SNAKES alive! Boots the Elusive Reptile has defied the experts - and delighted his owner little Chloe Johnston - by surviving the Ulster winter and turning up hale, hearty and healthy after he disappeared six months ago from his heated home back in January.
Last week, the Portadown Times reported on the corn snake being found at Corcrain -just yards from Chloe’s home - adding that his species cannot normally withstand the temperate climes of these parts, as his natural habitat is the hot south-east area of America and neighbouring Mexico. How wrong we were!
Five-year-old Chloe had given up hope of ever seeing her slippery pet again after he slithered out of her Corcrain Drive home during the bleak mid winter. But Boots is as tough as, well, old boots, and - against all the odds - not only survived, but had even put on a bit of weight when he was found during preparation for the local bonfire last week. The snake-in-the-grass was offered to the PSNI, but they didn’t intervene, obviously having enough slippery customers of the human variety to deal with.
As she was re-united with Boots, Chloe was literally dancing with delight in the premises of ‘LA Pets’ (Mahon Road) where he was handed in and cared for, pending an an appeal for the owners to come forward. Mind you, proprietor David Rooney received a number of phone calls from local chancers claiming they were the owners, but Chloe and family had an honesty about them and were able to describe Boots perfectly and came to collect him.
“He’s great,” she smiled as she was re-united with him. “Philip (her brother) and I have missed him”, and she promised she wouldn’t leave the front door open again, as that’s what is thought to have happened the day he escaped.
Dad Jamie and David Rooney reckon that Boots had reverted to the wild, and helped himself to the staple diet of his American cousins by catching mice and small rats - so much so that he has inexplicably thrived despite the chill, the wind and the rain of a Portadown winter.
“It’s a bit of a mystery,” said David who has been providing the snake with frozen mice - “It’s against the law to provide ‘live’ ones”, although Boots doesn’t seem to have read the statute book during his six months of freedom!
And why the name Boots? Well, Chloe is a fan of the children’s TV classic ‘Dora the Explorer’ and informs us that’s the name of the monkey in the cartoon series. Female logic! (“Don’t choke him,” she exhorted Mr Rooney, as he removed Boots from the heated vivarium where he has been keeping the snake over the past couple of weeks).
And off Chloe and Jamie went home to put Boots back in his former surroundings, joining her other unusual pets - African snails. “She has a strange taste in pets,” dad explained.