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  1. #11
    BPnet Veteran wwmjkd's Avatar
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    Re: Zen and the Art of Snake Maintenance

    Quote Originally Posted by Skiploder View Post
    I grew up in a little town called Carnelian Bay. Look it up - it's on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. These were in the heady days when phones were all rotary, the pants were corduroy, the pant legs were belled, and the designer colors in most kitchens were orange and avocado formica and appliances.

    The internet really didn't exist until many years after I graduated from college.

    The street we lived on had maybe 30 houses on it - widely spaced apart and sparsely occupied. In fact, there were only 8 year-round residences on our street.

    Ours and our next door neighbor.

    Our next door neighbor was a biology professor at University of Nevada (Reno). He had a degree in herpetology and in the heady days of the 1970s - one of the most impressive collections of snakes I've ever seen.

    He was a single man, divorced with two kids that he rarely saw. When I was about 6, I took a keen interest in his hobby - snake keeping.

    He specialty was crotalids, but his travels and connections to south and central america allowed him to acquire a collection of various colubrids that were unmatched. In fact, there were animals in his collection that I have not since seen. He had examples of most north american lampropeltis and pituophis, along with rosy and rubber boas. I spent 12 years of my life going over to his house almost every day to assist him with his husbandry duties and I never tired of that group of animals.

    When he received a new and exotic species - maybe a drymarchon, maybe a clelia, perhaps a pseudoboa - he would politely leave a note on the door for me when I got home from school. I always marveled at each new and wonderful animal he introduced me to.

    In the 1970s, it seems my parents were none too worried about me spending time with a single middle aged man who lived by himself. While my parents were friendly with him and when his daughters came to visit, they would invariably end up at our house to play with my sister - they did not know a lot about him. Maybe it was the fact that my dad worked out of the area and was gone Sunday night through Friday night and my mom thought an adult male presence would do me good, or maybe the times were different - less suspicious and fearful.

    But I spent a lot of time over there. After I did my homework and my chores, I was allowed to go over before dinner. On the weekends, I spent hours over there.

    My time was spent assisting him with feeding, cleaning, measuring and weighing his animals. Moving snakes from QT (the barn) to the snake room (his car-less three car insulated and climate controlled garage), setting up glass tanks (yes, glass tanks) and moving frozen lab rodents from the freezer to the fridge to slowly thaw. He set me out in the woods behind our house to catch frogs and lizards for his finicky philodryas, and had me mixing cleaning solution in large yard sprayers. I swept and vacuumed both snake areas and moved pine shavings from a pallet on the side of the house to trash cans in the garage.

    All but the largest of snakes were kept in glass cages. Light bulbs were used as heat sources. Pine shavings as substrate. Appropriate species were kept in pairs and inappropriate species were kept separate. In short, all sorts of husbandry "don't" were followed and religiously adhered to.

    Other practices were also followed. Enclosures were cleaned every week. Disinfected, scrubbed and dried. Fresh substrate was put back in, the animal weighed and measured, the numbers recorded. The water bowls were likewise cleaned weekly with disinfectant.

    New arrivals were put in the barn, their mouths were swabbed, they were given prophylactic parasite treatments and their first poops were examined. There were two areas in the barn - one for arrivals in their first six months and a second for arrivals in their last six months. These two areas were separated by a wall and a door.

    Oftentimes colleagues would stop by the visit my neighbor, and while I cleaned and swept and kept to the husbandry routine, I would hear them swap husbandry tips. Without judgement and without the shadow of harsh opinion dominating the discussion.

    Now some smart ass may ask what these rambling comments and recollections have to do with snake maintenance......well, they have everything to do with it.

    Many, many years later, it became easier to share husbandry tips and build a consensus on common practices through the internet. Unfortunately, it also became easier to swap bad information and propagate baseless opinions. Experience has been easily and almost painlessly replaced by doing Google searches or asking for consensus on forums.

