Grace fuck, why would you invoke her name like that???
Okay, fine, gather round children, buckle up because we’re going on a bumpy ride back to everyone’s collective least favorite place: 7th grade.
Some background: I went to a very small Catholic school. One class per grade (we were the largest with 19 kids), everyone knew each other whether they wanted to or not. Despite basically every teacher and faculty members insistence that we were The Best And Most Special Class In The School and that everyone loved having us, the longstanding 7th grade teacher Mrs. O’Haradecided to retire in the summer of 2008, meaning the school had to find us a new teacher for the upcoming year. This would be like, the first new teacher in the school in a while, and as she was getting the ‘best class’, it was viewed as a Big Deal. Somewhere in like July or August we got a letter announcing Mrs. Stubel, and it came with a list of books to pick for the summer reading, and that was basically all the information we had.
So…the first day of class. She seems nice enough. Very…ditsy, I guess? It was very easy for her to get herself off topic while talking. She constantly paced around the room, never staying in one spot for longer than a second, complaining she has restless leg syndrome. Which like, I’m sure she did, but she was in the middle of introducing herself and then went on a 20 minute tangent about restless leg syndrome without anyone prompting her. It was almost like you could see her scattered thoughts flying around her head.
So anyone, she eventually gives somewhat of an introduction- she had only taught in public schools before, and kept worrying she ‘didn’t know’ how to teach in a Catholic school despite the entire class insisting literally nothing was different, you just teach the curriculum, twice a week we have religion class with Sister Mary King, that’s literally it (she still talked over us in worry), she told us about her kids, she told us about her obsession with Emily Dickinson, stuff like that.
And then she hands us this worksheet.
She’s like, “Oh, these are just some basic questions for you to answer! Just so I can get to know you guys better!” like in lieu of an icebreaker game, which is fine, but…the questions. The questions were all “What is your most haunting fear?”, “What is your deepest regret?”, “Have you ever experienced the pain of loss?”, “What was your worst injury?”, “What was your worst nightmare?”, all questions like that, and then on the back she wanted us to draw a gravestone and write out what we wanted our epitaph to be.
We were twelve year olds, mind you.
Oh my God and one girl missed the first day because of her grandmother’s funeral, so when she came the next day and saw what the teacher was insisting she do for homework, she almost had a panic attack? And the lady still made her do it? Literally who wants to think about death anymore at a time like that omfg.
Okay, so then we get to the summer reading book reports, right? Now, she had given a list of maybe, 20 books that you could pick from, read it, and then present an oral report on it. You had to have notecards and you had to be able to answer questions from the class at the end. All in all, I’ve had worse projects.
So, on this list, she apparently put Madeleine L’Engle’s entire book series on the list…only she did not make it known that this was a series and not multiple stand alone books, so when reports started up it caused mass-panic of kids trying to put together plot points and make connections on what the hell they had read.
I was the only kid in the class who had chosen to read “A Wrinkle In Time”, and that has since lead to a series of events that…really actually scares me, I’m still incredibly freaked out, I’m not going to get into it right now because it’ll take away from the current story, but just know that I’m not above wondering if it only happened because I read the book for Stubel.
Anyway, so like, I got through the report okay. The class asking questions about it was fine, but the teacher kept asking questions that didn’t make sense, like, at all. My friend Angie has always had super neat handwriting and Mrs. Stubel got like, obsessed with her notecards and asked if she could borrow them for something. When we got our grades back a few weeks later, Angie had points taken off for not having notecards.
And then her teaching just…didn’t happen. She’d never stay on a topic, she’d always get herself distracted! We were not learning anything. And like, this wasn’t a class of advanced smart kids that loved to learn. By all accounts we should’ve been thrilled. But it got out of hand. It got to points where we had to start teaching lessons to ourselves, asking teacher from other grades for help, always coming home in tears, complaining constantly to our parents and the principal because this woman wasn’t teaching us anything. There were two kids who asked her multiple times for extra help, and she told them each time to ‘talk to me after school’, but then she’d leave immediately after school so they wouldn’t be able to talk to her. They finally brought up the issue in the middle of class and she had a breakdown, yelling about how nobody ever thinks that maybe the teacher has a lot of work to do, and maybe she’s entitled to taking off early, but when we tried to argue she shouldn’t schedule meetings and then break them off in the name of relaxation, she stormed out of the room and tried to get the principal to give us detention. (Which, like, our school didn’t even do, and she was the only one in the wrong during this situation) We are still in September at this point, and already at least ten kids have parents considering transferring them to another school. (And remember, there was only 19 of us, and most of the class had been together since preschool, so that was a big deal).
