Over the years Alex had a lot of fun with Tom (named for Tom Riddle in Harry Potter) but as all little boys do Alex grew up and spent less and less time with Tom. Eventually Alex left for college and with Alex at college Tom become rather neglected. I kept his water dish full and threw him a mouse every week or two but I never played with the guy. With no human contact Tom came to think that the presence of a human being meant food and he started striking at anything that remotely looked like a mouse including my thumb. I remember one time Alex came home from college and we were sitting on his bed visiting. We noticed that
Tom had escaped from his cage and was on the floor looking
very hungry. We sat there for nearly an hour both of us too scared to pick him up. I tried to point out that it was his pet but he wasn't buying it. Finally I was tired and wanted to go to bed so I caved in and managed to pick up the animal without getting bit. The problem was that Alex was now too scared to take his snake out and clean the cage. Luckily snakes only poop about once a month but poor Tom hasn't had his cage cleaned out since some time in 2008.
I finally decided that the poor guy needed some clean quarters so one day I tried to pick him up. As soon as I pulled the bowling ball off the lid of the cage (the bowling ball is required since that animal is now strong enough to lift just about anything else) Tom's nose was aiming straight at my hand. A couple of times he even struck at the glass. There was no way I was going to put my unprotected hand anywhere near that animals face.
I finally came up with the bright idea of feeding the snake and then picking him up as soon as he swallowed the mouse. That didn't work either. As soon as the mouses tail disappeared down Toms throat I went to pick him up and immediately his head swung around and he had that look on his face. Again, there was no way I was putting my hand anywhere inside that glass.
It was about this time that Kira came to visit. She gave me this long lecture about neglecting poor Tom and tried to guilt me into spending more time with him. I reminded her that it was Alex's animal and I hadn't signed up for this. She pointed out that even though it was Alex's animal, if I was going to keep it captive I still had some obligation to make it's life as pleasant as possible. I tried to point out that I didn't think Tom was much into conversation and didn't mind some solitude. She wasn't buying it and actually spent much of her time in Alex's room visiting with Tom while she was here.
Perhaps her efforts paid off. This week I finally decided on a plan "C". I would throw Tom a mouse and while the mouses hind legs were still protruding out of Tom's mouth I would reach in and pick him up. I figured that even if he did strike at me he would be unable to sink his teeth into my thumb. Oddly enough, when I arrived with the mouse I went to pick up the bowling ball and Tom flinched as if he was scared of me. I took this as a positive sign and put the mouse down and took the lid off the cage. Tom actually kept his distance from me so I swallowed hard and reached my hand in the cage. He didn't strike at me and actually seemed a little bit scared. Between Sarah and I we kept him company for over an hour. We cleaned his cage and put the mouse in the cage before we returned Tom. I've decided to ease the guilt Kira's has tried to give me and every time I buy a mouse I will take Tom out first (assuming he doesn't have that "look") and hold him for a while. I'll put the mouse in the cage while Tom is out in the hope that he no longer associates me with a mouse. I'll let you know how it goes.