    Do not get me wrong, forums are wonderful things. But all of these self imposed rules, all of the baseless and easily gained false expertise is, I believe, making many people worse keepers.........and taking the zen out of this hobby.

    The exact definition of the word husbandry does not really apply to keeping exotics pets - at least I don't think it does. We use it nonetheless. We also - and I am guilty of this - refer to snake keeping as a hobby.

    Both terms do disservice to what it really is. If done right, if done with the right frame of mind, and if done with compassion and passion, it becomes a life long relationship with a group of animals. These none too intelligent animals take on personalities - their dispositions and special habits and preferences are learned.

    "Doing it correctly" means balancing what works for you with what works for the animal. Some animals prefer shavings, some paper. Some use hides, some don't. Some like white rats, some like dark rats.

    Some seem to look forward to handling sessions, while some remain irascible throughout their lives. Some are gentle, some seem downright possessed.

    When faced with a sickness or other health issue, the interaction increases more and I'll be damned if some of these "dim" animals seem to sense that you are trying to help them in their time of need and draw closer to you - even the possessed and irascible ones.

    Two nights ago, my big 12 pound blacktail cribo (Mojo) has two stuck eye caps. In 15 years of keeping him, he has never had a bad shed - but the AC has been running almost 24 hours in the snake house and it dries out the air. As I held his head and gently worked loose his retained caps, he did not fight and did not squirm. This is an animal who strikes the front of his enclosure when anyone other than me walks into the room. I marveled at what that might mean and how this simple gesture from what many consider an unintelligent animal made me feel so honored and special.

    I learned to "listen" to my snakes from my mentor. I learned early in my time in this "hobby" to balance what is easy for me with what the preference of the animal is. I learned to listen to each snake in my "collection".

    I also learned to enjoy my time with my animals. To take pleasure in simple tasks that could really be better described as chores.

    I feel that this"hobby" has transformed these chores into something akin to Zen. I am at peace when I am taking care of and interacting with my animals - be it scraping crap of the walls or vacuuming the floors.

    For anybody taking the time to read this rambling and aimless mess, I hope that you are not too embroiled in debating whether deserts can lay fertile eggs safely, concerned about whether a coral glow and a banana are one in the same, or about who is crashing what market or about raining your supreme judgment down on the idiot who uses pine shavings and glass cages.

    I hope that you find the zen in you animals and leave all the drama, judgment and pontificating to the self-proclaimed experts who learned at the knee of Apple or Intel. I hope that you learn to find your own way in this hobby, while finding what makes your snakes healthy and content.
    as always, I am equal parts cowed and jealous of your experience, expertise, and willingness to share both with an undeserving community.
    Last edited by wwmjkd; 09-14-2013 at 01:59 AM.

  2. #12
    West Coast Jungle's Avatar
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    Love your passion!

    Years ago I was taking care of about 25 bearded dragons babies I recently hatched and my sister in law was watching me in amazement. Now she hates reptiles as they give her the heebeegeebees. She had spent a few years in Vietnam and Japan soaking in the culture and looked at me and said that is totally Zen the way you interact and take care of all of those babies. I never thought about it that way and it made me look at it in a different light. Even though the enclosure had to be cleaned daily and babies fed several times a day(with such a large group) it was one of the highlights of my day and made me forget about all the stress of my real job.

    Your story reminded me of that, thanks for sharing

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  4. #13
    Registered User LooptyLoo's Avatar
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    I absolutely love this post
    0.1 Beautiful Normal Ball Python (Pippin) ~ Crazy about my new family member

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    ~ Yep. I named her Fudge

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  5. #14
    BPnet Senior Member AlexisFitzy's Avatar
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    Zen and the Art of Snake Maintenance

    This has to be one of the most beautiful things I've ever read thank you so much for sharing. I'm almost at a loss for words now even though there's so much I want to say. But it would be a pleasure to meet you some day. Thanks again so much for sharing this lovely experience. It reminds me of how caring for my animals is a very zen experience and how I've learned more from animals emotionally than I have from people.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk - now Free

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  7. #15
    BPnet Veteran Pyrate81's Avatar
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    Re: Zen and the Art of Snake Maintenance

    Skip- great post. Not gonna lie, it touched me.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bobbafett View Post
    Skip and Wilomn are legit the 2 Bp.net members id love to meet.