Then, she starts coming in with all the weird bruises. All the Moms™ immediately started gossiping that her husband had to be beating her, and that’s why she was so screwy in the head. But the way she talked about her husband made it seem like he *might* be dead, and we actually did witness her fall and smack her head into a doorknob once, so no one really knew what to believe. (Also, I’m not trying to imply that abuse would make someone crazy or ‘damaged’ or anything, this is just what was being said. I think they were trying to turn her into a more sympathetic character, because if you feel sorry for her you don’t have to hate her for frustrating your kids so much, and Hate Is A Bad Emotion.)
Also…this woman and Emily Dickinson.
She talked about Emily Dickinson every chance she could get. None of us knew who Emily Dickinson really was before she got there and you could see in her mind it was a capitol offense. She found out the curriculum didn’t have room to cover her (because like, we had a text book), and was way too upset about it. She started reading her poems whenever she found the time (usually somewhere in history class), and always gave us very detailed accounts about her dressing up as Emily and reading her poetry at the library.
Now, two things to note here:
The library did not hire her to do this. She would literally just get in the mood, put on an Emily Dickinson costume that she made by herself, drive to different libraries, and just read poetry out loud to everyone there until someone eventually asked her to leave.
The way she described these events…her tone, the look on her face, her posture…you could just tell that she was getting some sort of sexual gratification out of this? Like dressing up as Emily Dickinson in public and reading her sad poems is really what got this lady’s jollies rocking? Got her all hot and bothered? Which is…a lot, but why would you tell a bunch of seventh graders about it holy shit. What about that sounds like a good idea! What about that turns you back on!
So anyway, we learned a lot about Emily Dickinson against our will.
One of the Davids™ was reading a book for pleasure- which shouldn’t have been a shocker, a lot of kids always had books on them, but Stubel got really interested and asked if she could borrow it from him. He was like ‘sure, after I finish it?’ but she took it that day. He asked her for it back for like five weeks straight.
Okay, so the school was trying some dorky thing to promote ~togetherness~ or some virtue or something, I don’t remember the specifics of why, but each class had to make a huge themed poster and hang it on the wall outside the classroom. Which was like, whatever, not the most thrilling project but at least it allowed us to be productive vs just sitting there as the teacher runs about the room rambling about her family vacation from four years ago. Mrs. Stubel decided we needed a quirky nickname and after like three days of deliberation we were christened “Stubel’s Special Strudels”!
(points for alliteration or whatever, but no one actually voted for that and what exactly do strudels have to do with Catholicism? It became a big running joke amongst the kids)
Also, in case you were wondering, she didn’t explain the assignment correctly to us- so every other class had like these beautiful, artistic, well-themed and put together posters, while ours was just…literally a bunch of shit thrown together on paper. Nothing fit with each other, it was literally embarrassing to look at.
But then…she wouldn’t drop the strudel thing. Like she kept bringing it up. She got really into strudels and would just tell us random shit about them. Finally, someone jokes that we should get strudels one day for a party (like instead of a pizza party), and she’s Freaking Out and On Board. She really wants to buy us strudels and have a breakfast party now. She talked about it for like two days straight.
So like… you know in school when you would have a pizza party, usually the teacher would buy it? That’s how they always happened in my experience (not counting the last day of 10th grade when some kid had pizza delivered to the school for lunch but it didn’t get there until math class lol). But especially in grade school? Like if it wasn’t a PTA made party that’s super organized, the school would buy the food, right? Right?
Yeah, so she was like, if this is happening you guys need to give me the money. Just give me the money and then I’ll pick them up on my way to work!! And after some arguing some kids are on board. Strudels should only cost a couple dollars right?
