Meet Our Pets!
Let us introduce you to The Ace Couple Pets! Our family consists of a grumpy old-man dog, a somehow even grumpier opossum, two large snakes, and an entire mouse circus.
Courtney: Hello, everyone. My name’s Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce. Together, we are The Ace Couple. And we’ve been doing this thing for, I don’t know, six months now, releasing an episode every week – that’s pretty wild. So you guys have heard all manner of our stories, our opinions, maybe the saucy hot take or two. So I think it’s high time that we introduce you to the rest of our family. And no, we do not have any human children. So you know what that means. [rhythmically/singing] Let’s talk about pets, baby. [laughs] Let’s talk about you and me, and our whole menagerie. [laughs, back to regular speaking] I didn’t plan that but it immediately popped into my head [laughs] and I had to, I’m sorry, that’s terrible. So yes! Let us introduce you to our [with accent] ani-meels. What do you think, Royce? What order should we do this in? Should we do it in order of, like, seniority? Or should we go by animal type, like mammals, marsupials, reptiles? [laughs]
Royce: Chronologically probably makes sense. Are we just talking present? Are we talking historical? Are we talking “were a part of our relationship”?
Courtney: So that’s a good question. We cannot sit here and do all of the pets each of us have individually had throughout our entire life, because just me alone, that’s going to be a five-hour episode. [laughs]
Royce: Well, I don’t know that you can technically consider animals that you worked with at the zoo to be pets.
Courtney: I was a zookeeper and yes, I loved all of those animals I worked with, but I also had a whole bunch of creatures at home. [laughs] So I had a lot of pets throughout my life. But that’s a good point. Let’s do all of the animals that we, the two of us, have shared a home with. Because I really don’t want to leave out Pandora, our dead cat. She was my soulmate. [laughs]
Royce: That is explicitly why I asked. And so, if we start chronologically, Pandora would be the first.
Courtney: Pandora! Oh, Pandora. She was just the coolest cat that you have ever met in your entire life. She was a long-hair cat. She was very, very fat, very large and in charge [laughs]. And she just never hissed, never bit anyone, just super, super mellow, loved cuddling. Really, really cool cat. And yeah, so that was our first really, really major pet death that we experienced between the two of us. And that was a travesty, because oh, that cat. I mean, that was a childhood pet of mine. She was with me for so many years of my life, and so many formative years, even. So that’s just one reason why we can never get a divorce, because you got to meet Pandora. And now anyone I meet from this point forward is never going to know Pandora, and we just can’t have that [laughs] because it’s like they won’t even know a part of me. I’m going to sound like a crazy cat lady, and I am not mad about that. [laughs]
Royce: How old was Pandora when she died?
Courtney: Oh, she was getting up there. I don’t know exactly. I don’t know exactly, but she had to be, like, pushing 20, if not already there.
Royce: I was gonna say – 18 was the number that came to mind, but I have no idea why and don’t have a frame of reference for that.
Courtney: Yeah, I couldn’t tell you exactly at what age I got her, but I was young, and she was a baby baby baby kitty when she came into my life. So, yeah, we kind of grew up together in that sense. So yes, even though dear, dear sweet Pandora’s no longer with us, we do have somewhat of a shrine to her [laughs] in the basement, if I didn’t sound like enough of a crazy cat lady. If you’ve listened to our podcast long enough, or if perhaps you even knew me from my work before we even started this podcast, I make artwork out of hair – usually human hair, but there are also lots of things you can do with animal hair. So, I had a massive bag of Pandora’s fur from after she passed away, and made some little things. I felted – because you can felt with cat hair, very fun – I felted a couple of things including just a little effigy of her. [laughs] I made a new cat with fur, and framed a little picture, made a paw print picture out of her fur, and I also commissioned two artists I know to make pieces of art in her honor. So she is still very much a part of our life, even though she’s no longer with us. But I mean Pandora, she was just, she was the neatest! She loved laying in this little wicker rocking chair, which was actually my chair from when I was a baby, which was still just floating around our house when we got Pandora, and she just loved that chair and sat in it all the time. So that was very much her chair. And that is where all of our little shrine to Pandora is, on this little chair.
Courtney: Yeah, I’m trying to think of any good Pandora stories, I guess. So here’s the thing. She was an indoor cat. This is just how mild-tempered she was, and didn’t really get in a fuss about too many things. We had some friends over to our house for Pi Day many, many years ago, and one of our friends put on the oven self-cleaning cycle [laughs] while we were in the dining room playing board games. And the house got so smoky, it was nonsensical. We just opened the back door to just try to get some air flowing. And we did not even realize until the very next day that Pandora had just walked outside onto the back porch and just spent the night on the porch – not meowing, not whining, not trying to get back in, but also not running away either. The very next day, we opened the door to just, I don’t know, go feed the birds or something, and she just casually walked back in the house, [laughs] like no big deal. It was always fun to see you play with her, because of course when you’re getting in a new relationship and you have pets, you want to make sure that you can make that situation work, and that your partner’s going to like your pets that you already have.
Royce: Well, I feel like, of the standard house pets, cats have always been more my speed, because you can just decide you want to go play with the cat for a couple minutes, and the cat will usually be game, and then you can both be done and go on about your days.
Royce: But dogs are almost universally too lazy or too energetic for me.
Courtney: That’s fair. That’s fair. Yeah, and I mean, she’d just play with a little shoelace. [laughing] The two of you playing with that shoelace was so great. Aww, we buried her with that shoelace. That was her shoelace. But yeah, she was also… So many cats have this reputation of not liking to be picked up, not liking a lot of pets, but you could just pick her up anytime and just hold her on her back, like a baby, and she would be completely content every single time. So I guess… I know we were going in order of seniority, but we’ve only had one other individual pet death. So maybe now’s the time that we just slide in the story of Weibo real quick.
Royce: Oh, okay. Yeah, that works.
Courtney: Oh, Weibo. What is there to say about Weibo? [laughs]
Royce: Weibo was an African clawed frog tadpole that we picked up at a reptile show, who didn’t develop properly somehow.
