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'Snake guys' say slithery pets may be creepy, but get bad rap

by CHAUNCEY ROSS chauncey@indianagazette.net on August 01, 2013 11:00 AM

They get the stares. They know that.

They see people shudder and turn back and walk across the street to avoid them.

But would folks be scramming from Bobby and Johnny Edwards if they knew they were carrying the happiest snakes in Indiana?

The Edwardses know their pets just plain creep people out.

“But they’re not slimy!”

Bobby dispels myth No. 1 about the snakes that are often draped around their necks and shoulders. People have bad impressions, the wrong impressions about them, he says.

Their companions, a red tail boa and an albino Burmese python, have regularly accompanied them this summer on their walks through downtown Indiana. The Edwardses’ reputation precedes them: just a mention of “the guys with the snakes” in social media draws multiple knowing responses.

Know, too, that Bobby and Johnny, father and son, equally get attention from the curious and those in awe.

“It’s mostly women,” Bobby said. “They want pictures with them. The guys … they just walk away. But a lot of women want to have their pictures taken.”

They gather around. Some touch, some look.

A lot ask questions.

Bobby said he has owned other snakes before these, going back a few years. These, Lizzy the boa and Nikki the python, they’ve had about a year.

And they could easily be the most contented snakes in Indiana.

They’re rescues.

Snake behavior is a product of their environment, Bobby says, and he and his son have treated their pets well.

He compares people’s response to snakes with their feelings about big dogs such as Rottweilers and Dobermans.

“I’ve had them, too, and it all goes according to how they’re being treated,” he explains. “They get a bad rap, but they are as gentle as can be, according to how they’ve been raised.”

It’s the same, he says, with Lizzy and Nikki, who once were on track for bad lives.

“They were abused, and I got them off of being scared,” Bobby says. As he explains it, a man and woman from Blairsville ran into him while he was walking one of his other snakes, about a year ago, and the couple told him that their snakes weren’t like his.

“I asked ‘how are you treating them?’ Well, the one, they were giving frozen rats. They took them from the freezer and threw them to them. I said, ‘you can’t do that!’” he recalls. “The other one was wrapped around a heat lamp inside its cage and it was burnt.”

Bobby said he asked to see the snakes and insisted on taking them home with him.

“I took ’em, and got them good now. I got the burns off them, and got the other so he can eat right now,” Bobby says. “I was just happy to save them.”

The snakes, the chick magnets they have become, are well-deserving of the fawning they get, Bobby said.

“In my opinion, people overfeed them and they get too big,” he says. “They can’t handle them. And then other people see them, and they’re scared to death.”

The fear of getting a poisonous bite, he says, is unfounded.

So are questions about whether they might unexpectedly relieve themselves. Dining every two weeks on a diet of mice, their metabolism has become predictable.

“It’s usually three to seven days after they eat, they go to the bathroom,” Bobby said. “They have acid in their bodies that devours the bones, and you can’t handle them after they eat. You have to wait until after they go …

“When I know they went, I say ‘OK, yinz guys can come out now.’ I clean the cage and bring them out.”

Having the snakes on a predictable routine of activity makes them ideal pets.

“I raise mine so I can take mine out. We walk them all the time, me and my son, and we have them out so they can enjoy themselves,” he explains. “We put ’em on our shoulders and when they get comfortable, they just lay up there. Once in a while they might tighten up a little bit … because they’re afraid they might fall. But as soon as they find out they’re not, then they loosen up a little bit.”

And Bobby says he and Johnny like to spread the good word about the reptiles.

“That’s another reason I like to take them for a walk uptown, to show people that snakes are not what they say they are. They’re good snakes.”

PHOTOS: Johnny Edwards, left, and his father, Bobby, walked along Philadelphia Street in Indiana recently with their snakes. Bobby has a red tail boa named Lizzy, and around Johnny’s neck is an albino Burmese python named Nikki. (MICHAEL WALKER/Gazette)

Bobby Edwards, left, and son Johnny said they frequently get stopped by people while they are out walking with their snakes. (MICHAEL WALKER/Gazette)

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