And she’s like, oh no, I’m gonna get them from this high end bakery near my house so it’ll be special, but they’re not cheap and it’ll be a big order! I’m gonna need like fifteen dollars from each of you!
And at this point I’m just like…lady. Come on.
But she keeps insisting. She’s not gonna go until every student in class pays up.
And I’m like…I’m poor. I don’t even like strudel. And some of the less-naïve kids are siding with me.
And then she pulls that “you guys are just spoiling all the fun for your classmates” shit, like the naïve kids who already paid up, so it gets to the point where we just gotta cave and give her the money.
(I ended up stealing it out of my Crazy Bitch Aunt’s wallet so it’s whatever, I guess.)
And then of course, shockingly enough, every morning she was met with “where are the strudels?” and every morning she went wide eyed, slapped her forehead and yelled in embarrassed horror “I totally forgot! Tomorrow, guys, I promise!”
Honestly, with how scatterbrained and confused she always was…like to this day I can’t tell you with 100% certainty whether she hustled us or was just actually forgetting about the damn pastries, I choose to lean towards the hustled us side because that’s just the type of people I’m used to, but if I found out it was innocent forgetfulness I wouldn’t exactly be surprised.
She couldn’t handle more than one person talking at a time. Like, we’d have break periods, or group work, or something and all the talking made her go wide-eyed and batty. She’d look overworked and anxious and would be darting around the room trying to do work or something but she couldn’t focus and she’d yell at anyone who tried to talk to her directly. I remember one time she was using this boys desk for something so he asked “where am I supposed to sit?” and she snapped “Sit on the ceiling for all I care!”. And this kid was the Class Clown™ , so he immediately grabbed a chair in one hand and started climbing the bookcase to try and reach the ceiling. She’s standing right next to this and doesn’t even notice. He got all four chair legs planted on the ceiling and was trying to somehow maneuver his way into the chair (I really don’t know what the plan was exactly- he was really tall and it was a small building, so I think he probably had the idea that if he can get his body upside down and in the chair, and stretch out his arms like a hand-stand to hold onto bookcase, he could arguably sit on the ceiling.) but he slipped. Crashed into my desk and the two desks next to me, knocked over the book case, broke the chair in half and hit the desks with enough force to knock them down lower. It was hilarious. Everyone was loosing their shit cracking up (he was fine) and it still took Stubel like five minutes to notice his lying out across the desks right in front of her eyes. She was pissed but how did she miss any of it in the first place? She was barely being helpful in whatever it was she was trying to do.
This was the year the Phillies were going to the World Series, and all the grades were having a Phillies Rally in the cafeteria so a news crew was coming to the school and each class was supposed to come up with fun little cheers for them to broadcast. Multiple cheer ideas were presented to her and she vetoed all of them, someone even suggested just singing the damn eagles theme song with replaced words and calling it a day but she vetoed that too, she was very adamant that she could come up with a cheer all by herself and it’ll be the best one (whoever had the best cheer was winning like an ice cream day or something idk). And then like…literally five minutes before the rally she just hands us signs with the letters and was like ‘we’re just gonna spell out Phillies it will be cute won’t it my strudels???’. We were the weakest class there, predictably. I think we lost to the kindergarteners. There might still be a video online of me yelling “i “ passionately at the top of my lungs. It was online bc our cheer was so bland the news crew cut it out of the broadcast.
I literally can’t say enough about how she never taught us anything. She’d be going on some tangent about how she doesn’t understand the science behind skiing, and I’d be like “Okay yes but please can you just tell me where Romania is on a map???” And she’d start fights whenever someone actually wanted to learn. It was so easy to get her angry but so hard for her to stay on topic. Kids started teaching the class themselves! Like seriously, she’d be rambling and one of us would just go up to the podium, open the teacher’s guide textbook and just start reading out loud and talking over her. By the time she noticed we’d be halfway through a lesson. And we understood it better than when she tried! You know something’s wrong when pre-teens are more qualified for a job than an adult who supposedly went to school for this.
We were in the church having run-throughs for our upcoming Confirmation and she almost set the church on fire…fifteen different times. In less than half an hour. How hard is it to hold a candle?
