Controversial study helps explain the impact of pets
on child development.
When I was a kid, a pet changed my life. It was not our family’s lovable mutt Frisky or even Murphy, my pet duck. No, it was a four foot yellow rat snake named Fred I got for three bucks when I was 13. He lived in a cage in my bedroom. I was transfixed by his enigmatic stare, alien beauty, and ability to swallow a mouse. I was hooked. Within a year, I had a menagerie of scaly creepy-crawlies. And while other kids were rocking out to the Beatles and Stones, I was learning the Latin names of snakes and devouring books on reptile behavior and ecology. In retrospect, Fred turned out to be metaphorical gateway drug that led me to pursue a Ph.D. in animal behavior and to eventually publish papers on topics like the love songs of alligators and the personalities of baby garter snakes.