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The Zoo Keeper

Not All Creatures are Created Equal

Layla Watkins

My house is a zoo and I, partially by choice and partially by default, am the zookeeper.

My zoo houses quite a range of wildlife, each with its own unique needs, temperaments, likes, and dislikes. My job is to tend to each of these creatures. I must meet their basic needs (food and shelter) as well as provide for their higher level needs (affection, recognition, personal fulfillment, etc). Remember Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? Well, add "other duties as assigned" to his pyramid and that, in a nutshell, is my job description.

Part of what makes my job rewarding, yet at the same time challenging, is the variety of species in my charge. The inhabitants of the zoo include one husband (Wayne), two children (Gavin, 3 ½ and Kara, 5), two horses, one pony, a dog, a cat, and a fish. Given that the zoo is headquartered in a 250-year-old stone farmhouse, we also have an array of "uninvited" residents that make random appearances at inopportune times. One such resident is "Henry."


Henry is the longest standing resident of the zoo. He was here before we bought it and his progeny will surely be here long after we are gone.

I first met Henry quite by accident. We had just settled on the house and were doing some renovations before moving in. I went up to the attic to investigate how the plumbing was vented and thought, "How odd. They ran a hose off that vent rather than extending it through the roof." Upon closer inspection, though, I noticed that the hose was surprisingly shiny, textured, and not exactly round. "Oh dear God, I think it's a snake!"

Completely freaked out, I ran downstairs and called for back-up. When I told Wayne what I'd seen, he dismissed my fears by saying, "No way. If it was a snake, it would have slithered off when you got close to it. I'm sure it was just an old hose."

"I don't think so. Let's go back up and see if it's still there," I said.

When we returned to the attic, the "hose" was still there, but it had moved. Armed with an old curtain rod, Wayne began poking it, and poking it, and poking some more. Finally, it pulled its head out and totally unabashed it looked us straight in the eye as if to say, "Yes? Can I help you?"

Wayne and I just looked at each other, looked at the snake, then looked at each other again and shrugged. "What do we do? I guess he was here first."

The house had been vacant for over a year, and while we could get rid of him, there were sure to be more. We also knew he would help get rid of the mouse population. Wayne thought we should just leave him alone; however, I could not so easily reconcile having a snake living in my attic. Somehow, the animal lover in me took over and I named him Henry" in hopes that with a name, he would seem less like an intruder and more like a pet.

Well, I've never quite gotten to the point of considering Henry a pet, but I have gotten used to him. He stays in the attic and minds his own business. And, we mind ours. I wish I could say the same for one of his friends.

Not an 'Old Wives Tale'

One afternoon I was getting ready to ride one of my horses and decided I should use the bathroom before I finished dressing. I started to sit down and noticed something dark in the toilet bowl. My first thought was one of disgust. "Geez, Wayne, the least you could do is flush!"

Then, it happened. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something move and when I turned, a snake stuck its head up out of the water and started hissing at me!

I screamed like you've never heard anyone scream before and jumped clear across to the other side of the bathroom where I proceeded to jump up and down in hysterics while the snake hissed at me from the toilet bowl!

In my panic, all I could think was "Flush! Flush! Flush!" So, I did. Around and down he went and I hoped he'd drown in the septic tank!

We never did figure out how the snake got in there and we haven't seen another since. I had heard stories about snakes in the plumbing but had always thought it was just an old wives tale. Well, in case you thought the same thing, now you know - it's not!

Welcome to the Zoo!

Read other article by Layla Watkins