Courtney: It was the weirdest thing, y’all. I mean, yes, we were at this reptile show. There were all these tadpoles. And it’s like, you can purchase basically a tadpole-raising kit that has a habitat for them and food, plus the tadpole, and, you know, watch it turn into a frog. [laughs] And we just thought, “Well, this will be fun! We’ve never raised a tadpole into a frog before.” And so we got to watch as Weibo grew, and then started growing feets! [laughs] He grew little back feet, and then he started getting little front feet, and that was really exciting. We actually threw a Feets Day party for him. Do you remember that? That was a scream. [laughs]
Royce: It was a board game night with some friends that got rebranded last-minute.
Courtney: No, no, no, no! This was not a last-minute situation. Do you not remember [laughing] all of the prepping that I did for this party? I went to Party America and I got every foot-themed thing [laughing] that existed in that store. I almost bought an antique podiatrist model of a foot [laughing] from a local antique shop to be the centerpiece of that table. It was too expensive to justify that kind of nonsense, but I was going all out. I was like, “Our little tadpole has feet, and we must celebrate the Feets Day. Come, friends. You’re formally invited to Weibo’s Feets Day party.” Oh, Weibo. Weibo Feets Day party. The thing about that tadpole – it seems silly because, you know, it’s a tadpole – I got so attached to that silly little tadpole because he was actually a lot of work. You had to change the water, and you had to… I was walking around the house with the bowl – he slept on the nightstand next to the bed, and then I’d wake up and grab the bowl, and we’d move him to the kitchen to, [laughs] you know, do the bowl maintenance that needed to happen. So he was a very big part of our life for a [laughs] very, very short period of time. But yeah, it was wild, because after he got feets, his development just got really, really weird. There’s no way to even describe what happened. One day, his tail started to shrink, but then the very next day his head was kind of misshapen, and it was – I don’t know what happened there. Something went wrong.
Royce: I vaguely remember you had looked up some common problems with tadpole development and I thought that that’s what – it was some sort of known developmental issue.
Courtney: Yeah, that’s definitely what it seemed like. But yeah, yeah, that was sad. Poor Weibo. R.I.P. Weibo and his newly-formed feets. Okay, we’re gonna stop talking about dead pets now. Let’s talk about the live ones. [laughs] So, in order of seniority, I guess that brings us to Quiggley, who is our grumpy old man-dog. In fact, if you are a real OG listener of The Ace Couple Podcast, in the very first episode, maybe even the second episode also –
Royce: More than that.
Courtney: In several of the first episodes, if you just hear odd grumbling noises, that is the dog snoring in the background. [laughs] For something so small, [laughs] he’s so loud all of the time. He is a chihuahua, and man, he is really getting up there in age. He is old. He has lost so many teeth – he has lost so many teeth that his tongue just is always sticking out, because he doesn’t have any teeth to keep it in his mouth anymore. And you know, Quiggley was kind of the one I was concerned about getting into a new relationship with, because Pandora – I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love Pandora. Quiggley is divisive. [laughs] People either love him or loathe him, because that’s just how chihuahuas be. And the thing is, he’s such a little genetic mutant, like chihuahuas shouldn’t exist. I would not get another chihuahua again. [laughs] I love Quiggley dearly. But my goodness, I wasn’t even actively seeking a chihuahua. Quiggley kind of conned me into loving him and taking him home. Because I fully went to get a greyhound. [laughs] I was gonna get a greyhound, but this silly little chihuahua puppy just latched onto me and would just whine and whimper every time I would leave, and it just broke my heart. And now we have a really grumpy old chihuahua [laughs] with respiratory problems.
Royce: I think that was implied when you said “chihuahua.”
Courtney: I know. Purebreed dogs, man. I am not advocating for them. I know one. I have one. I love one. Hmm… ill-advised. But he’s pretty cute. He’s pretty silly. I love how his tongue is just always sticking out. But just like you were talking about how dogs are usually not your speed, Quiggley is – he hates fun, really. And he’s kind of always hated fun. Even when he was a puppy, he didn’t play. And when he was much younger, I would try to get him toys, and he just wouldn’t play with them. And he doesn’t really like being outside. When he was younger, I would try to take him on walks, and halfway down the block, he would just stop, and I’d have to carry him back home. [laughs] So not not not much of a dog, really.
Royce: More of a fleshy, furry gargoyle.
Courtney: He’s very gremlin-adjacent, yes. I’m at least glad that he doesn’t absolutely hate you. Because he definitely has done this, you know, small dog thing, this chihuahua thing, where he latched on so hard to me that he gets very defensive of me. And he still maybe can on occasion, but not not all that often with you – even though there have definitely been situations where he will be a friend and a pal and a buddy to someone else, but the minute that person is, like, standing up in the same room when I’m sitting down, Quiggley will just start growling. [laughs] It’s like, what are you gonna do? You are the least fierce creature that exists. Our tadpole would have had a better time beating someone up than Quiggley [laughs]. I just realized that the week this podcast releases, this is going to be a great excuse to share pet photos on Twitter all week, so follow us, @The_Ace_Couple, underscores between all those words, if you want these pet photos. We’ve posted a couple of Quiggley, but I think he’s about it. I don’t think we posted our other pets yet.
Courtney: Yeah, Quiggley’s, just kind of the pet that we yell at to get a job. Like, he’s a chihuahua who’s frequently just lolling about with his tongue sticking out of his mouth. Like, why isn’t he TikTok famous? Why can’t he be like the dog that tells people if they have bones or not, or if they can stay in bed? Quiggley could do that! [sarcastic] He just needs to get his shit together! No, but we like Quiggley. And he likes smaller creatures. He really, really likes smaller creatures. If Quiggley could have a pet, he would love a pet, like Neopets and their petpets. If we could get a petpet for Quiggley, he would be very, very happy. [laughs] He also, I mean, he usually likes animals that are bigger than him – not always humans, but bigger dogs. He’ll sometimes – perhaps even to his detriment – he’ll just very gladly walk up to other large creatures and be like, “Hello large creature. Who are you? Can we be friends?” Which – when you’re that small, that’s not good. That’s a good segue into talking about the snakes, because Quiggley likes the snakes, but they don’t like him. [laughs]
Royce: I think Quiggley’s just curious, mostly, about the snakes.
