Easily hands down my most one of a kind snake is José the Jalapeno on a Stick. He is very smart, and has learned how to play me like a fiddle.
When he was younger he was very sick. He had chronic respiratory fits for almost two years while i had him (and most likely long before that, too) from what we later learned was black mold that had grown into the pores of the water bowl he was sold to me with at the reptile shop he used to live in. It was repeatedly contaminating his water and substrate. (He was living in pure filth there so looking back I’m not surprised.) But treating a URI caused by hidden mold is impossible by normal methods. Specifically if you aren’t aware of the mold and are trying to treat it like a husbandry caused URI. (Which my vet did, because it’s easier to insist that my husbandry was repeatedly wrong because i didn’t know what i was doing rather than admit that the treatment wasn’t working, even after years of no improvement.) I probably wasted thousands with that guy. He was a bad vet.
The issue was that the pores under his water bowl were so many and some so small, that you couldn’t possibly remove all of the particles. So i thought i was cleaning it, but honestly nothing could clean it all the way, short of boiling it, and even then i wouldn’t have trusted it. The whole thing had to be thrown away in order to stop the exposure, and thus stop the illness. In fact, i threw away everything after i finally found out the cause because i just wasn’t having it anymore.
He is a Bumblebee ball python so spider, pastel. Keep that in mind for this next part.
He would get flare ups sometimes every month, sometimes every other month and i learned to recognize when they started happening because the stress of the exposure and the stress of his illness would trigger his spider wobble and corkscrewing and that would stress him out even more, and he would start searching his enclosure non-stop. And i mean non-stop. For weeks, sometimes if i couldn’t get his treatments to work. (Which was pretty common.) I’m not gonna lie, it was the scariest, most stressful experience with an animal that I’ve ever had.
It was an identifiable pattern though. Onset, corkscrew, searching, onset, corkscrew, searching, over and over.
So i learned to recognize that pattern and every time he started showing his signs i would be in front of the terrarium. Watching him, examining him, recording his behavior, checking temps and humidity, noting the style of husbandry i was using at that time, (as i stated, the vet kept telling me it was husbandry related so i was repeatedly changing things, adjusting things, trying new substrate, heat lamp, uth, some combination of both, temps, humidity methods, i tried a tub once, (but kept that stinking water bowl ofc) I’ve done darn near everything with him.) So i noted his current husbandry, last sheds, poops, feedings, etc. Anything that could give some extra clues to the vet. I always went in there when he started acting up and checked for everything.
Well you know what they say about repetition and animals learning things. Somewhere along the line, he learned that every time he started searching or corkscrewing, the strange human would come along, take him out, and clean everything. Because NOW he’s almost 8 years old, hasn’t had a single flare up since i threw away all of his stuff in 2019. In fact, he’s been healthy as a horse since then. But he will still throw a fit whenever he want me to do something for him because he knows it works. And once I’ve figured out what the problem is and fix it, he stops. Every time. It’s not even real things for a ball python to act like they’re dying over. Water not fresh enough? Fit. Substrate due for a change? Fit. (He has very high sanitation standards.) Pooped in his favorite hide less than one hour ago? The world must be ending.
Earlier today he threw a fit for no reason! He just wanted me to let him out.
I took him out, checked all his stuff. Clean, parameters good, water is fresh, etc. He spends 30 minutes exploring, sniffing, scoping, you know, the usual. When i put him back, he’s happy as a clam. He’s currently snoozing in his hide like nothing could ever be wrong and he didn’t just pretend like he was dying earlier today in order to get some outside time.
I have 10 snakes right now. I’ve owned many more than that, and have had experience with even more than that. He is the only snake i have or have ever had/met that behaves like this. If you think about it, it’s entirely contrary to their supposed to be natural instincts to hide any signs of illness. My other snakes, i have to always make a point of looking for issues myself. I gotta hunt down their poop because they’ll just move to a different hide and pretend like it’s not there. I have to stay on top of my schedules to make sure that they’re not sitting in filth, check and replenish their water bowls. But not José! He’ll tell me. Oh, he’ll tell me…