Okay, and here’s when stuff starts kicking up. It was October 28th, a Tuesday, and it was our last day of school that week because they were having parent-teacher conferences the rest of the week. So we were just hanging out, watching movies in class and reading (lord knows we weren’t learning), and Stubel calls me over to her desk.
So like, she had given everyone little bags with candy for Halloween, but I get up there and she hands me an extra one. And she’s like “Molly I know your birthday is tomorrow and I bought you a present but I left it on my coffee table this morning by accident! So just have the candy for now!”
And I’m like….”Ma’am I’m like, the sixth birthday this year. You didn’t give anyone else presents?”
And she goes “Oh, I know but this is a special secret surprise. I just know you’re gonna love it! Do you wanna stop by my house later this week to pick it up or should I just give it to you Monday after school?”
And like…In writing this sounds like a non-threatening exchange, and like, it was, but I felt so uncomfortable holy shit. I’m looking over my shoulder and shooting my friends SOS signals. Something about this felt so weird in my gut omfg. I told her thanks and I’d just see her Monday.
So we flash forward to Wednesday- my 13th birthday, the day the Phillies won the world series, and also the day my mother innocently strolled into the school for her meeting only to be met with screaming, the sound of heavy destruction, and the school secretary Mrs. Daily running at her in a panic, waving her arms and yelling “YOUR MEETING IS CANCELLED YOUR MEETING IS CANCELLED GET IN MY OFFICE NOW!”
So my poor mother, who thought she could handle this whole meeting in a few minutes and barely be an hour late for work, is now barricaded in the front office with the school secretary, as the noises from down the hall get louder and louder. The woman explains that they had gotten so many complaints about Mrs. Stubel that this morning, when she got to the school, the principal Sister Patricia called her in and said “Listen, we need you to be professional and still have the parent conferences, but we have to let you go. We just don’t think you fit in well here, and the kids need to come first and feel comfortable in their school.” and like, I’m paraphrasing because I wasn’t there, but we all know she was very polite and professional about it.
Mrs. Stubel, however…was not.
She flipped her chair and stormed out of the office, and locks herself in the seventh grade classroom. She started wrecking the shit out of that place, screaming obscenities and the top of her lungs, they had to call the cops on her! She was locked in there for almost an hour! And let me just give you a nice little list of everything she did in that classroom:
Smashed three windows.
Threw everything off her desk and carved swear words all over it.
Got cleaning fluid that she knew would damage the chalk boards, smeared it all over.
Cracked the chalk boards by repeatedly smashing chairs against them.
Wrote swear words all over the walls and on desks
Went into students desks, ripped up their books.
Stole my glasses. (which were in my desk bc I only used them in class at the time)
Threw some desks around.
Carved swear words into the boards. (there was so much carving I’m assuming she just had a knife on her person, which has to lead to the question, did she have a knife on her while she was in class with us?)
Physically ripped the hooks to hang backpacks on out of the wall.
Knocked the closet door off it’s hinges.
Ripped up all the books in the bookcases and threw their pages all around the room.
Wrote lewd phrases inside student’s desks.
Broke multiple chairs.
Used her podium as a battering ram against the wall that’s in front of where the backpacks go. (the wall won but Damage Was Inflicted)
Set a fire in the trash can.
When the principal and other teachers started trying to get in, she tossed her rolling chair at the door to scare them off.
She was screaming curse words at the top of her lungs the entire time, and cursing the school and the kids and the principal and the church in general, and the school building was small, so all the parents and the smaller children that had to come to the meetings (who were locked in their respective classrooms in fear) heard everything.
So much more? But it’s 4:30 in this morning and this list is already long.
So my mom is in the front office and deadass the
entire police force
shows up, running down the hallway to the classroom yelling at her to stop, and it takes a while for them to get her out holy shit. They knocked down the door and she tried to escape out of one of the broken windows! But they got her and dragged her out.
So of course, in such a small school with very involved parents this shit spread like wildfire. The entire town knew within the day. The poor principal called the newly retired old-seventh grade teacher and was like “So we…need some help” and the lady was like “I already heard I’ll be there Monday” omfg. I remember I got a text from one of my classmates saying “if your birthday wish was for us to be set free from the beast I love you” omfg.