Courtney: Yes. So one of the snakes was your pet before we met.
Royce: Yes, and would be the next chronologically, even though he’s a little younger than the other snake.
Royce: So, Sen is the only pet that I had when I was living alone, was the only pet that I had had as an adult outside of my parents’ house, was my first snake. I had some other reptiles when I was a kid, but no snakes. So I think about maybe a year and a half or so before we met, I started doing some research on snakes and decided to get one. I knew that I wanted something that was of moderate size – something a little bit larger and heavier than a ball python, but nothing that was going to be a hassle.
Courtney: Well, you say moderate size, but I would be willing to suspect that most of the people listening to this podcast would think that our snakes are huge. [laughs]
Royce: Yeah, but I mean, if you look at the pet trade, a lot of the common smaller snakes are corn snakes and ball pythons.
Royce: And I believe a big ball python can maybe get about 5 feet.
Courtney: Mhm. Sounds about right.
Royce: Sen is a little over 6 right now. I think. We haven’t measured them in a while. They should have stopped growing.
Courtney: We’ve been saying that for years though, and they never do! They just keep growing!
Royce: So Sen is a Dumeril’s boa. Both of our snakes are Dumeril’s boas. Dumeril’s boas are a type of Madagascan ground boa. These types of snakes were exported from Madagascar long enough ago that it is now illegal to do so. They have some sort of conservation status. But they do so well in the pet trade that there has been a thriving population in the states for quite some time. They just, again, aren’t as common as things like ball pythons, and thus, neither is the research around them.
Royce: So on a variety of different sites, I would see size ranges, and also estimates of when they reach their adult age or their adult size, and in none of these did they make the discrepancy between adult size and maximum size or final size.
Royce: And so –
Courtney: “This isn’t even my final form.”
Royce: So, just measuring periodically, I had kind of assumed that they had stopped growing. I’d stopped measuring them. So then, after a year or two of not having measured them, I did it again and was like…
Courtney: “You grew!”
Royce: I was surprised to see that they had tacked on another 6-12 inches or so that I wasn’t expecting.
Courtney: Well, they’re not easy to measure either.
Royce: It’s not too bad. You have to get them out. You have to hold a camera fairly level above them, with some measurable landmark also on the floor with them, basically – like a yardstick or something like that, a large enough ruler to be able to see. And then there are some tools where you can basically draw a line down the snake, from nose to tail, and then also draw a line over the ruler to get a reasonable measurement. But yeah, there’s no way to just get them to hold still and straighten out.
Courtney: Yeah, they don’t do that. They do what they want. But yeah, I thought that was really neat, that you had a snake. And even though I had not had a pet snake beforehand, I had taken care of and worked with lots and lots of snakes. So, I was a fan. In fact, the very first message I ever sent to you was complimenting your snake, asking questions about your snake, also being like, “Wow, you’re asexual. I’m asexual too,” and asking if you owned a top hat. Which I guess begs the question: did you ever meet anyone on a dating site who was really wigged out about you having a snake?
Royce: No, not that I remember, but that was on my profile, so I assume someone who was just wouldn’t have messaged.
Courtney: Self-selected out.
Courtney: That’s true. You did have a picture of Sen on the profile, so it worked for me. [laughs] And in fact, you had my heart when I came down to visit you for the first time and you asked me if I would help you make a new cardboard hide for your snake. [laughs] I was like, “Why, of course I will do that. Yes, let’s.”
Royce: I don’t even remember that.
Courtney: You don’t remember that? Yes.
Royce: I thought – it sounds like something I would have thought that you might have liked.
Royce: But yeah, snakes need places to hide to feel safe, and cardboard boxes are cheap, available. Also, a lot of just the standard pet trade stuff that’s available at stores that you can walk into –
Courtney: Not big enough.
Royce: Not big enough!
Courtney: Not for these.
Royce: They’re suitable for corn snakes and ball pythons.
Courtney: I mean, the same for the habitat, the enclosure.
Courtney: We had to special order.
Royce: Yeah, we had to find a site that specializes in building mail-order enclosures, basically – where you select the size and the features and they will ship it out to you. And it’s just the walls and some sealant and the, uh…
Courtney: Like, sliding doors?
Royce: Yeah. The glass or acrylic doors. Which works really well. It just takes time.
Courtney: Yeah! [laughs] Oh, snakes. Snakes are fun. So, yes! So we already had Sen, but why stop at one snake [laughs] when you could get two snakes? We… How many years ago did we get Chihiro?
Royce: We got her about six years ago, in 2016.
Courtney: Six years ago. So yeah, we were together about two when we got Chihiro. And that was quite a thing, because it was mostly on impulse. We had talked about potentially getting a female Dumeril’s boa if the opportunity arose. So that was kind of already on our radar, and we were thinking about it. And there were these quarterly reptile shows just down the road from our house that we would go to. And we had just never seen Dumeril’s boas there for a very long time. So when we finally went to a show and there was exactly one female Dumeril’s boa there, we hadn’t done the preparation yet, but we kind of felt like we couldn’t pass up that opportunity. So yeah, she came home with us. And she is a big lady.
Royce: Yeah, it was surprising when we got her, because… So I didn’t mention earlier, when I got Sen, he was about two years old, I believe, and was pretty thin, but was nearing four feet in length. I want to say that Dumeril’s are born about 12-18 inches long.
Royce: And then they grow very rapidly within their first year or two, and then start to slim down.
Courtney: And they’re born live, which is neat.
Courtney: Just neat fact, neat snake fact.
Royce: Right. That’s one of the differentiating features of boas compared to a lot of other snakes. But Sen was probably a little over five feet at the time and had filled out a little bit. Chihiro was six and a half when we got her, I believe, and…
Courtney: Probably a little overweight.
