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When I was 15, I begged my mom for a lizard. After much debate, she finally gave in and I got Clyde the Iguana. He was awesome. Friendly, curious and just plain cool. He used to sit on my shoulder while I typed up school papers. That was before computers were in every house, so it was an old-school typewriter. He loved the sounds of the keys clicking.

Clyde lived for four years and grew to about 5 feet long. I don’t have pictures of him because all my photo albums from my teen years are packed away in a mess of a garage, but he looked exactly like that guy up there.  Sadly, Clyde died young because of a calcium deficiency. It was my fault. I didn’t use the right lamp. I didn’t know. When he got sick, we didn’t have a vet that specialized in reptile care close by and we didn’t have the internet to look things up. I was devastated.

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Years later, I met Sal. He introduced me to his Ball Python, Sess. That’s her, in the picture above, curled up on Sal’s head! Before Sess, I’ve always been kind of scared of snakes. Okay, terrified! I am still a little skitzy around the smaller ones with long fangs, but I’ve discovered that I really love certain types. Mostly constrictors.

It may sound strange to those who have never been around snakes, but Sess definitely has her own personality. She’s a pretty relaxed snake and seems to like being held. When our power went out from Hurricane Sandy, I held her every night for a few hours in between three layers of clothes to keep her from freezing.

About two years ago, Sess got a weird skin condition. It looked like some of her scales had an infection of some sort. I honestly don’t know what it was called. I did a ton of research and had such a hard time finding answers. Sal had treated Sess with silver sulfadiazine in the past when she got burned on a malfunctioning heat rock, so we gave that a try. Since Sess was housed at my neighbor and friends’ house at the time due to Sal’s living arrangements, I spent a lot of time taking care of her. I cleaned her and treated her several times a week until the condition went away.

Between playing nurse to Sess and keeping her alive during the power outage, you can say I’ve bonded with her quite strongly over the last few years! I’ve also learned a lot about snakes, especially pythons. Things like:

  • Snakes really don’t eat all that often! Sess eats maybe every two weeks. Less often in the winter.
  • Older snakes don’t shed as often as baby snakes because they’re not growing as fast. Sess is in her 20s. I think she’s gotten a bit fuller since we met, but she hasn’t gotten much longer than her 5 feet.
  • Some snakes get significantly longer than others! We went to a cool reptile show back in 2013 and they had this really long albino-looking snake. Sal’s son got to go up and help hold it. He’s the smaller child on the right, next to the guy with the red hat. Although now, he’s almost as tall as me!

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I also learned that having someone who understands reptile care would be an incredible help, especially in our area. We still only have one local vet that specializes in reptiles, and I don’t particularly like or trust that vet. I am so thrilled the petMD® and PetSmart® teamed up to create the Reptile Center.


The Reptile Center is a section of petMD run by actual vets who deeply care for and understand reptile care. The site is constantly evolving to bring updated information on everything from preparing for your first snake to dealing with retroviruses in snakes. Obviously, it’s not limited to just snakes. You’ll find care info on everything from turtles to lizards! Through their partnership with PetSmart, you can grab everything you need for reptile care right through the Reptile Purchase Center. Follow petMD on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with news.

I really wish I had a resource like them when my Clyde got sick. Maybe I would have had a few more years with him.  I’m excited to see how Reptile Center continues to expand. I’ll be bringing you more tips and information over the next couple of months. Sal just got another snake about two weeks ago, so keep an eye out for pictures of her!

Do you have a reptile pet? If so, what do you love about it? If not, what type would you consider getting?