The summer of 2014 was my last summer working as a camp counselor. I had been working the gig for seven years at this point and I was a pro at getting kids involved in the different camp activities. Kids are stubborn, but I had known my group of 12-year-old girls for several years and there wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before—until now.
The camp director had decided that instead of the usual camp trip to an amusement park, or the movies, this particular day we were going to have the trip come to us in the form of a reptile show. If you don’t know, a reptile show is when reptile caretakers from either a zoo or other organization bring tanks and tubs full of iguanas, baby gators, and snakes. Lots and lots of snakes.
Now I’ve always loved snakes and not just in the form of the video game that Nokia made popular again in ‘97. I mean the actual reptile. Some people have a fear of snakes, or ophidiophobia, but the thought of spelling that word without a dictionary is a lot scarier to me than the cute slithering critter.
I’ve just always thought they were charming. Now I get why people think they’re creepy. They don’t have any fluffy fur, they don’t have floppy ears, and they eat live things. Granted, the live mice thing is gross, but there are so many positive things about snakes as well. The only question here was…how do I convince 15 preteens that it was not only okay to be in the room with these snakes, but it’s okay to pet them as well?
Generally, the best approach I’ve found in my years of working with kids is that if they see an adult doing something they’ll want to copy—or at least will be less intimated if it’s something they’re unsure about. I squealed with joy when the guy in charge handed me a beautiful little snake friend to hold. I gingerly took the snake and placed him around my neck, happily petting him.
“He’s so soft girls,” I promised as my group stared at me in horror. “I wish I could take him home with me.”
I declared the snake to be my new boyfriend and gave him lots of air kisses. Tentatively one of the girls finally gave into her curiosity and asked if she could have a turn. As peer pressure swept the room, pretty soon every one of my girls was asking for a turn with my new little buddy. Now of course the snakes we were holding weren’t venomous. However, it’s important to erase the stigma that all snakes are deadly and dangerous. They’re really beautiful creatures and the more we know about them the less scared we’ll be—even the venomous ones.
In his new book, Venom Doc, Bryan Grieg Fry explores the world of these venomous creatures that really just want a little loving. His passion and respect for these reptiles and other venomous creatures is apparent throughout. Who knows? After reading, you may want a pet snake of your own.
-Sam Levitz, Assistant Managing Editor