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Snake in the Chair

By Kim Everson, DVM

It’s not every day a snake gets lost in your living room chair. But then with unusual pets come unusual problems.

Friday night. It had been a long “short” week following Labor Day. All the urgent care cases we manage to squeeze into our already stacked appointment and surgery caseload always seem more numerous after a long holiday weekend, and this week was no different. The long weekend gives dogs an extra day to get sick from stealing fatty BBQ leftovers and to tear toenails while ripping around the countryside with their recreating owners!

After a late meal with my family, I was finally starting to decompress from this last hectic day. The kids were off playing video games together, the dishes were done, and I was seriously considering falling into bed with my latest book, Dakota Dawn. Then it occurred to me that I could watch the kids play their games and handle my 4-year-old corn snake. My creamsicle-colored corn snake Peaches is a very nice snake, about three feet long, mellow and easy to handle unlike my son’s much younger albino corn snake (Phantom) who acts like a cobra any time you try to handle it! Peaches never strikes and, if she did, her tiny teeth wouldn’t do much damage because corn snakes are constrictor-type snakes who squeeze their prey before eating.

As companionable as Peaches is, she doesn’t demand attention–nudging a hand like my dog Guppy or loudly purring in my face like my kitty Cheeks. Safely contained in her giant terrarium, Peaches mostly curls up under her large hollow basking rock. On rare occasions, we marvel as she stretches herself along her tree limb or has staring contests with Cheeks who finds Snake TV pretty entertaining. (This spring we added a new “channel” for Cheeks’ viewing pleasure — Rat TV — which is a lot more high action.) Pretty much the only time I handle Peaches is prior to feeding. We don’t let her eat inside her terrarium to avoid accidental ingestion of her bedding as well as to keep her habitat cleaner. Because I worry that Peaches will begin to associate handling with eating and become more aggressive, a few quiet moments of contact for the sake of contact is a good idea.

After extricating Peaches from under her rock, I settled into my blue recliner to relax. This, I thought to myself, is exactly what I needed: a full belly, laughing kids and some much-needed bonding with my unassuming reptile. Peaches slithered slowly around my forearms. She slithered so slowly, in fact, she seemed not to be moving at all. In reality, though, when I tried to arise a while later to put the kids to bed, I discovered Peaches had wiggled her way into the back cushion of the chair and I was holding just the hind third of her body! If you’ve never held a snake, you might not realize that holding the hind third is not holding much at all. You’ve got no leverage and the snake has the momentum. Accelerating from lassitude to full panic in record time, I called my son over to try to wrest Peaches’ front end from the cushion while I applied traction to her back end, but it was too late. Peaches’ muscular little body slid from my grasp in the “wild blue yonder” of the chair.

Dr. Kim lures Peaches forward with a nummy mouse meal.
Dr. Kim lures Peaches forward with a nummy mouse meal.

For some people, just imagining a snake hiding in the living room furniture is a wake-up-sweating nightmare. My biggest fear, however, was having Peaches sneak out of the chair and disappear into our old farmhouse where she might meet her demise by dehydration or predation from her biggest “fan” Cheeks. My snake book suggests tricks for catching a rogue snake. All involve laying traps around the baseboards because snakes tend to travel along the walls. Not only is my house such a colossal mess that reaching the baseboards is nearly impossible for me, but my old farmhouse also has snake-sized hidey holes in the floors and baseboards that a corn snake might happily disappear down before reaching a carefully laid snake trap. The fear of outright losing Peaches dissolved into dismay that I’d have to disassemble the blue chair to retrieve the snake as well as concern that if someone accidentally lowered the footrest, she’d be a mashed mess inside the chair. With one hand grasping the part of Peaches I could still see, my son and I carefully set the chair on its side so we could assess the inner workings. Although we couldn’t see Peaches any better this way, it made it easier to coax her slightly forward by “tickling” her back end.

With her head just visible where the back of the chair meets the armrest, Peaches put on the brakes. This is when I remembered a trick that had, in the past, coaxed her as well as Phantom out from a fake hollow log in their terraria. Food. Since it was close to feeding time, I quickly warmed up a frozen fuzzy mouse in a cup of very hot water until it was “mouse body temperature” (the non-specific but very descriptive thermal requirement set forth in my snake books). Grasping the fuzzy’s tiny hind feet with a long hemostat, I waved the meal in front of Peaches’ flickering tongue. Luckily she took the bait and emerged about half-way. Teasing her with the mouse only went so far, however. She refused to exit the safety of the seat and grew weary of my “dangling mouse” trick, so I eventually relented and allowed her to eat dinner. By now, though, I was able to grasp the front third of her body and this is a much better position to be in. Although I likewise wearied of this drama and wished I’d gone to bed when the thought first crossed my mind over an hour ago, I was now fully committed to getting Peaches out of the chair. A snake who has eaten is a snake who will soon poop, and I did not want snake poop in my easy chair!


We carefully set the chair back upright and poked our fingers along the non-removable (grrr!) seat cushion to urge Peaches forward. After many dicey minutes waiting for Peaches to commit to slithering toward our second blue chair, she emerged sufficiently from the seat-back to be safely tugged free. As I dropped Peaches back into her terrarium and latched the lid tight, I breathed a deep sigh of relief that all ended well.  It just goes to figure that a crazy catch-up work week would end in a bizarre fashion, I thought to myself. As I hurried off to bed before any more weirdness could happen in the dregs of the day, it occurred to me that it had been a true “snake-in-a-chair” kind of day.

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