You see, at our house, mice aren’t friends – they’re snake food. But I made the mistake of becoming friends with Food, and now I’m sad.
Okay, let me back up. When we got our daughter her first snake last year, a beautiful, full grown and traditional or ”normal” ball python, little did we know that we’d soon end up with two more.
It turns out that snakes are such fascinating creatures and great pets, they’re like potato chips – you can’t have just one.
Nagini, that first snake, came to us at the age of five years old. She is calm, confident and has the grace and elegance of a queen. She’s such an easy keeper we thought nothing of adding another slithery pet to our home.
Our second snake joined us over the summer after Z sold a bunch of her old toys and dolls. She made enough money to purchase a longed-for baby male hognose snake – a tiny cutie who more than makes up in sassy personality what he lacks in size. She calls him Piglet.
Then, just before Christmas, I ended up chatting with a ball python breeder on Instagram and complimenting his snakes. He offered me a great deal on a pastel-colored baby female “morph” (genetic varieties bred for their looks) who is exquisite and a perfect visual opposite of our Nagini. This new girl is all tiny features and light, matte colors – whereas our serpentine queen is glossy, dark and enormous.
Imagining a bevy of future photo shoots with these two glamorous pythons once the little one has grown a bit, I hastily arranged the Fed Ex shipment of the exquisite Ms Daffodil Villanelle – a snake so nice, we named her twice. Z was awestruck, overjoyed and also very, very surprised!
Daffodil V, our latest addition, is the only one among our three snakes not eating thawed, frozen rodents. She was raised on live prey and she continues to make short work of every young adult mouse who enters her lair. All of them, that is, until my friend Food.
I don’t get involved in the feeding of the snakes. I am a fan of both our reptiles and small rodents; I’m an equal opportunity animal lover. I prefer not to watch or be around when the predators are fed, but once I made a special exception after E proudly boasted about what a great and humane eater Daffodil was.
I sat quietly and watched as E gently put a white mouse into DV’s habitat. The mouse began to explore a bit, and Daffodil silently rose from her corner, gliding up as if weightless, to swiftly strike and devour her prey. Just as E promised, I was impressed, not horrified. I can’t imagine a quicker, cleaner death. The mouse had no time to feel fear or pain. And how can I judge lovely little Daffodil for living up to the Villanelle part of her name? After all, I eat meat too.
Unlike the ordinary mice we’ve fed Daffodil before, Food was… well, he was special. When E put this little guy in DV’s tank, she showed curious interest but didn’t go into predator mode. She sniffed him a few times and then curled up and ignored him. After about a half hour, E reluctantly took the mouse out of the snake’s tank and hollered to Z and I that we needed to find our old mouse cage to put him in!
Yes, we used to have a mouse – but not a food mouse. This was a cute black and white panda mouse given to Z by a friend. He didn’t live long, unfortunately – apparently, mice don’t have very long lives even when not lowered into snake tanks. But I digress.
Z and I found the mouse cage, put the little white mouse in it and filled his water bottle. We gave him bedding and cage filler, and since we didn’t have any mouse food, I made him a tiny gourmet plate of human food which he promptly devoured as if it was the best meal he’d ever had in his life. “Good,” I thought. “At least if you’re on death row, you’re eating well!”
The plan was for E to offer the mouse to Daffodil again the next day, to see if she was in a hungrier mood. He did, and she wasn’t, so back into his cage went the mouse and I made him another gourmet meal – a tiny plate of fruit, nuts, veggies, meat, cheese and a little pasta. He was still shy when I opened the cage door to put it in, but he ran right over to the plate and dug in. It did my heart good to see him so happy about his meal.
Dare I tell you that it was impossible not to get a little attached to this guy? He was white all over with bright black eyes and the pinkest little nose, ears, feet and tail. Every night when I got home from work and learned he was still alive – darn that DV and her picky appetite! – I felt a little spark of joy and immediately fixed him a gourmet plate. That little mouse ate everything I put in front of him, unlike the other beloved members of my family.
It was after about a week of this that Z realized I was getting attached to the mouse. “Don’t name him!” she warned, but it was too late – I was already sort of calling him Charlie or Algernon in my head. I couldn’t decide which one suited him better. When I admitted this to her, she immediately said “Mom, NO! He’s food for Daffodil – he’s not your friend. This mouse is FOOD!”
And from that moment on, the name sort of stuck. Every night when I fed him, I’d greet him merrily with “hi Food!” and because I always gave him such delicious fare, he grew quite tame and met me enthusiastically at the door of the cage. He was such a little cutie!
Alas, all of my fancy meals must have fattened poor Food up to Daffodil’s liking, because when I got home from work a few nights ago, Z told me “your friend’s gone.”
I was sad momentarily, because I had really liked the little guy, but E promised me he didn’t feel a thing. Trust me, it’s a far better end of life than most mice get – snakes don’t torture and play with their food like cats do, and I shudder to think of what befalls many mice in traps or out in the cold.
I miss that cute little guy, but Food’s days were numbered from the start. I’m just glad I was able to send him out on a high note with a little kindness, fancy restaurant leftovers and well-balanced charcuterie plates. The fact is, I dearly love Daffodil Villanelle too – and hey, a snake’s gotta eat!
Have you ever befriended a snake or a mouse – or both? I’d love to hear your critter stories in the comments below or over on Facebook.