House/pet sitting in Perth Australia: I was Allowed to Travel with A Snake Catcher. THIS IS A TRUE STORY.
The first night of our new assignment in a different location in Perth, Australia, we said “good night” to Bess (not her real name) and her two dogs, Destiny and Nelly. We liked Bess from the moment we met her. She is an environmental engineer for a mining company here in Western Australia. She is known as a FIFO – a Fly In, Fly Out worker. She works a 12 hr shift for seven days and gets to fly home for six days. The company flies her in and out with other workers in a small 8-seater aircraft that leaves from Perth’s Domestic Airport. Bess is also a volunteer for the local dog pound and both her animals, Destiny and Nelly, are rescue dogs.
First Night at Bess’s Home
Bess had to catch a 5.30 a.m company plane at Perth Domestic Airport, so all three of us went to bed early. About half-an-hour later, the phone rang and Bess answered it.
She shouted out towards our bedroom, “Sorry, ladies, but I have to go out and catch a snake.” I was immediately intrigued and replied, “Can I come with you? If not, I’ll fully understand.” I got back the answer, “Sure, Paula, no worries!”
Trish just looked over her book and warned me, “Be careful!”
Inside the car, I could not wait to ask questions. “Bess, you catch snakes?” It was an obvious question, but I didn’t know how to start this conversation. She replied in a slow Aussie sentence that didn’t give too much information. “Yeah, I’m qualified.”
“Where are we going now?” I asked.
“There’s a snake in a house.”
She looked at me with a grin. “Well, you can’t be too concerned, you’re here with me now!”
I laughed. “I can lock the car door and watch from within.”
She chuckled. “I reckon you’d miss the fun.”
“Is it always fun?”
“Well, I’m trained to be careful and I don’t want to harm the snake. When I get it, I drive out to the bush and set it free.”
“And how big is this one?”
“Ah, it’s a small one. The woman said it’s about 12 inches and thin as a pencil.”
“An easy one to get?”
“Well, if it’s an adult and that size, we should be alright!”
This wasn’t exactly comforting. but chance to see a snake being caught up front was very appealing!”
Bess continued, “Now, if it’s a juvenile, that’s a different matter. An adult snake this size will have small fangs and can control the venom if it bites. Most adults want to keep their venom for killing mice and other animals.”
Bess stopped at a red light.
Her phone rang and she handed it to me. “Tell them we are on Canning Avenue and should be there in about five minutes. Oh, and tell them to have a dustpan and small brush.”
I conveyed the message. The caller seemed to be young. Was this a false call?
Then she asked, “Would Jess accept a credit card?”
I was told there was no charge as this was volunteer work. Sometimes, people will present a donation and Bess uses it for the animal shelter.
“As I was saying,” Bess continued, “Adult snakes can control their venom, but if this is a juvenile it could be a more deadly snake.”
She glanced at me. I tried not to let my eyes pop out of their sockets and betray me.
“We’ll be apples,” she said confidently. “I’ve been doing it for twelve years now. I also do it at my place of work. There are a couple of us that are trained snake catchers.”
We arrived at the house and were greeted by three young teenagers. By their accent, I figured they were from Africa; one of them was in a wheelchair.
The older girl was very polite and thanked us for coming.
“It’s in the bedroom – MY bedroom! We closed the door!”
“Right!” Jess entered the house and I followed.
“It slid under the door.” The young teen informed us.
I asked in my best Sherlock Holmes voice, “And did you stay and watch to see that it stayed there.”
The girl looked shocked. “No, we ran away.”
“We screamed and ran!” This information was provided by her smaller sister.
Bess looked at me. I felt she appreciated my line of questioning.
“O.K. We’ll look for it.”
Now, I may not be a genius, but ‘WE” means more than one person. Bess turned to the oldest girl. “Do you have ants in the house?”
“Yes.” Then she turned to the two younger girls. “That is what it was doing, it was eating ants!”
Bess looked at me.
“The snake is NOT dangerous!”
Bess began turning up the bedroom carpet. I cautiously lifted a box. Before I knew it, I was helping Bess pull out the bed – (she got down on her knees and looked under it).
Fifteen minutes later and there was no evidence of a snake.
“You’re right,” Bess said quietly to me. “It could have slithered back under the door and gone any where.”
I looked stunned. She grinned from her 5 ft 8 inch tall and slender frame (She’s a vegan and works out daily at the mining company’s gym).
“I’ll speak to the girls.”
Her advice was to put on sneakers (running shoes) and wear socks. She said that such a small snake’s bite would not penetrate shoes and socks. She said to just look out for it and she reassured them that such a thin snake would find its way out. “Look, it’s my job to tell ALL you that if one of you gets bitten, then just call the Australian emergency number. Place one bandage above the bite and another before the bite.”
The girls looked uneasy, but they were not going to argue or complain to a snake catcher.
Bess reassured their worried looks, “No one in Australia has ever died of snake bite if they bandage and get to the hospital within 12 hours.”
Back in the car, thoughts began to run through my mind. ‘Did I actually go around shifting items and looking for a snake?’
I had! Trish and I have lived for one year in Australia and this was our fourth visit. In all that time, we had never seen a snake!
Bess woke me out of my thoughts. “There has been one death from a Brown Snake and it was only a few inches longer than this one!”
Again, I tried not to let my eyes widen larger than saucers!
Bess said in a calm voice. “I didn’t lie to the girls. What happened was this man thought that since the snake was quite small the bite wasn’t that venomous. He didn’t bandage it or seek medical help!”
“He was wrong!” I added dryly.
“He was DEAD wrong!”
I looked to see if Bess was smiling at her joke, but she was serious.
“It was a juvenile, Paula.”
I responded, “And it couldn’t control it’s venom!”
Bess smiled and glanced in my direction.
“You’ve been listening!”
Back at the house, I entered the bedroom and Trish put down her book.
“How was it?”
“Trish, it was at least 12 feet long, kinda gold and black striped.”
It was Trish’s turn to frown with concern.
“Bess got it?”
“She’s one brave woman!”
Trish looked worried, “And how close were you?”
I just couldn’t continue joking!
“Trish, we didn’t find it. It was small and NOT dangerous.”
Trish grinned and said, “I knew you were curious, but I also knew you’d be careful!”
(I would wait until the morning to tell her about the man who died from carelessness).