Somebody to Love

Deep in the bowels of a century-old stone building is a room few outsiders dare to enter.  Scales, spikes, fuzzy skins, and blue tongues adorn strange beasts living in the oddly-scented heat. Keepers take regular delivery of living creatures to be tossed into the beasts’ quarters for them to feed on.

Men and women draw back from contact with the creatures. Children, especially boys, challenge each other to reach out a trembling hand and touch them. Gasp! Run!

Where is this dreaded place?

It’s the Live Room in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto Canada.

Who are the brave keepers?

One of them is Amy Lathrop, a technician in the Herpetology department. She introduced myself and a few friends to the residents of the Live Room.

Amy loves reptiles.

You can see it in how gently she handles them, in how much she knows about them. She’s been on expedition to Vietnam to study and co-author research papers on them.

And she’s very nice! Not weird at all! Honest.

See that snake headed her way? He really, really likes her. It can sense when she’s in the room. Huh!

Did you know that pythons and constrictors have vestigial hips and legs at the base of their long, long, long spines? You can see a tiny claw on either side of their last rib.

How’s that for an idea for your next paranormal story?

This dragon-guy’s spines are pliable when he’s not puffed up in self-defense. How could you not love that?

This soft little cutie drops off her tail to wiggle around as a decoy while she makes her escape to a safe zone.

And here’s that way wicked blue tongue. Look close. It really is blue. Trust me. I was there.

Oh, the live food? That would be the crickets kept on hand to feed some of the reptiles.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, where do you find somebody to love? Somebody that’s a little on the… shall we say non-standard… side?

© Joan Leacott 2012, photos by Andy McCraw

20 Comments on “Somebody to Love

    • I did indeed. It’s such fun to write snippets out of your genre. The ROM is a wonderful place. I’m glad I’m a member.


  1. GREAT article, Joan. I, too, loved the build-up and the pictures. I am FORCING myself not to Google-hop to determine why we imagine snakes to be slimy. Still–dry or no–this would definitely be a spectator adventure for me.

    I snorted when I read the comment from Mona. We pay to have people house-sit when we’re on vacation so we don’t have to board our labs. But, babysitting a snake? Um. Nope. What was her son thinking? Or, was he?


    • When I saw “labs”, I immediately thought “scientific lab” with test tubes and such. It took me a while to figure out you actually meant the dogs! Sheesh. That will tell you my mind was still in the bowels of the old stone building.


  2. Hi Joan, it looks like you had fun visiting with the snakes. Unaware, that my son brought a pithon once in his room, I went to clean up, and came out faster than lightning, screaming at the nasty surprise. He claimed he had offered a friend to babysit his pet–that huge thing– for three days. Amy’s snakes look inoffensve.


    • The unexpected thing was NONE of the critters were slimy or even damp! They were all dry to touch with various textures. Another myth shot.


  3. Hi Joan,
    Yes, Amy is VERY nice! She introduced a group of us to her little friends, and it was really a great experience. I finally got a chance to not only play to with them, but Amy also gave me free rein to take all of the photos that I wanted, some of which you can see above. I have a whole bunch more on my website under What We Do / Places We Visit.



    • Hey Andy! Thanks for stopping by. If anyone wants to see the other photos, follow the link in the copyright band. There’s a couple of shots where you can see all the ribs that are inside a snake. Fascinating stuff!


  4. Oh, Joan, you are so right. Tons of fodder for a paranormal hero here. Pliable dragon spines? Blue tongue? Well!

    Love your build up. Fantastic.