    :| all the knowledge
    x2

    Along with wisdom.

    I wish you guys lived closer to each other as well. I feel like you guys are cut from similar cloth. When you guys post, I sit down with a blanket and listen with my thumb in my mouth(so to speak).

    When I got my first few snakes, the only advice I was given was pertaining to feeding: vary how often I feed and feed every 10-14 days. It made sense to me because I worked at places where lunch wasn't always at the same time every day. In the wild, snakes don't get to feed on a schedule. Sometimes they eat every other day, sometimes they don't eat for a month. There are times when my snakes go 3-4 weeks without a meal because the pet store is out of mice and/or rats(I get worried after week 3). I state this because I feel that what Skip and Wilomn has offered in their posts tries to teach us to think outside the box and/or expand our minds to what the possibilities are for our animals. What they can do for us and what we can do for them.

    I really didn't know anything about snakes. All my enclosures where glass tanks with heat lamps and all my snakes seemed happy with the same wattage/spot/ etc. It wasn't unitil I tried to conform to "rules" when they started seeming agitated or uneasy. Sometimes you have to go with gut instinct or experience to make sure it gets done. I think certain geographic areas haven't been factored into that though cause they seemed a little different after I moved. It could also be age, I have 4 snakes that are 12+ years old. I'm getting to a stage where I'm relearning about young snakes and starting to learn about aging snakes.

    I pride myself on being in touch with my "animal" side and being able to interact with nature and animals on different/better levels than most other people and have seen others interact with nature on levels I can't comprehend. I think a lot of reptile enthusiasts are more "in tune" with nature than "normal" people. Other animal enthusiasts which interact with birds, horses, elephants, etc and find they can interact with animals on different levels and become a part of each others worlds.

    I preach my XP as much as possible though I may not be an expert on a specific species and I don't divulge everything I do; What may work for my house snake, may work for your kingsnake. Ya never know.

    In 2 instances I may have prevented a dog from being attacked by another dog. While walking my dog, one of the neighbors huskies was loose and ran into the middle of the street and appeared to threaten my dog(dalmation) in a way. Taking my knowledge of cobras and dogs, I moved forward to stand forward and place my dog between my legs to make my dog appear bigger. I stared down the opposing dog, bared teeth, and growled. After a brief stare down, it went along it's way and I moved along down the street. The second instance, I was at a dog park and saw one dog threaten a smaller dog. Performing the same maneuver, the opposing dog left the smaller dog alone.

    Similar to Sikp's story, I told the story of my milksnake(Blackjack) in another post and how I can handle him after years of giving him care and space after cramped quarters and perception of a "nasty" attitude. People wouldn't give him the time of day. He got from me the chance that most people wouldn't give him, like he was from "the other side of the tracks". I'm currently working with a yellow rat snake(Dijon) who bit a 2 year old when his then owner was handling him(...). I know he is currently an attitude laden, testosterone-filled young snake and doesn't really care for dogs, but I know his interactions with me has/will help him trust other animals on some levels. If he never trusts dogs and I'm the only one who can handl is fine. I'm hoping over time, he becomes a snake ambassador like Wafer(albino black rat snake).

    We as humans need to listen and learn how we can interact with other animals. Give animals the respect they deserve and not what you think they need. I only have 12 years experience with snakes but I have a variety of experience with a much larger variety of animals. Every species has its own warnings, attitudes, personalities etc. Ya have to listen.

    Personally, I consider reptiles as a "hobby pet" and not a collection because we are allowed to interact with them on their terms if you respect their wishes. Which means we still get to interact with them by watching and studying what they do, how they do it, and why. Though we don't have all the answers, some do become clear and we can understand who/what we are interacting with.

