

But still. She wasn’t sure Loulie could handle the cuteness, so she snuck into the pet store to buy the first victim.

“What are we doing here, Mommy?”

“Oh, I just have to run in and get something.”

The only pet store in town that sells live feeder mice is beyond creepy – it’s like the Uncle Joe’s Tot Locker of pet stores. It was the creepiest shack in Birmingham when I was a kid, and it doesn’t appear to have been cleaned in the 20 years since then. Any mouse would be thrilled to escape the noxious fumes and gummy cages to find comfort in the warmth of a snake’s throat.

Renee walked in, turned the corner, almost walked into a random giant tortoise slowly cruising around the store, and found the feeder mice.

The employee fished her one out and asked, “Would ya like me to stun him for you?”

“Well, I’m not going to be using him until tonight, so no…”

“Okay. Well, the way I stun ‘em is by grabbin’ ‘em by the tail and just whappin’ ‘em against the wall.”

“Um, Thanks…”

Renee stuffed the mouse in her purse like it was some sort of embarrassing personal hygiene item and scurried out, dodging the tortoise once again.

Then took the kids to lunch.

As one does.

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*Yum to Ashley Mac’s, not the mouse.

Renee is a lot like a first-time-Mom with Butternuts, obsessed and anxious and hovering, so she really wanted full control over this first live feeding. She waited until Loulie went to bed, then invited me over to join in her great anticipation of snake consumption.

Snakes are nocturnal and prefer their food at night, so Renee and I sat in her dark basement together, nervously watching her snake under a heat lamp.

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The breeder had recommended that she move ButteredRoll to a different box for feeding to reduce association with home + feeding and therefore also reduce chances of children’s hands getting snapped at when reaching into the vivarium, so she was in Rubbermaid and the mouse was dumped unceremoniously from the light bulb box in which it had been subtly hidden.

As we sat in the dark, Renee waited and hoped that her baby would decide to eat, distracting herself by whispering nervously to me.

“Snakey Butters Buttercup the Second was from a boob egg, which means that one side didn’t calcify entirely and the egg kinda looks like a boob. This makes the snakes smaller and more docile, but I’m wondering if it also makes them a little dense. WHY ISN’T SHE EATING?”

I worked to distract Renee to keep her off the forums while we waited for ButterPecanPancakes to take the plunge and eat that adorable tiny mouse, all while Renee’s husband waited patiently upstairs for Renee to come back so they could watch Making a Murderer.

But first, we needed to make a murderer out of Butterfinger.

She’d tense up, stick her tongue out to smell the fantastic aroma of mouse, then act disinterested.

She literally licked that mouse, and the mouse totally licked her back, but then Buttermilk changed her mind again.

(All while Renee panickingly whispered, “Is that mouse CHEWING ON my snake?!?!”)

This went on for a half an hour, and I began to believe Renee’s observations about the intelligence of a boob egg dweller.

Until quite suddenly, Butterfly uncoiled all the way, arched her head, and took down the mouse in a millisecond.

She wrapped him up, head in her mouth, as the tiny legs repeatedly kicked her in the scales.

So that she could feel the full impact of Mouse Death, I batted Renee’s leg with my fingertips to the syncopation of the mouse’s little claws.

Then when the mouse had been still for a couple of minutes, the swallowing began.

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Considering the relative size of the mouse and snake, it was a shockingly quick process. All I could think about was how choked I would be if I were Butterbeer right then. I MEAN.

It was fascinating to watch her throat muscles and scales move up and down as she worked the mouse from her mouth down her throat, until all that remained was a mouse tail, which very much made her look like she was having an after-meal smoke.

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The moment was touching, that first live mouse meal, and Not-Crazy-Renee and I bonded immensely from having shared it. It was as if we’d truly experienced The Miracle of Life together. Or The Miracle of Death. Whatever.

But it wasn’t just bonding for Renee and I – it was also bonding for Butterbean and Renee. The next night when I texted her, no longer was she preparing dead mice in some gruesome and squishy fashion. No – thanks to that tummy-filling live mouse, Renee and Buttercream were able to spend their one-on-one time much more productively.

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Comments

  1. I’m so confused about how I feel right now… So hard to read, but I couldn’t stop… Ahhhhhh! Thanks for the nightmares the rest of this week. Fascinating.

