Monday, April 30, 2012

Our Uninvited Visitor

I was recently asked to write a blog about a certain incident that occurred a while ago.  I should issue a warning first though.  Here it is:

The following blog post contains mature themes involving scary and potentially hazardous situations with animals.  One animal was harmed in the making of this event.  
Reader Discretion Is Advised

Okay, still with me?  Are you even more intrigued after reading the warning?  Are you thinking "Man, I just have to keep reading now.  I have to know what the warning is all about."  I probably would be.

Here we go.  The date was March 9, 2012.  Kerri and I were relaxing after putting the kids to bed.  We were sitting at our dining room table, talking over the events of the day.  Suddenly we had an unexpected (and uninvited) visitor arrive at our house.  A visitor of the slithery, scaly, forked-tongue, beady eyed type.

A bit of background first.  Before we came here I did a bit of research into the wildlife in the area.  I was thinking about having to go into the jungle to scout out potential climbing areas.  I figured that knowing what kinds of animals I could face would help to determine the risk/reward ratio for a day out on the rocks.  I wanted to know what kinds of bites and stings I could expect when I reached up over my head for that next handhold, unable to see over the lip of the rock I was about to grab...  The idea of reaching into a hole filled with snakes, spiders, ants, or other segments of God's wonderful Creation that show their love for humanity by biting, stinging, or spitting venom was not really something I was looking forward to.

So in my research the first thing I did was Google it.  I asked the brilliant magical Google fairies what they knew about snakes in the Philippines.  They showed me a website that started with "The Philippines is home some of the deadliest snakes in the world, including the much feared Philippine Cobra, the most toxic of all cobra species..."  That's reassuring.  Thanks magical Google fairies.

When we arrived here I asked one of the people who has been here much longer than us about the snakes.  His response?  "If you see a snake, stay away from it.  There are a LOT of deadly venomous snakes here."  We had another person recommend that we get a dog.  Not for companionship.  Rather, "so that your yard would smell like dog urine.  That will keep the snakes out of your yard."  So Philippine cobras, king cobras, pit vipers, and sea snakes in the ocean.  Ahhh, life in a tropical paradise.

So with that in mind let me continue with the story.  Up to this point we had dealt with ants (many many ants), a few cockroaches, some geckos, and the bats that would fly by outside at night.  That was it.  Nothing too scary or potentially harmful.  Kerri and I were sitting there, relaxing.  We noticed that our cat, Coconut, who was in the kitchen, was acting a bit strange.  That's not saying much, because she tends to act strangely quite often.  Especially when she spies a gecko crawling along the walls.  She loves geckos.  She loves to watch them, to chatter at them, and to catch them.  She loves her gecko-snacks.  So for her to be acting a bit strange is nothing new.  We assumed at first that she had caught herself a gecko.  Kerri went to investigate, because as much as she likes eating gecko-snacks, we like her to not eat them, because they eat the bugs.  Having geckos in the house is a good thing.

Unfortunately this time it was not a gecko.  It was a snake.  She didn't know quite what to make of this long, skinny thing that had come into the house.  She seemed to want to play with it, but she wasn't sure.  She may have thought it would make a good snack too (a snake-snack?).

Kerri saw immediately that it was not a gecko that Coconut was playing with.  Kerri grabbed Coconut to get her away from the snake, which Coconut didn't think was really fair.  She scratched and squirmed to try to get down.  I grabbed Coconut and locked her in out bedroom.  Kerri stayed in the kitchen to keep an eye on the snake (from a distance of course).

My mind was racing.  What was I going to do about this snake?  How could I catch it?  What should I do with it afterwards?  What if there were more?  I had visions of a whole nest full of deadly cunning snakes (imagine Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark), bent on ridding the world of humanity in order to assume their position as the dominant species on the planet.  I realized that I was the last hope for humanity, the lone obstacle between life as we know it and a world ruled by reptiles (Planet of the Snakes?).  It was my time to put on my cape and take my place among the superheros of the world. (Maybe I've watched a few too many movies, hey?)

Okay, maybe not, but I was concerned that there was a snake in the house.  Mainly because I didn't know what kind of snake it was.  For all I knew it could have been a young king cobra or Philippine cobra.  I don't know what those look like necessarily.  Snakes all kind of look the same, especially when the adrenaline is pumping through your body.  The other thing that adrenaline can do is to skew how we view reality.  In my mind that snake was at least a bazillion feet long, and probably ate whole cows for a snack.  I knew I had to take care of it.  And by "take care of it" I meant TAKE CARE OF IT.

So of course I did what any red-blooded Canadian man would do.  I ran and hid.

Just kidding.  I immediately went on a quick search for something weapon-like.  I briefly considered grabbing a kitchen knife, but then I thought about how I hadn't sharpened them in a while, so it may just tickle the snake, or just make it mad.  I thought about a frying pan, but the snake was right by the shelf where they were kept.  I didn't think the snake would be too enthusiastic about moving out of the way so that I could grab one.  "Excuse me Mr. Snake, could you move over so I can grab something heavy to flatten you with?"

I decided on something with a bit of length, enough weight to do the job, and with an ergonomic grip designed to facilitate a swinging motion.  How about a hammer?  Yeah!  Great idea!

So I grabbed my hammer and faced off against my archenemy. It was a hard fought battle, but in the end I ended up with no wounds and the snake ended up with a very flat head.

Then I had to do something with a slightly flattened, but otherwise quite normal-looking, snake.  It didn't seem quite so scary after being introduced to the business end of a hammer.  And it didn't look so big anymore either.  So I took it outside and inspected it to try to figure out what kind of snake it was.  To this day I have no idea for sure.  Turns out that much of snake identification is based on characteristics of its head, and since this particular snake had a somewhat distorted head it was hard to make a positive identification.

What I did learn from the magical Google fairies is that there is a way to determine if a snake is venomous or not.  It involves inspecting some of the scales on the underside of its body.  Good to know for next time, although I still don't think I will try to pick up a strange snake to try to inspect the scales on its underside.

So upon inspection of the snake postmortem, it was in fact non-venomous.  I now have a bit of remorse about my harsh treatment of our uninvited visitor, but I have managed to keep the world safe from the perils of the reptilian uprising.


Anonymous said...

Oh Steve, you're amazingly brave!! You certainly did NOT get that from me!! If I found a snake in my house I would have been on the 1st flight home and the snake would have been Coconut's problem!! Glad it all turned out OK for you; too bad about the snake...yeah, right!!!
Love Mom xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

I'm with your mom.... heather

Ray Gabriel said...

Hello, I'm a Davaeño, and I just came across your blog last evening.
And I read all your blogs from the time you arrived here in davao up to this point non-stop. I'm so entertained with your sense of humor and I'm amused with all your experiences. You even pointed out things here in Davao that I barely noticed. And you are actually leaving a few weeks from now. It sounds like or felt like I just have watched a movie or read a fairytale. I hope you'll bring all the wonderful memories and the good lessons you had here. I'm inspired and thankful to be part, somehow, in your journey for over one night. God bless you always! You and your family are blessed! What a wonderful life! :)