Royce: She was a bit overweight, but her build is just different.
Royce: They’re the same species of snake, but the, just, size and skeletal structure that her head is different.
Courtney: Mhm. Yeah, much wider. [laughs]
Royce: By now, she’s grown to a little over eight feet, and she’s definitely over 25 pounds. I haven’t weighed her recently. She did slim up a little bit while we had her, and had her on a probably, a more regular, healthy diet.
Courtney: Mhm. Well, we also don’t know because the people we bought her from said that she was a breeder and that she had, you know, baby snakes. So we don’t know how soon after that we got her.
Royce: That’s true.
Courtney: Or if they had already retired her from breeding, or, like, she could have just very recently given birth. I guess that’s a thing I don’t actually know about snakes. How quickly do they lose their baby weight? [laughs]
Royce: I would have to assume not very, because she just randomly decided to not eat for six months, and I didn’t see any noticeable difference in her size.
Courtney: Snakes just do whatever the hell they want. [laughs] They are so fascinating. [laughs] Yeah, they’re really cool. So yeah, I guess – was it Sen who snapped at Quiggley one time? Quiggley was not actually in any danger. It wasn’t like our snake bit the dog, but they were in the same room and Quiggley was…
Royce: Yeah, that was Sen.
Courtney: … upsetting the snake.
Royce: That was Sen. I was trying to… I can’t remember the scenario. I was trying to, probably, move him to clean out a cage or something, but I walked through the bedroom with him on my arm. And our snakes don’t cooperate.
Royce: They don’t wrap around you like snakes are supposed to. They just kind of lay there and threaten to fall.
Courtney: [laughs] Well, sometimes it’s more than just threatening. We have seen them just fall from distances, and they just don’t care.
Courtney: They are so muscular. They don’t get hurt. They’re like, “If I fall, I fall. I’m not gonna die.”
Royce: The thing is, they’re ground boas, but they feel the need to climb for some reason, and they’re not good at it.
Courtney: We’ve seen them – Well –
Royce: Well, I take that back.
Courtney: We’ve seen them do some wild, wild climbing. It’s really intense to see them actually climb.
Royce: I guess if we’re posting videos –
Royce: I have a video of Sen climbing a narrow gap between the back of his enclosure and a wall where there aren’t any footholds.
Courtney: No footholds, just two straight walls. [laughs]
Royce: And I can’t describe how he managed to do this.
Courtney: It was truly a sight to behold.
Royce: But anyway, yes. I was holding Sen on one arm, and we were talking, and Quiggley got excited and started running back and forth on the bed. I was standing maybe a foot or two away from the bed. And he sees the snake on my arm and kind of runs up and then runs back and then runs over to me again and then immediately bounds back. And just the quick movement agitated Sen.
Courtney: Mhm. Not good for snakes.
Royce: And at one point, when Quiggley had already turned and jumped in the other direction, Sen gave a very defensive snap, which –
Courtney: It was a warning strike. It wasn’t a full-on attack, but –
Royce: If you’ve if you’ve ever seen snakes move, the “Hey, I’m angry” sort of like “I lunged forward with my mouth open” thing is very different than when they strike food.
Royce: It’s very slow and clumsy and it’s just meant to intimidate.
Courtney: Yeah. And so Quiggley doesn’t get to be anywhere near the snakes anymore because they could absolutely beat him up if they really, really wanted to.
Royce: Yeah, I mean, it’s not like we ever allowed him to be close to a snake on the ground anyway.
Courtney: [laughs] Right.
Royce: That was the only case where they were in proximity enough for – to really notice one another.
Courtney: Mhm. Which, yeah, I mean, it was scary enough that it’s like, “Oh yeah, Quiggley, you just not even in the same room. [laughs] Never again.” Although probably – definitely not as scary as the snakes going at each other.
Royce: Yeah, so you mentioned that we got Chihiro slightly on impulse. We had talked about getting another snake, housing another snake, potentially trying to have baby snakes. So when we picked up Chihiro, we were like, “Okay, we’re going to put in the order for the new enclosure as soon as we can. It’s going to be a little cramped for a little bit, but we’ll make it work and make sure to get them out often enough so that they actually have room to move around and everything.” And… where were you for all this? Were you –
Courtney: Oh, man. So… I felt so bad that this all ended up happening because I had… my mother had very recently moved down here to be closer to us, and this was in, like, March, so it was just starting to become spring. Things were warming up a little bit. And there was a little vineyard and winery, sort of on the outskirts of town, that was pretty new and had just opened up like the year before or something. And I had already made plans to go to an event they were having with my mother. And there was this scavenger hunt thing, and they had flights, and they had free cake, so, of course, I’m there. [laughs] So we had already, like, on the schedule, “We’re going to go to this event,” but it was Reptile Show day. So my plans for that day was, go to the Reptile Show in the morning and then go pick up my mom, and we’re going to go to the vineyard. So that’s what we did. So I was at a vineyard and then I just started getting panicked text messages from you, [laughing] and I was like, “Oh no! What happened?”
Royce: Right. Because we went to the Reptile Show. We saw Chihiro there. Didn’t pick her up immediately – talked about it, and then you left. And we decided that I was going to go pick her up, which I did.
Courtney: Yes, because we’d talked to them also. They did not have her listed as being for sale. They had her there, and we saw her, and of course we walked up and we were like, “Ah! Dumeril’s boa!” And they were like, “Yeah, good eye!” And we’re like, “Well, we have one at home.” And so we kind of asked them, like, “You know, is she for sale? We’ve been thinking about getting a female Dumeril’s boa.” And… yeah, he gave us a price that seemed reasonable. So I don’t even think they were intending on trying to sell her, but we were definitely like, “This is the only female Dumeril’s boa we’ve seen, so, if we want one, this is our chance!”
Royce: But yeah, when I got her home, I tried to introduce them. And I was watching them, and as soon as she got in, they kind of, like… they kind of started acting a little tense. And then Sen immediately struck her in the side and held on. And I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t prepared for this moment.