  2. Cool snake fact of the week for you. Snakes have a breathing tube that they extend out of their mouth while feeding, so that they don’t choke on their food. It’s pretty awesome. There are days when I wish I had an extendable trachea! :) I can’t find the awesome picture I used to use in my zoology class, but you can see it well here – http://fire-eyes.org/gal/index.php/ob/n/rep/sn/o/m/j/fr/_N9H4887

  3. Heather Neufeld says:

    Well YOU could never use the ” i could never visit you I don’t like snakes” excuse. No way! Nope. Never.

  4. Just FYI. We had a snake fall out of a tree with a squirrel and I took a video of him eating the entire squirrel. It just just under 12 minutes.

  5. Thank you for the nicknames. And the FRIENDS reference. Those were the only times I wasn’t squirming while reading this. I’m definitely on Noah’s side. ButternutSquash better be gone by the time they get hitched. =)

  6. When I was a kid I had a friend whose dad was a snake breeder. They had an entire room in their house dedicated to the snakes. Stacks and stacks of snake cages (or whatever they’re called). And in the backyard, rows and rows of rabbit hutches. They named the rabbits. Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Watching feedings was part of the entertainment at their house. So when I was 19 and had the opportunity to watch a bunch of my guy friends feed a rat to a python (a big one), I was like “Oh hell yes! Childhood memories!” That was when it occurred to me that I may have had a slightly warped childhood.

    The chicken plucking was another such incident. Wow. Yep, warped childhood. And I wouldn’t change a bit of it. LOL

  7. Terra Mortensen says:

    Oh my gosh – I’m DYING here! Almost spit out my lunch I was laughing so hard!! (Also, what/where is Ashley Macs?)

    • Oh MY how have you never been there? There’s one in Cahaba Heights across from Walgreen’s and one in Riverchase (and I think a new on at Valleydale and 280.) They have the best strawberry cake / cupcakes in town (I used to despise strawberry cake until I had theirs) and fantastic salads, chicken salad, Poppyseed Chicken, and cornbread. Oh and they have take-home meals in their freezer. Obviously a seriously girlie place that wouldn’t be too thrilled about live mice in purses. :-D

    • You MUST go and order the turkey and havarti sandwich on a croissant… they make it with apple slices and this delicious balsamic dressing… Mmm… Save room for chocolate chip and sea salt cookies. Don’t bring a mouse.

  8. Love the nicknames soooo much.

  9. You and your friend are beautiful, beautiful people!
    Oh the memories!
    I linked this to my mother, my sister that has a snake, and my husband (who is sitting 3 feet from me on the couch, modern we are). We had a couple of small boa constricters when I was 6ish, and we raised mice for them. (We also has rats, but they were pets).
    These were my mother’s pets, and dad just tolerated them, having realized that his dream of a pet-free environment was not to be.
    I enjoyed watching snakes eat, and I think it’s a good lesson on the circle of life for kids to learn early.

    • I have much love for anyone who understands the special, slithery place SBB has in our family’s heart. :-) Loulie LONGED for a snake for 2 whole years before we said yes, so that makes the whole experience even more special and fun!

  10. BUTTERBEER omg.

    that should be her real name.

    I like snakes just fine, but I’ve always been partial to tarantulas as my exotic pet of choice. :)

  11. I love this post on so many levels. All I can say is that I wish I was in the same neighborhood as you and not-crazy Renee!

  12. WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS

  13. Lindsey Murphy says:

    This has to be one of my favorite posts ever.

  14. Lindsay D. says:

    I might be rethinking Renee’s “Not-Crazy” status.

  15. My husband had a pet snake when we started dating that he had gotten in middle school so that thing still had some life in it. I watched him thaw frozen mice and feed it live mice – the ones that the snake didn’t eat for a few days so they just anxiously lived in his cage were the worst. And the one that screamed really loud as it was being eaten. Also it was an albino corn snake so it has these glittering red eyes. I told him there was no way that snake was coming with us when we got married so thankfully it got a new home.

  16. The naked mouse reminded me of an awesome children’s book: Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.
    http://www.amazon.com/Naked-Mole-Rat-Gets-Dressed/dp/142311437X

  17. You couldn’t stuff a broom straw up my butt right now. I am TERRIFIED of snakes but by golly, I love to read what Rachel writes so I forced myself through this….
    Not-crazy-Renee, you are a good mother. I couldn’t do it.

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