So, we eventually go back to school on Monday and everyone’s buzzing. The principal has us go to the cafeteria and she ‘delicately’ explains the situation, and that the old teacher is coming out of retirement for us, the school has a restraining order against Mrs. Stubel now and that she’s sorry we had to deal with this mess. Our classroom had to go under some heavy reconstruction before we could be let back in there, so for like two weeks we alternated between the cafeteria and the preschooler’s classroom, we had no books or anything, just provided loose-leaf paper and pens. It was like, surreal, but everyone was just so happy to be rid of her and to be in the presence of a competent teacher omfg. We eventually were able to get back into our usual classroom.
It took a while for things to go completely back to normal, though. After the big spectacle she made, for weeks after she was fired we were all very scared of the possibility of Mrs. Stubel returning to the school with a gun in hand. It was always a topic we whispered about at lunch with wide eyes and shivers. Like…genuine nightmare scenario.
About two weeks after she was fired, a boy in the back of the classroom gasped loudly during SSR, and when we all looked at him, he whispered in anger “She never gave us our freakin’ strudels!”
About three months after she was fired, we were lined up at the door to go to Library when a few of us looked through the windows and saw something darting through the trees. It was fast and we couldn’t make anything out, so we let it drop. When the class and teacher returned half and hour later, the book she had borrowed months before from one of the boys was sitting on his desk. It was just laying there, the room was silent, nothing had been disturbed…but I have never seen a book look so threatening. People were freaking out. Someone kept insisting that she turned the book into a bomb. No one figure out how she got in the school, and no one could figure out how she got it on the right desk, as we had switched the seating arrangement since she had last been there.
A full six months after she had left, it was nearing the end of the school year and our class was dicking around during our last computer class. Someone found a website (that we weren’t allowed to be on) that pulls up any police records attached to whoever’s name you enter, so someone decided to search Mrs. Stubel as a joke. We ended up finding out she had like six DUI’s.
Aaaaand that’s the story of the horrendous teacher I had for two months in 7th grade. One of my favorite party stories but tbh she still haunts me™ .
I want a Sharkboy and Lavagirl remake where the CGI is insanely good and the acting is super emotional and intriguing, but nothing about the story changes. Sharkboy still has to sing the dream song and mister Electricidad still has to go “YOU ARE IN MY CLASS!!! NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND”
This is probably my favorite hex because it’s just so darn easy, and usually pretty effective.
The last time I used it was on a woman who was being baligerant to a cashier at the grocery, (the cashier was from India and this woman was telling her very loudly that she should go back to Iraq and stop taking a job from her poor Canadian granddaughter… I guess the granddaughter had applied there and not got the job? I don’t know the deets). I turned to her, clutched my necklace (it’s just an antique looking locket watch, nothing special), pointed to her and said the words just loud enough that she could tell it wasn’t English.
I guess it didn’t hurt that I was also dressed pretty witchy.
She was like, “Did you just curse me?!?” and I just smiled, winked at the cashier and walked out. I waited just outside the Second Cup that was next to the grocery to watch this lady come out… And didn’t she just trip over her own two feet in grand fashion on her way to her car! I laughed and I laughed and I laughed.
What? I’m not… No, who am I kidding… Yes I am a bitch.
You know what I love more about Jin and the pink crocs? He has thingies on them, I can't what kind of additions he put there, I remember my eldest had these cars things on his crocs when he was younger. Oh man.
Oh my god friend, I didn’t even NOTICE THIS. OF COURSE JIN WOULD HAVE EXTRA SPECIAL CUSTOMIZED PINK CROCKS OF FUCKING COURSE HE WOULD I”M GHGHGHHHGHH
Or, YOI is technically a sports anime but doesn’t follow a lot of tropes, so what if I did an AU where it does? And I just happen to love KnB, so basketball it is. High school sports + the Power of the Team and Friendship ™ + student life + training camps + graduating senpais etc…
something that i really, really hope happens in regards to finn and rey’s relationship in the upcoming films is a huge emphasis on how much FINN means to rey.
because a lot of ugly racists and re/ylos like to say that their relationship is so obviously ~one sided, that finn clearly likes rey but she doesn’t feel as strongly for him (when that’s far from the truth).