Royce: This was not in the plan. But I reached in and just put my hand just behind Sen’s head, and he released. Well, boas have fangs. Lots and lots of fangs.
Courtney: [laughing] Logs and lots of fangs.
Royce: Lots and lots of teeth, and they curve a little bit. So if a boa has bitten something, it isn’t just a simple release. They kind of have to, like, walk their jaws back a little bit to get all of the teeth out.
Courtney: [laughing] Shimmy.
Royce: And so that happened. And then I pulled him out. And he was no longer aggressive, and she was defensive, but not too big of an issue. But at that point I’m like, “Okay, well, we have one legitimate enclosure. We have some other things that could do for the time being.” So we Started a process of swapping them in and out regularly and making sure that – We had already prepared extra heating elements and things like that, so they were fine, but it was a bit tight for a little while. We tried introducing them a couple of other times, because I didn’t know why that happened. I didn’t know if Sen was just being territorial or what.
Courtney: Yeah, it scared me so much too. Because I swear, your very first text to me was like, “Sen just attacked her. Get home now.” But I had just finished a glass of wine [laughs] and I was like, “I’m gonna have to sit here for a while before I can drive. I can’t just get home now.” And yeah, that was really scary. I felt so bad.
Royce: Yeah, I eventually figured it all out to the best of our ability at the time. Because yeah, like we said earlier, you can’t just go to a pet store and get an enclosure –
Royce: – for a snake of this size.
Courtney: Did you, like, have to go to The Container Store or something?
Royce: We had some bins available that are suitable for short times.
Courtney: Plastic storage container.
Royce: Just like to switch them around. It isn’t something that we ever kept them in for very long, but…
Courtney: Sen was in the doghouse. [laughs] Chihiro got Sen’s bed. Sen got kicked out.
Royce: Yeah. Until we had a second proper enclosure, it was a lot of switching them in and out of that one.
Royce: And making sure they had access to food and water and everything. But yeah, we tried a couple of more times to just watch them around each other, and I still don’t know for sure. I think that Sen is potentially defensive or territorial. It could also just be that, like, the mating habits of Dumeril’s boas might just be really aggressive.
Courtney: Yeah! Are they just violent maters? We don’t know. And we’re not going to find out because we don’t have the heart for it. [laughs]
Courtney: Oh man.
Royce: As cool as it would be to have a brood of baby snakes, it’s not worth potentially having an adult snake get injured.
Courtney: No, no, absolutely not. And yeah, she was a little rattled, but they’re also just really, really tough, so…
Royce: Oh, there were no marks from the bite.
Courtney: She’s fine. She is 100% fine, but it’s just jarring to see a snake bite anything, really.
Courtney: So yeah, yikes! So yes, they have two completely separate enclosures. They do not have playdates anymore. [laughs] And that’s fine. Although – ooh, I can’t wait to post this picture. So, because I make things out of hair and I’ve met a lot of people and there are lots of people who are, you know, fans of my work and/or really appreciate the history of this old art form, I get a lot of hair in the mail. And my favorite mail I have ever received – I was gonna say for work, but I think just ever, period – was someone whom I met in the UK when I was teaching a class over in Winchester actually cut her hair, spun it into yarn, and crocheted a miniature top hat and mailed it to me! And that was the greatest thing I’ve ever opened in my life, and it is the perfect size for our snakes to wear. And so I put that little human hair top hat on Chihiro, and we got a lovely picture of it. Because snakes with hats is a very good thing. So, speaking of the Reptile Show, we kind of maybe sort of accidentally got a friend of ours really obsessed with snakes. And that’s actually why and how we got our next pet. How many snakes do they have now? [laughs]
Royce: Well, I think they stopped. I think they went from zero to six in about a year and a half, and then settled there.
Courtney: We took them to the Reptile Show. This is our responsibility. We did this. [laughs] So, yes, six snakes, wonderful. But they also started getting other animals also. I mean, they had a gecko at one point, just like different reptiles. I don’t even know how this conversation happened, because one day you came to me and you were like, “Do you want an opossum?” And I was like, “Of course I want an opossum.”
Royce: I went to lunch.
Royce: I went to lunch with said friend, and he was like, “So I have two Brazilian short-tailed possums, and I just learned that you can’t have two Brazilian short-tailed possums. They will probably kill each other. So does anyone want one?”
Courtney: And so my question though, when you asked if I want a possum, was that just a formality? Did you think there was any situation in which [emphasizes] I was going to say no?
Royce: I don’t think it matters. The conversation still needed to happen.
Royce: I wasn’t just going to show up with a possum.
Courtney: [laughs] I would have not been mad if you did. [laughs] But yeah, so I said, “Well. of course I want an opossum. Of course. Of course I do.” And thus enters Lenny, [laughs] the Brazilian short-tailed opossum. That was another really weird one. Actually, we kind of went out of order, but I think that’s fine. We had the mice before we had Lenny, but that’s okay, because Lenny is tangentially related to the Reptile Show. That was a weird one because you brought him home literally the day before I was leaving to go to Sweden to do some research. And it was also while this really, really weird thing was happening. Because, I mean, obviously [old-fashioned upper-class tone] I’m a business owner, I’m an entrepreneur, [regular tone] and that’s fine. But I was a part of a lot of local networking groups before the pandemic happened, and I got really lightly involved with this entrepreneurial podcast. There are these guys who run a startup in town, very wealthy, clearly, because they just have a box, a suite at the Sprint Center, the arena that’s in Kansas City. And so they just have this suite, and they use it to invite local entrepreneurs and influencers and all that. And I got invited to one of these. And oddly enough, it was the Santana concert, because Santana was in town. And they invited me to come to their suite during the Santana concert, and I was like, “Well, yeah, I want to see the Santana concert, so I’ll do that.” So I get all ready to go, and as soon as I come home, I’m going to pack my bags and go to bed because I’m leaving for Sweden. And I was like, “Yeah, this is gonna be great!” Now, add a possum into the mix, because you’re like, “Oh, well, while you’re out, I’m gonna go get our new possum.” [laughs] So I was like, “What a weird life this is.” Because this was also the night where, after I was leaving that concert, there was a police officer who was directing traffic and pedestrians, who just, like, looked at me and gave a double take and was like, “Wow, you’re scary!” [laughs] And that was just the weirdest thing a police officer has ever just said to me, out of the blue. So it was a weird night all around. But I came home and there was a little possum here! Oh, Lenny is also a grump though. I wish he liked us because I like him.