    A lot of people do not have the patience or understanding to connect with nature or animals, IMO.


    Skip's and Wilomn's experience challenges US to be better keepers. Don't argue with them, listen to what they are trying to tell you and ask questions as you go along.
    -Yar

    1.0.0 Albino Black Rat snake(Wafer)
    0.0.1 California King snake(Oreo)
    0.0.1 African Housesnake(Cupcake)
    0.0.1 Honduran Milk snake(Blackjack)
    0.0.2 Normal BP(Petey; Twix)
    0.0.1 Yellow Rat Snake(Dijon)
    0.0.1 Madagascar Speckled Hognose(Granola)[RIP]
    1.0.0 Albino Nelson's Milk snake(Candy Cane)
    1.0.0 Lesser BP(Creme Brulee)
    1.0.0 Mojo BP(Brownie)
    0.1.0 Black Motley Corn snake(Anisette)
    0.0.1 Pueblan Milk snake[Fostering, Taco Grande]
    0.1.0 West African Mud Turtle(Bulger)
    0.2.0 Red Eared Slider(Squirtle, Turtwig)
    1.0.0 Rat Terrorier(Ranger)

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  9. #16
    BPnet Senior Member Mike41793's Avatar
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    Zen and the Art of Snake Maintenance

    I liked the info in the post and the story to go along with it. I can't be philosophical like any of you guys but my .02cents is:

    Observing your snakes and learning about their individual behaviors/quirks/tics/whatever is the best piece of advice you can give to any new keeper. The most recent example of that i can think of is Tiffany's poor enchi Leo. When he was sick only handling him would help the swelling in his head go down. Not drugs or surgery or anything, just handling him. Sorta blew my mind and is something that still doesn't make sense to me, but it's not a story i'll soon forget.

    EDIT: next time I'm scraping urates out of the corners of the tubs, since my snakes can never piss/crap on the newspaper, i'm calling uncle skippy so he can come over and ying and yang a little with me
    Last edited by Mike41793; 09-14-2013 at 12:18 PM.
    Balls
    0.1 Cinnamon, 0.1 Lesser Mojo (BEL) p/h hypo, 0.1 Lesser Fire Spider het hypo, 0.1 Hypo Fire, 0.1 Hypo, 0.1 Sugar Yellowbelly
    1.0 Normal, 1.0 Hypo Fire, 1.0 Fire Fire (BEL) het hypo

    Retics
    1.0 (31.25% SD/ 37.5% Dwarf) Lavender Albino p/h Anery
    0.1 (50% SD/ 25% Dwarf) Sunfire Tiger p/h Anery
    1.0 Mochino

    A diverse array of species of tarantulas, true spiders, roaches and other insects, AND... a freezer full of dead rodents

  10. #17
    BPnet Veteran BPLuvr's Avatar
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    I enjoyed reading every word of that. Thank you so much for the post. I am going through a shed issue with one of my females. She has always hated being handled 9 out of 10 times she lets you know by hissing. If you do pick her up she wants nothing to do except wiggle away. She always has had shed issues this time the worst so far. After giving her a few days 95% was still stuck. I decided to pick up some additive for a bath. Her first bath she didn't like and only wanted to get out of the tub I had her in. The additive was a moisturizer also. So I soaked her then pulled her out and let her try to work it off again. I checked her throughout and two day later decided it was time for another bath. She easily let me pic her up without complaint and just chilled out in the water as opposed to the first time. Afterwards she allowed me to work most of the shed off. This weekend will be one more and the most difficult since now all that is left is the neck and head area. She even ate yesterday and she is one that would stop about 1 week before and not eat again until a week after the shed. Thanks again for the post it really was an enjoyable read!!
    1.0 Bumblebee (Sheldon)
    1.0 Enchi (Jaxon)
    1.0 Phantom (Leonard)
    1.1 Pastel Het Genetic Stripe(Clyde+Bonnie)
    0.1 LemonBlast (Dottie)
    0.1 Cinnamon (Cindy)
    0.1 Pied (Pissy)
    0.1 Phantom (Priya)
    0.1 Butter (Bernadette)
    0.1 Lesser (Penny)
    0.1 Pastel (Ivy)
    0.1 Normal (Amy)
    1.0 Boxer (Rocky)
    1.0 Sugarglider (Oreo)

