Rest in Peace, Snaky or Slither or Whatever They Were Calling You This Week
Today, my six-year-old called my attention to the fact that, while our pet snake had crawled out from under his rock earlier in the evening, he no longer seemed to be moving. Being a six-year-old, he wanted what he feared to be confirmed before he would believe it. So, once I reached into the cage and nudged our little reptilian friend and he found didn't slide around the cage like he usually does, I had to make it official.
"Yeah, he's dead," I told him.
Time of pronouncement 5:32 PM.
The next hour or so in my household involved a lot of crying. Other than our dog, they had never really had another pet before. We caught a praying mantis once and fed it bugs consistently, but it seemed to be having problems from the beginning and only lasted a few days. They never had the chance to name it or become attached to it. It was more of a science experiment than a pet.
I saved the snake from getting stepped on at work as I walked out of a fried chicken restaurant one day last October. He stayed with me in a bag for the remainder of my day and then I brought him home for my sons to see. I fully expected to release him in our yard or even a nearby wooded area. But my sons wanted to keep him and my wife surprisingly consented. The little brown snake whose name was changed regularly had been with us for about five months.
While I knew my boys wouldn't exactly be happy about the snake's passing, I hadn't expected their sorrow to be so profound. We spent some time remembering what we liked most about Snaky (his original name) and discussing the most respectful method of disposing of his remains (they immediately rejected flushing him down the toilet, but I figured I'd at least throw it out there).
To conclude the night, a very small yet tasteful prayer service was held in the backyard, a hole was dug and an impromptu cross was made out of wooden kitchen skewers and electrical tape to mark the grave. The tears subsided and my sons began to speak of how much longer the snake had been able to live in our care than he would have been able to live in the fried chicken restaurant and how they will miss watching him devour earthworms whole. Eventually they got back to their activities, playing video games and fighting with one another about whose turn it was to play which video game.
With the passing of the most recent addition of our home behind us, I pondered how my boys had just grown up a little. No matter how small (six inches to be precise), my sons had just faced the loss of a family member. They took their time to express their grief, remembered the good times and moved forward, wiser for the experience.
And me? I went over and paid a little extra attention to my dog. I sat on the floor and scratched him behind the ears. Then I took his head in my hands and went nose to nose with him to let him know how I really feel.
"Hey buddy," I said to him. "I swear, if you up dig that snake up and eat it, I will kill you."