Royce: Yeah, interestingly enough, I had a few conversations with said friend about possum ownership, and apparently, not knowing so, they kept the possum that loves treats and walking into your hand and just hanging out, and we got the grump.
Courtney: [laughs] We got the grump. Which is, yeah, just something else. Because for as grumpy as Quiggley is, he’s not even the grumpiest creature in the house. Lenny’s weird though. He’s weird to look at because he’s not like North American possums in size.
Royce: I was about to say, we should probably clarify. Because what we’re talking about here is not something that looks like a bizarro cat. It’s something that looks more like a bizarro rat.
Courtney: A rat that’s a little too muscular and kind of disproportionate but also has a prehensile tail. [laughs]
Royce: And is kind of pigeon-toed, and yeah.
Courtney: [laughs] He looks very weird, because you expect something of that size to be a rat.
Courtney: But he’s also very clearly not a rat.
Courtney: And of course, he does the possum thing. He climb. He screamb. [laughs] He hiss. He bear his possum teeths.
Royce: We did try to socialize him a bit at first, and he was hesitant. We could get him out. Every time we would try, he would eventually tire of it and jump off of us and then run around the room. It would be a hassle to try to get him back again.
Courtney: Oh my gosh. It was like running around the room for an hour trying to wrangle this tiny possum [laughs] back into his cage. Yeah, that happened every single time.
Royce: Yeah, and he just didn’t seem to enjoy any part of it.
Courtney: He did not like it one bit.
Royce: So I –
Courtney: At a certain point it’s like okay, this is just how you are. [laughs]
Royce: Yeah. I mean, I ended up building a larger enclosure than the one that friend gave him to us in.
Royce: And we got him an extra large wheel to run in and some things to bed in and just let him be.
Courtney: Oh,he does love that wheel though. He’s actually, I mean, he’s really old too now, because they do not live very long.
Royce: I was going to say, in relative terms.
Royce: Because Quiggley is getting up there. Quiggley’s probably approaching or pushing 15, right?
Courtney: Oh, yeah.
Royce: The snakes are not 10 yet, but probably getting close. But Dumeril’s Boas should live 20, 25 years.
Royce: Possums, I think – I think this kind of possum is only expected to live 3ish. 3-5, maybe? Something like that.
Courtney: Well, and our friend who had the other one just recently said that that possum passed away.
Courtney: So [sighs] sadly, it may be soon time for our dear grumpy Lenny. He is very fun though. Oh, he’s so fun to just watch him climb around, and even though he doesn’t really like to be held, I can usually go in and pet him some, and as long as I’m not trying to grab him, he’s pretty cool with it. And I like that you can just touch his tail and he’ll just coil it around your finger, sort of like how a baby holds your finger and you go, “Aww,” except it’s a possum tail. [laughs] And then there’s the mice. The mice are a whole thing. How many do you think we have?
Royce: There’s no real way to know at this point.
Courtney: We have an unknowable number of mice. They are half wild and highly acrobatic. We have a literal mouse circus. So normally, when we say that we have 30-40 mice, the first question people ask is, “Are they snake food?” Which, no, they are not, absolutely not. These mice are family! First of all, we don’t feed the snakes live, and these mice are way too small for our snakes to care about. But several years ago at this point, in the middle of winter, there was this massive polar vortex that came through, all these weather warnings, and in the midst of that, we got some critters coming into the house. So we got some live traps and we caught ourself a little mouse. And we’ve kind of always just had a plastic storage container with air holes drilled into it because of situations like, “Well, we need a temporary place for the snake to live,” or more frequently, we will just have a sick and dying or injured wild animal that comes to us. Almost every year, it seems, we have at least one sick bird. We’ve had sick mice. Just these creatures, they find us, and we just sort of hospice them. They’re all kind of past the point of no return, but it’s like, “Let’s just ease you into your transition.” So we got our little animal hospice box because it was way too cold to release this poor mouse right now. So we just thought, “Well, we’ll keep you here until it warms up enough that it’s safe enough for us to drop you off somewhere and you won’t freeze to death before you can find a new home to hunker down in.” And we caught a couple more that night. How many did we catch that very first night? Do you remember?
Royce: The total count was nine, I believe? Although I could be wrong, because it was straddling a generation, and I can’t remember if it was nine after a couple of babies were born or if it was before.
Courtney: I want to say it was before because nine sounds correct to me.
Royce: The smallest ones – I found one that had actually fallen into our sink –
Courtney: [sympathetic] And couldn’t get out!
Royce: It was too young to have developed enough back legs to jump back out of the sink.
Courtney: Aww, precious. So yeah, I think it was nine total. And like two of those nine were pretty young babies.
Courtney: So we put them in the little container. And we’re kind of just delighted with our little mice. Quiggley was delighted with the mice. He was like, “Let me see those small creatures! Let me nuzzle them! Will they be my friend?” And mmm, the next morning, they were all gone.
Royce: Not all of them.
Courtney: Most of them were gone.
Royce: The adults had chewed through the corner of – the upper corner of the container and had left the two younger ones who could not jump high enough to get out of the container.
Courtney: Yep. Every mouse for himself.
Royce: The next night. They went into the exact same live traps again.
Courtney: They really like peanut butter.
Royce: And we grabbed a glass terrarium from a pet shop.
Courtney: We made, like, an emergency trip to Petco. [laughs] It’s not even a terrarium. It’s technically an aquarium.
Royce: Oh, yeah, I think you’re right! Because they didn’t have [laughs] a terrarium that was suitable, right?
