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Living with Snakes

By Xiaomei Chen

Zack West keeps 23 snakes in his bedroom, several of which are venomous. If you get bit by his arboreal vipers or rattle snakes, you die! Zack loves his venomous snakes as much as the other ones, if not more. “I like the dangerous aspect of snakes that makes my heart pump harder,” he boasts.

This 21-year-old Los Angeles native got his first snake from his mother when he was five. His parents thought that it would be interesting for their son to keep snakes as pets, but now they are not sure. Snakes make his room smell. They cost too much and it is expensive to keep them alive and healthy. What’s worse, they keep their relatives away from their house. Mr. and Mrs. West have told their son several times, “No more animals in the house.”

Yet nothing will stop Zack from getting more snakes into his 12 square feet bedroom, where snake cages and a bed fill most of the space. There is no room for a desk. “Once I get one, I want more. It just never stops,” Zack says.

“I like the way they move, the way they eat, the way they feel. I like the variety of colors they come in. I like everything about snakes. They are just beautiful.”

In fact, it is not just their beauty that fascinates Zack. Snakes give Zack a sense of responsibility, which he is proud of.

“My snakes are the reasons I get up in the morning. Without me, they will die. I protect them from predators in the wild. I feed them. I keep them warm and healthy. They give me something to do, keeping me from bored. And they are a reason I spend money.”

Zack spends most of his income on his snakes. He makes about $1000 a month from working at an exotic pet store in west Los Angeles. He spends about $800 a month on his snakes.

Zack, a junior psychology major at Santa Monica Community College, left school a year ago to work at a pet store so he can make enough money to feed and shelter his snakes. To save rent and other expenses, he currently lives in his parents’ house in west Los Angeles.

To Zack, his snakes always come first. Before going to a party or hanging out with friends, he always makes sure the temperature and humidity in the snake cages is right.

If you want to befriend Zack, you’d better love his snakes first.

“Snakes make me more selective about choosing friends. ”

It is not surprising that his girlfriend likes snakes, too. She didn’t like them when Zack first met her two years ago, though she was never scared of snakes. Within one week after they began dating, Zack made her hold a snake and feel it so she could get used to his snakes. Now she keeps a California king, a kind of snake from California, as her pet.

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