Somebody to love

If you ever loved something, you know it’s impossible not to talk about it constantly. New shoes. New boyfriend, baby, house. New pet.

I just might be more obsessive than most when I latch on to something that interests me, and now, the thing that I have latched on to, has literally latched onto me.

Raphael, cuddling.

Python regis. The Royal Python.

Oh yes. One python in particular. His name is Raphael and he came to be my little darling completely by accident. My son Christopher took him from a friend, who was going away to college and his parents, apparently, weren’t willing to dangle mice above a reptile at regular intervals.

So Christopher took him, placed him at my house and thus he became mine.

I had to warm up him a bit, I admit. I’ve never been afraid of snakes, and in fact, I used to save garter snakes from the family cat when I was a teen. I also enjoyed spying occasional rat snakes or racers in the fields next to our home. More recently, my last house seemed to be a particularly suitable environment for garter snakes because there were bunches of them. I would show them to the children for an instant nature lesson.

But snakes are objectionable to a lot of people, for several reasons, but most seem to have a visceral reaction, and I think it’s because we’re just not used to the way they move.

They’re not like mammals, dogs, kitties, that sort of thing. They’re not even similar to most other reptiles. I mean, iguanas and the like are a little startling, but they’ve got legs and stuff, so there’s no slithering, sliding, wrapping. Also, the no eyelids thing can unnerve the more fainthearted among us.

Lots of women scream at the sight of even a photo of a snake; my own mother won’t have anything to do with him for fear she’ll start having snake-borne nightmares.

But snakes — if I may modify a quote from Finding Nemo, are friends — not foes. And once I’d been around him a bit, I have to admit, a little bit of a maternal instinct kicked in and I knew I had to care for this innocent little creature who needed help.

Today, Raphael definitely knows me. People ask me this all the time. But how do you know, they ask.

Well, when I pick him up he reaches toward me and takes a good helping of my scent. You may know snakes “smell with their tongues.” They actually use them to grab scent particles then transfer them inside their mouths to something called the Jacobson’s organ, where the actual smelling takes place.

So he sniffs me, then calms right down when he’s in my arms. He sleeps there contentedly in the evening when I’m watching TV. He permits me to touch and stroke his head, which he shied away from when he first arrived.

To quote my son Tras, “He may have a little brain, but it’s like 90 percent love.”