Courtney: The logic actually was, “Now we’ll have an aquarium, and after we release these mice into the wild, we will have literally no excuse to not research what we need to do to get axolotls.” [laughs] But joke’s on us. The nine mice now in the aquarium had a couple more babies. And now we have some babies who are born in captivity, and the younger ones are getting kind of cool with us, and walking up on our hand when we go in to feed them and give them water, and kind of just being generally pretty sociable. And, well, now what are we gonna do?
Royce: There’s also the complicating factor that even if we did try to catch and release and put them out there somewhere, from what we were reading there’s virtually no chance that deer mice, this type of mouse, is actually going to survive being put back into the wild.
Royce: Because you’re putting them back in an unfamiliar environment where some other creatures are probably already established. And they’re probably just not going to be able to find and make a nest and actually survive.
Royce: Or they’re just going to go into someone else’s house, who’s probably not going to use live traps.
Courtney: Yeah, also that. So… hey, they became family. Which, while we picked up the aquarium, we also got a wheel for them, and they loved that thing. And it was so much fun to watch them figure it out.
Royce: Because it wasn’t intuitive.
Courtney: No. [laughs]
Royce: They would jump on it and it would spin and they would play with it, but they started by climbing on the outside.
Royce: And so they would try to climb up the outside of the wheel, but it would shift under them. So there was a period of time where you’d see a mouse jump on the side of the wheel, basically get sucked underneath it –
Royce: And then, with their back resting on the ground, would keep running, spin the wheel.
Courtney: Yes! It’s amazing, the things that they managed to do. But then when they discovered the inside of the wheel, where you didn’t just get launched if you couldn’t keep up with the flow of the wheel, they would get running so quickly, and then they just stop and hang on while the wheel still had momentum. So they’d just go around and around and around. [laughs]
Royce: It really seemed like there would be a couple of mice that were more curious or more daring and would try things and figure things out, and then all of the other mice would learn by example.
Courtney: They’d be like, “Hey, that looks like fun. We could try that.”
Royce: There were also cases where one mouse would grab onto one section of the wheel and let another mouse spin them.
Courtney: [laughs] Yes. And yeah, when I say they loved this wheel, I watched two baby mice being born while their mother was running on the wheel. I was very impressed with her. She was getting her steps in. She just kept running! She was just running on this wheel, and then I see this little pink mouse head just crowning, and I had to do a triple take. And I was like, “That mouse is giving birth while running on the wheel!” The first baby was born and just, like, fell out of the wheel onto the ground, and she just kept running while she delivered the second baby on the wheel. And she must have known, “That’s all, those are the only babies inside me,” because as soon as the second one came out, she just turned around, grabbed the baby in her mouth, and ran into their little hide, and a minute later, came back for the second baby that I was convinced was concussed. And that was one of the wilder things [laughs] that I have seen from those mice. But yeah, we really like playing with their enclosures, because they are so curious and they love when things change and they love to explore. And they also just constantly tunnel. So they’re always making this network of tunnels and hidey holes all over the place, and it’s just fun to see how they rearrange things. And we built them some little boxes. You built them a platform that they like to do backflips off of, which is very fun to see them do backflips.
Royce: Yeah. It’s attached to the ceiling with some wire.
Royce: Which, they also climb on the wire lid.
Courtney: Yeah, they’ll just climb upside down. They are very, very good. I love those mice. I love those mice with my entire heart. Oh my gosh, they are the coolest thing ever. And at this point, like we said, there’s an unknowable number of mice. We just say 30-40 mice, because that seems like a reasonable estimate. But they did have, you know, a few different generations of babies, and we got to watch them all grow up and find new, innovative ways to be acrobatic with the wheel and the platform and the ceiling. And then they were luckily intuitive enough to realize, “That’s all the space we have. Let’s stop having babies now,” because we haven’t had any new babies in… two years? At least a year.
Royce: At least a year. It’s been…
Courtney: I want to say at least a year and a half.
Royce: It’s been one, maybe two, mating seasons.
Royce: Because there are deliberate seasons of the year.
Courtney: Yes. And so we haven’t gotten any new babies, which was a concern. And definitely a lot of our friends were like, “Hey, [laughs] we have a wild mouse circus now.” There were a bunch of people that were like, “Uh, you’re gonna have hundreds of mice in a year or two.” And we’re like, “Oh, well, [laughs] we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, I guess.” But no, they have contained their population.
Royce: That was something we were always curious about, because pet store species or domesticated or semi-domesticated species behave differently.
Royce: And we were kind of… we were thinking, we were hoping that this might happen, because the mice are very difficult to distinguish normally –
Royce: – and would be very difficult to attempt to separate, which is why we didn’t do that in the first place.
Courtney: Yeah. Yes. [laughs]
Royce: But it seems like it has sorted itself out. I guess we’ll see in the future. I think we’re probably below 30, actually, because we have had a few of the older mice die as well at this point.
Courtney: Yeah, and surprisingly not very many. Because since they are wild also, it’s really hard to actually know what their lifespan is, because estimates in nature – obviously, there are so many variables, there are predators, there are elements, but you can’t do direct comparison with mice that you’d get at a pet store either, for obvious reasons. So, we weren’t really sure what to totally expect for their lifespan. Obviously, they’re small rodents, so it’s not going to be very long, but it was… was it 2018 when we got them? 2019 at the latest.
Royce: I don’t remember. I would have to find an early picture to get a date.
