Today I had to kill a snake.
I was taking the dogs out for their walk, and there it was: a small, gray snake, coiled in the gutter at the end of our driveway, its tiny head up at the ready.
Poor little Piper, who is nearing his fifteenth birthday, almost stumbled and tripped on this snake. Quickly, I yanked his leash aside, pulling him to safety.
I observed the snake closely and it didn't move. Could it be dead? Could it be dead if it was still holding its head up like that? Why did it remain a frozen circle, there amongst all the action of two small, furry, bumbling dogs?
Since it was garbage day, I grabbed the garbage can and ran it along in the gutter, next to the snake. The snake remained as still as a stone as the wheels of the garbage can passed on both sides.
I wondered if it were literally frozen, a cold-blooded creature that had succumbed to hypothermia during the night and was now immobile forever. I ran the wheels of the garbage can directly across the snake. Then it did move, uncoiling, twitching.
I took my dogs across the street to finish the essentials, hoping the snake would slither away into the grass.
Usually I don't mind snakes so much (not nearly as much as cats and mice, at any rate).
However, a few days ago Shawn and I were walking in the park, and we happened across a snake on the path. Rather than sliding away to hide when we approached, it struck at the bottom of Shawn's shoe. Shawn thought this was funny and began to tantalize it, presenting the thick rubber sole of his sneaker again and again while it made stubborn and repeated strikes, refusing to surrender and leave.
Not enjoying this game, I procured a large stick and forced the snake into the tall weeds along the side of the trail. I kept my stick with me for the remainder of our walk that day.
Today, I did not have a large stick. All I had was a garbage can and the encumbrance of two dog leashes with vulnerable little dogs at the ends of them.
The snake had not slithered into the grass when we returned from across the street. It merely palpitated back and forth in the gutter at the base of our driveway, a foot or two in one direction, then a foot or two back.
"I've damaged it," I thought. "Now what?"
After returning the dogs to the house, I found a hoe in the garage and went back.
Uncommitted, I had hoped to scoop up the snake on the end of the hoe and remove it to the boulevard, away from our yard. But I couldn't. I couldn't get the hoe underneath. Broken snake, broken situation.
In the end, instinct took over. I scraped the snake into the grass at the edge of our yard and chopped it up with the hoe, each blow thudding sickeningly through the snake's body into the earth below. My stomach lurched and my arms trembled. The belly of the snake turned upward, its exposed white surface signifying the ultimate surrender. I suppose I put him out of his misery.
I believe this is the first time I've killed something other than a bug. I didn't like it.