Minority Opinions

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The Easiest Pet

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When I was young, my little sister had a kitten.  She lived outside, because it was always warm enough, and to avoid the effort of maintaining a clean house.  She was nice to hold, but eventually wandered too far from home, on too busy a street.

My beloved came from a home with a nearly steady stream of indoor cats and dogs.  Their philosophy was that if you keep the house clean, pets won’t stink the place up.  Most of the deaths in that family were caused by the deteriorating heath of old age.  That a few family members have been on daily allergy meds may or may not be related.

I, in some ways, am lazy.  Fortunately, I’ve learned to properly channel that impulse; indeed, it probably makes me a better programmer.  One of my main coping strategies is to avoid commitments that will require too much effort.  Blogging once a week and attempting to raise children are stretching my limits, for different reasons.  There’s no way I’m going to add dog-walking on top of that.  Nor am I maintaining any illusions about how much effort children of six and under are going to contribute.

That’s why I initially though we would wait a few years before seriously considering a pet.  The local reptile show changed that opinion.  Many reptile varieties are easily small enough for a tank in the house, where they won’t be stinking up the rest of the place or wandering off to become roadkill.  They are far easier to transport than fish, and can be held in the hands.  They’re generally very quiet, and less smelly than birds or rodents.  They’re less likely to trigger asthma or allergies, and don’t need to be walked.  A little less cute than your average puppy or kitten, but a great deal less hassle.

Handling a few of the docile snakes and lizards revealed that none of us had any real fear of them.  (It turns out that my Chinese sister does, but that hasn’t been a problem.)  The faster ones, on the other hand, might have had the same trouble as hamsters or guinea pigs: the fear that by holding them tight enough to avoid escape, one would snap a bone.  Fortunately, a good snake can be held with the hands fully open, and a tortoise’s shell can handle much more than a tight grip.

That leaves some research to find the easiest pet for a first-time family with small children.  Some reptiles need particular temperature ranges, particular diets, or particular lighting.  Some are nocturnal, which would put a cramp on when we could see them.  Some don’t take as kindly to handling.

In the end, we chose a corn snake.  Sure, I might have preferred a python for other reasons, but they get big enough to require bunnies later in life, which might just hit a squick factor for us.  With that settled, the color was determined by a unanimous preference for pink among the children; no matter how pretty the other patterns, or how weird the red eyes, I couldn’t say no.

So now it has become my job to feed the snake twice a week, change his water daily, exercise him almost daily, and turn his light on and off whenever the kids don’t beat me to it.  (We have a Christmas light timer that I tried to use, but its outlet is non-polarized.)  Perhaps it’s because I’m the calmest, most patient human in the family, so I can hold him the longest before squirming.  Fortunately, I have help keeping the freezer stocked with mice, and have palmed off the responsibility to clean the tank.

We have had a few surprises in the first few months.  Amelanism makes it hard to notice the milky eye stage, so a shed skin has twice explained some odd behaviors, and once come completely without warning.  It turns out that the stage up from a pinkie mouse is not a fuzzy mouse, but a pair of pinkies.  Finally, this particular snake doesn’t defecate in his water, as we had been led to believe.

He prefers to soil our clothing.

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Written by eswald

17 Apr 2012 at 10:35 pm

Posted in Lifestyle

2 Responses

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  1. Ha! We settled on fish for our two kids…not sure I could’ve done a snake (though the dragon lizards at the store were kinda cute :)) Fun post :)

    Zen and Genki

    17 Apr 2012 at 11:19 pm

    • My family had fish for a while, but the first set (swordtails) refused to stay in the tank, and I seem to recall cleaning time being a hassle. They’re also far less interactive, though I have to admit that they’re more relaxing to watch.

      eswald

      20 Apr 2012 at 10:57 pm


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