Courtney: It may have been 2019, but it was 100% no later than that. So, in that period of time with all the mice that we’ve had, and we started with nine, we’ve only lost three, is that right? And that’s only been the last couple of months. So I’ve actually been kind of surprised with how long-lived some of them have been. And I guess there was one baby that didn’t make it a couple of years ago, which is very sad, but it does happen. And we had so many babies. Although just watching the babies grow up was so fun, too. Because you’d see them as just these little pink beans that don’t even have eyes. And then you’d see them start to get gray and grow fur and still have their eyes closed. But they’d be nursing on their mother and their mom would just move, and with their eyes closed, they’d just walk behind her. [laughs] And then when they finally did open their eyes and start getting old enough, you’d see them start exploring the tank for the very first time, and it was so fun to watch them grow up. I am obsessed with our mice. I love them! They used to be in our bedroom, and I would just watch them for hours in the morning and in the evening. But Courtney is very, very, very allergic to dust, and they produce a lot of that, and I was dying. [laughs] So we had to move them out into the living room parlor area that is a much bigger open space and also not where we sleep. But I love them. I love them so much. Ha! You thought I was a crazy cat lady. I am, in fact, a crazy mouse lady. But I mean, here’s the thing: through all of this, I’m just really glad that I have you as a partner. Because there are so many people who would not indulge live-trapping and keeping and raising an entire colony of wild acrobatic mice. There may – I can’t imagine what type of person, it doesn’t sound real – but I can imagine there’s someone out there who would say, no, they don’t want a possum if their spouse came to them and asked if they want an opossum. I know it doesn’t sound real. I feel like the only answer to that question is “yes.” [laughs] But we both grew up in very animal-y households. I mean, I had a lot of pets. And I mean, you’ve told me that your mother would occasionally just bring home animals.
Royce: Oh, my mom would stop on country roads and pick up a turtle that was in the middle of the road.
Courtney: Yes. [laughs]
Royce: And then we’d feed it for a few days and she’d drop it off somewhere out in the country.
Courtney: So that’s actually a really good thing to know about a partner before you get into a relationship, is just, “What’s the animal situation?” Because I personally would be really upset if we had mice in the house and you were like, “Let’s just get kill traps and get this over with,” because that is just very much not me, not Courtney. And plus, the sheer quantity of joy that we would have missed out on if we did not keep these mice is utterly ridiculous, if I’m being honest. Those mice bring so much joy to my life. Although, why do all the bad animal things happen when you’re home alone? Because I also got a panicked text about a mouse while I was in Sweden, just after we got Lenny. [laughs]
Royce: That’s a good question.
Royce: I wouldn’t say all of them. We’ve also had a mouse get out while you were home.
Courtney: That’s true. But that didn’t feel quite as panicked. Like, that situation was under control.
Royce: Right. I think this situation was mostly under control. I was just informing you, just in case. No, I remember where it was at. I was just trying to change their food or water or something, and I slid the lid back, and a mouse went to go jump on the platform that hangs from the ceiling, but…
Courtney: Missed. [laughs]
Royce: – didn’t adjust to me sliding the lid at the same time, completely missed the platform, landed on my arm that I had just put in, freaked out, and jumped straight up out of the cage, over the side, onto the floor.
Royce: Landed on the floor for a second. Paused. Like, it had no idea where it was at this point, like it had just been transported to a different world.
Courtney: Might as well have been! Poor thing.
Royce: And then I closed the lid and started to approach, to see if maybe it was freaked out enough that I could just pick it up. And no, it darted off somewhere. So I grabbed the live traps, put fresh peanut butter in them, put them around a little bit, looked around myself to see if I could see the mouse, and I couldn’t find it at all. And then I texted you and was like, “Okay, here’s the deal.”
Courtney: While I was in Sweden, in the middle of the night in Sweden, just get a text being like, “A mouse got out!” [laughs] What am I supposed to do with this information? I can’t help! [laughs] But that was fine. They really like peanut butter.
Royce: Yeah, I think what happened was the mouse got scared and just hid somewhere for a couple hours.
Royce: And then as soon as it came out, just went right into a trap and then back in.
Courtney: Which, from the way you the recounted the story, this mouse might as well have been rolling in the peanut butter and got, like… [laughs]
Royce: Oh, yeah. I remember that now. It looked kind of oily, almost.
Royce: Like it had just been rolling in something.
Courtney: Well, their little bodies get so… hot. I’m sure it melted some of the peanut butter. [laughs]
Royce: That could have been. But when I put it back into the enclosure, another mouse just came up to him and started licking all of the peanut butter oil off of it.
Courtney: Of course! They’re so fun. They’re also very, very social sleepers and livers. They live and sleep in very close quarters. We often just have a mouse pile. Sometimes it’s in their little bed area, which is normally in a box, or under the bedding in a tunnel, but sometimes in the middle of the day, they’ll just make a little pyramid of mice on the platform and just do a little snooze. And it’s just fun to see a pile of mice, just all squished and cuddled together. And it’s like, that’s another thing too, because is this enclosure the right size for them? I guess they stopped breeding, so they know better, but they sleep in one teeny tiny corner just squished together as much as possible. And it’s like, you guys do not need to do that. There’s a lot more room than that. But you just like being squishy. Occasionally, they’ll even squish their faces up to the side of the glass, and you’ll see their teeth, because their lip is pulled way back, and their eyes kind of squished closed. They’re very funny.
Courtney: So yeah, I think that’s about all. We have Quiggley the chihuahua, Sen and Chihiro the snakes, Lenny the opossum, and 30-40 highly acrobatic half-wild mice – which is a totally reasonable number of mice to have, do not be fooled. But yeah, hopefully you enjoyed listening to all of our little animal shenanigans. This week’s episode was a little silly, a little informal, a little personal, just a little glimpse into our actual life here in The Ace Couple house. If you guys like hearing these little personal stories, please make sure to let us know, especially if you follow us over on Twitter. Just go ahead and tweet at us if you have any questions for us or any other topics you’d be interested in hearing about our personal lives, because we’re willing to share more, we just don’t know how much you guys care. [laughs] Sometimes we get very serious and academic with serious asexuality issues, and the intersections with disability and race, and other times were just like, “La la la, we have a mice circus.” [laughs] So, if you like this strange little mix of episodes we have, make sure to let us know. Give us a good review, a rating, a like, a comment, a subscribe. And I suppose, for that matter, follow us over on Twitter so you can see all of these wonderful pictures and videos of our little menagerie. As always, guys, thank you so much for being here, and we will talk at you all next time.