so what i REALLY want to see is rey being affectionate towards finn. i want to see her run to him and embrace him, i want to see her laugh at his jokes and look at him like he’s the only thing in the galaxy. i want HER to be the one to say “i love you,” or something along those lines, first- because not only would that be GREAT character development for rey, who has gone so long without having anyone and has finally allowed herself to grow attached to and feel for someone else- but also because it would prove that rey loves finn. it would prove that yes, rey, the white woman protagonist of this trilogy, loves finn, the black man protagonist of this trilogy.
so lucasfilm, please give me a rey who misses finn so much it hurts while she’s away with luke, a rey who cries over him and for him, a rey who is so obviously smitten with this good, brave, incredible man so that nobody can deny that finn is loved by her.
for once, let a black man be the hero; let him “get the girl,” let him be the shining light for those around him- let finn be loved, fiercely and undeniably, so that nobody can deny how important and amazing he is.
In Super Mario World, jumping on the platforms in Vanilla Ghost House in the order shown will produce a hidden 1-Up. The reason is that four of the platforms contain special control points that, if touched in order, will generate a 1-Up when Mario touches the last one.
Just as a general note
You should eliminate any thought that there is an expectation that you do anything by any age
You don’t have to be married with kids by 25
It’s ok to be 16 and never been kissed
There’s nothing wrong with you if you haven’t graduated from college by 22
You’re not a failure because you don’t have your dream job at 30
There are no rules to life. You don’t get special points for achieving certain things by a deadline. Just go at your own speed. It’s not a race.
Can you explain me why the FGC hate smash melee or rather, melee players? I like smash but i dont follow the competitive scene.
Okay here’s the main reasons
One, Melee fans are notoriously annoying and problematic. If some bullshit happens at an FGC event, nine times out of ten it’s centered on Melee. Melee players are the ones who cause trouble with nearby hotels and venues. They’re the ones that don’t bathe en masse, they’re the problem children. What’s more annoying is that this ties into the second point;
Two, Melee requires special set ups. Every single thing used to play Melee is old. You gotta use a Gamecube or a Wii, gotta use a CRT, gotta use gamecube controllers (fuck the pros NOW use SPECIAL CONTROLLERS BROKEN IN A VERY SPECIFIC WAY). This essentially means you need TOTALLY SEPERATE SET-UPS for Melee from every other fucking game that might be at EVO. But the actual competition set-ups aren’t as bad as the fucking shit melee fans who drown in pools or don’t even try
I can’t even count how many times I have seen melee fucks try and co-opt some CRT and equipment someone else brought to set up another old game. It’s fucking bananas. They’ve literally tried to just steal people’s shit. Fuck them.
Third, Nintendo hates Melee and keeps demanding more bullshit from EVO to let them keep running it. This is why EVO even had Pokken last year, Nintendo’s insistence.
Four, Melee is just fucking boring at this point. It’s a stagnate community with a talent pool that has been set in stone for a couple years now. There is no realistic way to get into melee. There is no new blood coming into melee. There are no surprises in Melee. Like I mentioned before; pros are now breaking their controllers in very specific ways to improve their performance that extra bit. It’s over.
Melee has had a longer life at EVO than any other game on the planet. Age has caught up. It’s time to start phasing it out.
is there a tag for getting set up with someone? • is there a special tag for when the people setting you up are children? • the point is children are demons of romance • and they have neither tact nor morals
I have had Vision, a dwarf BCI and my youngest snake, for roughly 9 months now. He will be a year old in July, so by snake standards he is still very much a baby. In the past 9 months, he’s gone from, for lack of better words, a bitey defensive asshole to a relatively passive and trusting creature who simply has Rules ™ on how, where, and when he can be touched. I used the same method to produce these results as I do with all of my reptiles, including my young snake of a notoriously aggressive and defensive species (Amazon Tree Boas) and have frequently been asked how I manage to get these animals that instinctively bite first and ask questions never to allow handling and pictures without drawing blood.
