One day in August I arrived home to find a baby snake on the basement floor in front of my dog Chase’s kennel. Any snake sets off a visceral reaction that usually makes me scream and jump out of my shoes. Somehow, a snake is always a surprise. It must be a survival instinct for my heart rate to go up and the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention. But this guy was tiny, not much bigger around than a pen or pencil, and probably less than a foot long. He had rust red and gray and black markings. I think he was a corn snake. He was sitting in front of Chase, and I swear they’d had a conversation.
The snake apparently had the same reaction to me. He seemed to be concerned and very alert, but to my amazement, he didn’t move. I told him to “stay”, a natural thing for me to say since I often tell the dogs to stay. I went back out to the garage and got a shovel and a bucket. When I returned, the snake was still there (apparently an obedience prospect!) and even when I approached him, he stayed put. I gently scooped him into the bucket, took him outside, and released him in the long grass far from the house.
I could see that Chase was relieved. A few years ago, I found a baby snake in the basement and recognized it as the miniature version of a snake that can grow to be about five feet long. By the end of the summer I found 16 of the little guys in the basement and one in the living room (yes, a determined little snake can climb stairs!). We were doing construction on the front porch that year. Apparently the mama snake had been disturbed when about to lay her eggs and had left them in a place that allowed the hatchlings to drop into the basement.
I couldn’t catch these little snakes easily and I was afraid of them. Creatures that I can handle just fine in the wild can really bother me when I find them in my house. I’m not proud to say this now, but I ended up chasing the little guys down and beating them with a broom. I’ve noticed that fear of something different can make people react in extreme ways.
One day, after beating a little snake to death, I noticed Chase cowering in the corner. He was rescued from an abusive situation and must have been at the wrong end of the broom a few times himself. Seeing me wield the broom that way and knowing that I could suddenly turn into a crazy person had traumatized him. He made me realize that it was silly for a grown woman to beat a little snake to death with a broom. My adrenaline and my fear of finding these little snakes everywhere made me overreact.
So this year, when I found the baby snake, I’m pretty sure that Chase had been coaching the little guy. I can feel Chase saying, “Just hold still and she won’t run you down. If she can catch you, she can set you free.” Seeing Chase right there in front of the snake made me realize that I didn’t want to traumatize him. And since the snake stayed still and was so easy to catch, I was able to gently put him in the bucket and set him free in the grass. I guess Chase was coaching me too! If you pay attention, you can learn a lot from your dog.
Those who are familiar with spirit animals know that a snake appearing as a totem signifies that a transition or spiritual awakening will take place. Snake energy is said to be the energy of wholeness and the ability to experience anything willingly and without resistance. It is the knowledge that all things are equal in creation. It also signals a transition in your life, with new opportunities and/or changes. That is certainly true for me, with many transitions taking place this fall. I also think that perhaps Chase and the little snake created a spiritual awakening in me, or at least an awareness that I don’t have to react violently to a creature that frightens me. I don’t even have to be frightened. I’m working on living peacefully with snakes, and all creatures that make me even a little bit uncomfortable.
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