After that snake incident, I soon began watching Austin Steven’s Adventures on Animal Planet. He specialized in reptiles, which was the main reason I watched his shows. My interest in snakes was growing, and I began to ask my parents for my own pet. I wasn’t allowed a snake at first, so I got a bearded dragon instead, whom I named Tanny. A few weeks later I went back and was allowed to get a black and white banded Californian Kingsnake, and I very creatively named her Shadow Mist. Shadow for short.
I was kinda nervous about Shadow at first. I didn’t want to get bit and I always used gloves when handling her. After a month or so I just thought “screw this” and I gave up on being cautious. She only struck at me a few times and I had never gotten bit by her. She was a beautiful little snake, and had a little white star on her forehead.
After school I would head straight for her enclosure and drape her around my neck before writing in my journal. She would just lay there motionless as I wrote, absorbing the little heat I could put out and watching the movements of my pencil.
Tanny died a few months later, but I still had Shadow.
About a year and a half later I had to leave for OVS, and leaving her behind was upsetting for me. Did my parents know how to take care of her? What if my cat got her? What if she got lost? She got lost often due to a faulty enclosure but I would always find her in odd spots. Once I didn’t even realize she was lost until I spotted her on my doorknob. Scared me to death, that little stunt did.
Anyways, during my first Christmas break I finally went back to China to visit. Our cat and dog were ecstatic to see me, but somehow, it was like Shadow knew I had come back to visit. Her body was pressed up against the glass of the enclosure, and she lifted her body up vertically and did the weird dance that many cobras do while flaring their hoods. I took her out immediately and she never struck.
About a year later I asked about her and my mom said that she had escaped and they couldn’t find her. “When?” I asked. “Oh, six months ago.”
I MEAN WHAT. If a little girl’s pet gets lost or died, maybe you could say something like “he ran away,” or “doggy went up to heaven,” but I was freaking 15! You can’t just… Not tell me when something that important to me disappears!
I haven’t gone back to China since Freshman Christmas. Now I’m a Junior, and this Christmas my brother and I are going back to China for a little bit. I like to think that Shadow’s still in the house somewhere, watching the family from the cracks in the ceiling and eating any stray mice that come along. Maybe sometime in college I’ll get another snake.
My dream job is what Austin Steven’s doing. If I get bit? I’ll suffer, but I’ll have to trust modern medicine, I guess.
Now thinking about it, I feel like my favorite animal is the snake after all.