On my dog blog I’ve mentioned the concept of body autonomy a few times in relation to training dogs, and how it crosses over into husbandry in other species. In these posts I’ve detailed how I tame the larger birds at my job, how I teach my snakes not to bite me when I take them out, how I can successfully convince a thrashing dog to accept grooming without a fuss, how I teach cats to not turn into screaming demons for nail trims, and more. I also cover this in many of my dog training lectures at work as my students teach their dogs to allow grooming, nail trims, and medically related handling to prevent injuries and incidents when interacting with these animals. All of this relates back to body autonomy, and how we as humans have consistently ignored other species’ instinctive need to be autonomous.
I am no master animal trainer and do not play one on TV. I train pet dogs and service dogs and have begun to venture into competition, at one point I specialized in rehabbing aggressive and reactive dogs. I have trained various common pet animals in occasionally unconventional ways to do things that make life easier for the both of us, but I don’t claim to be anything special, because what I’m doing is not all that special. It is, however, uncommon for people to make these considerations with their pets and then they call in someone like me to fix a problem that didn’t need to start in the first place.
An example being: frequently on this website and others, the solution for convincing a biting snake not to bite you is to hold it still until it stops biting you. The snake will learn that biting you does not produce the desired result (you letting the snake go or putting it back in its cage) and thus will eventually stop biting you when you pick it up.
In the dog training world, we call this flooding and learned helplessness. It “works” because it produces what we wanted it to. The snake no longer bites when you pick it up. But it failed to address the root of the problem, and frequently if regular handling is not maintained the snake will return to biting you every time you touch it. The snake had learned that there was nothing it could do in order to make you stop doing what it didn’t like, and so had learned that it was helpless against the much larger human. The snake in this situation still doesn’t really want to be handled, it is merely tolerating it because it sees no other option.
While snakes have a much more primitive brain than dogs and thus a much more limited scope of emotions, aggression and violence are always expensive measures to use and thus are frequently considered last resort measures to make an unpleasant situation stop. They are costly in body resources- they take large amounts of energy, stress, and time to resolve, and wounds obtained from violence can become deadly with infection or severity. As a result, a bite should always indicate that whatever you are doing is so unpleasant to the animal you’re doing it to that they’re willing to risk their life in order to make you stop. The common pet snake knows it cannot win against an animal as large as a human. It is hoping you have not come to the same realization, and will not call its bluff.
This creates a problem. Like with dogs, backing off from a situation that is required after a bite will teach the snake that all they have to do to get you to leave them alone is to bite you. If I need to trim my dog’s nails, give him a bath, brush him, or have him examined by a vet, sure I could put him in a muzzle and force him to do it anyway, but it is counter-intuitive to teach him that all he has to do is bite me in order to get out of doing those things he may consider unpleasant. I need to be able to handle my snakes. This is not negotiable, just like the above things I do with my dogs are not negotiable. If I cannot handle them, I cannot check them for injury, disease, or distress. Backing off because my snake, or dog, has threatened to bite me is thus not a viable option. I must be able to complete the task, and the animal in question must let me.
Dogs, by comparison, are relatively easy to convince in this problem. I need to be able to do my dog’s nails. If I give him amazing treats on a good reward schedule, shower him with praise, listen to his body language to give him a chance to calm down and destress before pressing on, and remove my own negative emotions from the equation, he will learn to let me do his nails and even offer the position required for the task within a relatively short amount of time. He does not have to like having his nails done, but I can convince him to like he benefits he gets out of it. Cats and birds and small mammal pets like ferrets, rabbits, and rodents may be slower, but follow much the same way.
I can’t give a snake a treat. That’s not really how snake digestive systems work. I can’t give them a toy. I can’t give them praise. The subtleties of snake body language are much harder to read due to a lack of eyelids, ears, and limbs. Dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, all of these are social creatures that practice social bonding and feel an emotion similar to love (in the dog’s case, actually do feel love). Snakes are not social creatures and their brain is not capable of producing the chemicals involved in the emotion we call love. I cannot convince a snake to love me or to like being handled. That is not something their biology is able to do. Does that mean I have to rely on flooding and learned helplessness in order to get them to let me handle them?
