The writer with Daisy, a Boa Constrictor Imperator. Photo by Andy Todd

With Halloween just behind us, I still haven’t gotten my fix for all things creepy and crawly. This week at VM we have been discussing our love for all animals. For many of us, that means our domesticated animals: cats, dogs, bunnies. For others, it means farm animals including our pigs, cows and horses. Many have a passion for exotics; I personally have a deep love for elephants. But a group of animals that constantly gets overlooked, and one of my favorite groups due to my love of all things creeptastic, are reptiles—and my favorite of that group is the snake.

These vertebrates may not be cute or cuddly, but they are fascinating, and deserve both admiration and respect. After all, how many housecats do you know that can detach their jaws in order to house their next meal? And while many animals shed their fur to welcome a change in season, how many of them shed their skin in one, continuous piece as if peeling off a sock? Call it creepy, but it sure is cool.

In high school, I really wanted a snake. Badly. I imagined sitting in my incense-infused bedroom listening to angsty emo pop-rock music or painting a 5-foot Cheshire Cat on my wall with an Albino Ball Python named Hissteria (don’t ask) draped lovingly over my shoulders. What? What were you doing at 15? The only reason I never purchased a snake was because I couldn’t bear the thought of feeding it rodents—another “creepy” type of animal I happen to adore. (Did you know rodents make up the single largest group of mammals!?)

Partially because of my love for animals, and partially because my mother made me, at 15 I volunteered at a local Audubon Society. While I was fond of all of the animals there, especially the birds of prey, I found myself spending any extra time in the large glass enclosure that housed the 17-foot female Burmese Python who weighed nearly 200 pounds—this was basically two of me.

To me, reptiles seem prehistoric. Although they are not direct descendents of dinosaurs, they are technically the steely eyed, slithering cousins of the T-Rex and Triceratops. Their impressive characteristics are numerous. Some snakes build nests; some can soar through the air as far as 350 feet as if flying; and all of them smell with their tongues. If you were ever to share your home with a snake, you would find that—just like your dog or cat—they each have a distinct personality, although they will never wait by the door for you to come home or curl up in your lap and purr.

In my opinion, loving animals means loving all animals, from the cute and cuddly to the slimy and downright terrifying. And if you can’t bring yourself to love them, you should at least respect them. I liken this to my attitude toward the writings of Shakespeare; just because you don’t enjoy them doesn’t mean you can’t respect them for what they are—truly magnificent, interesting creatures who deserve just as much recognition as their more favored members of the animal kingdom (or literary world).

Just as you should be concerned and careful about where you get your cats and dogs, very real concerns surround the trade of exotic animals. Be sure to do your homework whenever you add a pet to your family. Adoption is always a good option! If you don’t want to love a snake in real life, at least look into supporting them from afar. Organizations like Reptile and Amphibian Ecology International support endangered species, like the New Mexico Ridge-nosed Rattlesnake.

What about you? Any “creepy” animals you just can’t get enough of? Any animals you just can’t stand? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.