This is Mina.
She’s a two and a half metre long Honey-Jungle-Carpet-Python from the Atherton Table Lands of Australia, and she really, really is the best.
When my family and I first got her she was tiny. She wasn’t much bigger than a large worm, and she fit into a takeaway container.
I was fourteen when she first came into my life, and getting Mina (who, after going through a bit of a Bram Stoker phase, I fondly named for Dracula’s paramour; Mina) was my first real commercial foray into adulthood.
I was told, sternly, by my father that if I really wanted a snake I had to organize getting it myself. I put together a report on snakes and everything about them, that was more comprehensive than any assignment I had ever deigned to complete. I put cases forward for different types of snakes that I would consider getting, and different reputable breeders that would sell them.
Before I go further, you have to understand that getting a snake in Australia is no small undertaking. Australia has strict regulations on only allowing snakes native to Australia to be purchased, and heavy fines apply to owners of non-native snakes. Anyone who has a pet snake needs to have a Licence too, and the type of Licence changes based on what kind of snake you have. I have a Companion Animal Licence for Mina, who is a breed of python that’s non-venomous and generally known to be placid. However, someone wanting a venomous or otherwise dangerous snake needs to go through some fairly rigorous steps to get a Licence to buy one. The setup needed to keep a snake is a lot more specific than what you might need to keep a cat or other domestic animal, too, and getting some of the niche equipment needed to care for a snake isn’t always easy.
Here is some info about caring for a HJC python for anyone interested.
When I first got Mina, she was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. She was so small and very brown, looking for all the world like she could be a moving twig (she’s quite yellow now; they get brighter in colour as they grow), and she was absolutely terrified of me.
Although she’s never bitten anyone (I promise you, she is the gentlest soul), when I first held her she was snappy, irritable and probably very afraid that I was going to eat her.
She’s been in my family for over five years now, and having her at home has changed my perception of snakes enormously. Mina is inquisitive, energetic, gentle, and beautiful.
The thing that a lot of people ask me (other than, in a horrified voice, “how do you feed her?”) is why do you have a snake, and not a dog, or cat?
The answer to that question is: because of my dad.
My father has forbade dogs and cats in our suburban home, claiming that they kill too many Australian native animals - which, unfortunately, is true. Although this was a difficult decree for a young me to cope with, as an adult looking back I think my dad made a very honourable decision and one that I will hold to for the rest of my life. Although I think it’s great that people love their dogs and cats, and I think it’s awesome that people are able to really relate to animals by having domesticated pets (like dogs, cats, fish, etc) some of Australia’s worst environmental problems have been caused by non-native animals. We have a major feral cat problem in areas of rural Australia, as well as a terrible issue with rabbits and foxes. The cat problem is especially bad, as escaped family pets have multiplied and populated areas in Australia, bringing many small Australian mammals to near and sometimes complete extinction. In fact, Australia’s cats (feral and domestic) kill two billion animals in Australia annually - which really breaks my heart.
If you want to read more about it, here are some links to update you on the subject:
Now, don’t get me wrong, I really like lots of the domesticated animals around - in fact my grandparents old cat Whiskey is still one of the coolest animals I’ve ever met - I just also think that it’s important to be really mindful about what your pet does and I encourage people to consider trying to buy native animals as pets. I really, really, really recommend that people read up about wildlife in their area, and help to save native animals by keeping pets on leashes in places like national parks (I say this from experience as near my house a family of Fairy Penguins was living until a dog off its leash in the area really hurt them, the whole community was devastated).
Now I don’t want to be a downer, because I want this piece to be a light-hearted tribute to Mina (who I think is the most gorgeous pet in the world, although I am a little biased), but I also wanted to pass on the important lessons that I have learnt from living with Mina about protecting native wildlife and the environment.
On a funnier note, Mina has had some great moments. Although she was nervous for the first few months living with me, she’s a member of the family now. She has escaped once, after wedging the glass door to her cage open with her nose and the languidly wrapping herself around the window blinds in the front room. She’s gotten into my shirt once, too. When she was about half a meter long and I was distracted while holding her, she managed worm her way between the buttons in my blouse. Needless to say, I panicked (trust me, no matter how comfortable you are with snakes, having a python in your shirt is never fun). And my favourite anecdote about Mina (who loves climbing around the TV) is when she managed to wedge herself under the flatscreen, got stuck, and nearly flipped the TV. Of course, when most people think of snakes the words sinuous, elegant, and strong might come to mind - but Mina is honestly the clumsiest animal alive. When it comes to feeding time (and yes, once or twice a month she eats rats, no they are not alive, yes they are frozen and then de-thawed in hot water; fair warning, never EVER microwave a rat for your snake … it will not end well) she usually misses the rat. My mum will dangle it in front of her with a pair of barbecue tongs and Mina will try - and usually fail - to grab it on the first few attempts.
Who says having a snake isn’t exciting?
So although we don’t cuddle, and she doesn’t like to be petted, Mina and I do hang out together and we are friends. Although Mina doesn’t jump or lick like dogs do, or curl up and purr on your lap like a cat, she does sit on the sofa with my mum and I and watch TV (she seems to have taken a particular liking to Harry Potter and Bridgeton), and she is a member of the family. So, without further ado, I humbly ask you to award my scaly beastie, Mina (Mina Bambina by family and friends), the title of empawyee of the month.
I truly believe that Mina should be empawyee of the month, because as the CEO of our household she has educated my family and I about so many things concerning Australia’s wildlife. I know that being her custodian has taught my family some really important life lessons and we wouldn’t be where we are now without her.