I keep stressy species. While all reptiles are more than capable of stressing themselves to death, my current list of exotic pets includes a special needs ball python with a severe neurological condition, a brazilian rainbow boa specifically purchased from someone who breeds minimally stressy snakes because he got tired of the species’ reputation for being bitey assholes, and a dwarf bci locality (read: like a subspecies, but not different enough to get their own scientific name) known for being defensive bitey assholes. Previously, I had a special needs corn snake that was a defensive bitey asshole, an amazon tree boa that was remarkably handleable despite the species’ reputation for being aggressive and defensive bitey angry assholes, and a few foster ball pythons that came from neglect situations and had never been handled before leading to them being defensive bitey assholes. Stress is common in situations where aggression or violence is utilized, even if it is being utilized by the animal and not the human. If the stress from moving can kill my beloved ATB Hydra, why would I intentionally expose him to situations where he would feel required to use violence again and again until he learned that that was not a way out of the situation?
I did not flood my snakes. I hold them. They do not bite me. It has been a long time since any of them have even struck at me, and the majority of the bites and strikes I have received have been from when I was learning the snake in front of me or from me intentionally ignoring their body language and handling them a way I knew they didn’t like for whatever reason. Snakes do not bite without cause. Whether you, a human, can see that cause or not, snakes do not bite because they are vindictive or mean. As said, their brains are far too primitive to feel such complex emotions. Even wild snakes do not bite without provocation- whether you intentionally provoked them or not does not matter, simply whether they felt provoked enough to need to defend themselves possibly with their lives.
Vision came to me unsure of my intentions and of whether I could be considered safe. He certainly didn’t believe I should be picking him up. At two months old, the world is a scary place to a baby snake where nearly everything is bigger than you and nearly everything wants to kill or eat you. I do not blame him for doubting the warm giant cooing over him with grabby hands. To him, I’m sure I am some baffling mixture of hawk, bear, and wild canine. All of these things readily kill and eat snakes, all of these things may be persuaded to not kill and eat this particular snake if he bites them.
Instead of picking him up and allowing him to spend precious resources stressing himself to the point of repeatedly biting me- which hurts, by the way, so I don’t really want to be bitten any more than I need to be- I allowed him to show me things about him. I let him show me what he does when he’s nervous, when he doesn’t want to be bothered. I let him show me what he does when he’s curious and feels like investigating what’s in front of him. I let him show me how he does and does not like to be touched. Like many snakes, he seems to enjoy being scratched lightly under the chin. Like many snakes, he doesn’t seem to appreciate being tickled on the stomach. He prefers to create a “foot” about 2/3 down his body and use it as an anchored perch when exploring my hands. He does not want his tail to be touched. When he is nervous or unsure of potential danger, he will retract and coil himself into a loose ball. If pressed before he recovers, he will “expand” the “ball” quickly and vocalize. If he continues to be pressured, he will threaten to bite and will begin to try. If he is allowed to relax, he will recreate his “foot” and resume quietly investigating his surroundings.
Today, I took the lid off of his enclosure and lifted him out without a fuss. While this is not a first- we accomplished this task about 4 weeks in- only in the past few weeks has he not immediately retracted into his loose ball and required me to wait a few minutes for him to relax before touching him. Instead, he immediately made his “foot” and began to investigate, leaned against my finger as I scratched his chin, and maintained his confidence throughout the time I handled him. Sure, I could possibly get a similar result through the first method of flooding and teaching him that he is helpless against me, but I don’t need to. I can get a confident content snake that is not only tolerating my handling but also showing curiosity and intelligence without forcing him to accept my hands as things he has to deal with in his life.
The people espousing these methods always ask me how I managed to take such nice, interesting pictures of Hydra without bleeding- or joke about how much blood they think I lost inbetween shots- and are always surprised when I tell them that I don’t get bit because I understand a snake’s need for autonomy and allow the snake to tell me their “rules” for being touched and then follow those rules or understand if I break them I will get bit. As a result, I don’t break their rules unless I have to, and thus I don’t get bit unless I have to. This allows me to handle and investigate my snakes, look in their mouths, check their vents and between their scales, touch their heads, and rescue them from fluke accidents such as Quetzal’s injury with his decor without the snake taking their frustrations out on me. It also allows me to take some pretty pictures of them outside or on props without worrying how I will retrieve them without being bitten when I’m done.