  11. #18
    BPnet Lifer Skiploder's Avatar
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    Re: Zen and the Art of Snake Maintenance

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike41793 View Post
    I liked the info in the post and the story to go along with it. I can't be philosophical like any of you guys but my .02cents is:

    Observing your snakes and learning about their individual behaviors/quirks/tics/whatever is the best piece of advice you can give to any new keeper. The most recent example of that i can think of is Tiffany's poor enchi Leo. When he was sick only handling him would help the swelling in his head go down. Not drugs or surgery or anything, just handling him. Sorta blew my mind and is something that still doesn't make sense to me, but it's not a story i'll soon forget.

    EDIT: next time I'm scraping urates out of the corners of the tubs, since my snakes can never piss/crap on the newspaper, i'm calling uncle skippy so he can come over and ying and yang a little with me
    From my excel records this week. 5 year old male yellow tail cribo (Zeppo).

    Fed two small rats on 9/8/13.

    Pooped on the 9th, the 10th and the 14th.

    I always chuckle when I read posts about boa and python owners worried that their snakes aren't passing weekly movements. What I'd give for once a week movements that don't look vomited peanut butter, smell like a dead skunk and have to be scraped with a putty knife off of the walls, floors and corners.

    Again, the reward is interacting with the animal (removing him from the enclosure), and then getting satisfaction from thoroughly cleaning the cage and putting him back in. One "chore" that results in at least two rewards.
    Last edited by Skiploder; 09-14-2013 at 02:06 PM.

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  13. #19
    Don't Push My Buttons JLC's Avatar
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    Re: Zen and the Art of Snake Maintenance

    Skip, I hope you don't mind, but I've stickied your post and I hope that it becomes a regular point of reference for all. Your words not only speak to the arts of keeping snakes and other exotic pets, but they also remind us how we should treat each other when it comes to sharing and learning.

    Brilliantly written, beautifully said, and I feel honored to have gotten to know you a little bit better through these words.
    -- Judy

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  15. #20
    BPnet Senior Member Mike41793's Avatar
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    Zen and the Art of Snake Maintenance

    Quote Originally Posted by Skiploder View Post
    From my excel records this week. 5 year old male yellow tail cribo (Zeppo).

    Fed two small rats on 9/8/13.

    Pooped on the 9th, the 10th and the 14th.

    I always chuckle when I read posts about boa and python owners worried that their snakes aren't passing weekly movements. What I'd give for once a week movements that don't look vomited peanut butter, smell like a dead skunk and have to be scraped with a putty knife off of the walls, floors and corners.

    Again, the reward is interacting with the animal (removing him from the enclosure), and then getting satisfaction from thoroughly cleaning the cage and putting him back in. One "chore" that results in at least two rewards.
    Screw that, you can keep your drymawhatevertheyrecalled's! I love peanutbutter, cant have a snake that would ruin it for me haha!
    Balls
    0.1 Cinnamon, 0.1 Lesser Mojo (BEL) p/h hypo, 0.1 Lesser Fire Spider het hypo, 0.1 Hypo Fire, 0.1 Hypo, 0.1 Sugar Yellowbelly
    1.0 Normal, 1.0 Hypo Fire, 1.0 Fire Fire (BEL) het hypo

    Retics
    1.0 (31.25% SD/ 37.5% Dwarf) Lavender Albino p/h Anery
    0.1 (50% SD/ 25% Dwarf) Sunfire Tiger p/h Anery
    1.0 Mochino

    A diverse array of species of tarantulas, true spiders, roaches and other insects, AND... a freezer full of dead rodents

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