Pet Spotlight: Nyonda the Loving

Kathryn Coffey

When she turned thirteen, Millikin sophomore Hannah Haedike wanted to get a snake. After some thorough research into reptiles, she bought a Ball Python. She decided to do research about what name the snake should have.

Since pythons came from Africa, she figured it would be neat to have the snake’s name be in an African language. She chose Swahili, and the name is even sweeter. She named her snake “Beloved, I Love You.” In Swahili, the name translates to Nyonda Ashikii. For short, Haedike calls her python Nyonda.   

Haedike has a plethora of good memories with Nyonda, but there was one frightening instance Haedike recalled. About a year and a half after she got Nyonda, Haedike’s father asked her to clean Nyonda’s tank before she hung out with her friend Sydney. She did as she was told, but she left the tank half-open. “There was no way [Nyonda] was going anywhere,” Haedike said. “She’s never been outside her tank before.”

A while later Haedike got a call from her dad saying Nyonda was gone. Immediately, her parents picked her up, and as soon as they got home, they frantically searched the house for the snake. Her brother said if he found the snake, he would kill it. After a long while of searching, Haedike could only assume the worse. Suddenly, she heard her mother scream. Nyonda was found curled in a little ball in a heel of one of her tennis shoes, sleeping.

Since then, Nyonda and Haedike have enjoyed a full life. Nyonda is five and a half feet long, close to the full-grown length of between four and six feet for an average python. She is going to be seven years old and enjoys taking baths and naps beside her owner.

For food, Nyonda can get very picky. For the first six months of living with Haedike, she refused to eat the frozen rats that snakes are supposed to get when they’re starting out living in their new homes. It wasn’t until she was fed live rats that she started eating regularly. Her favorite things to eat are large, female, albino rats. Once she was on a live-diet, she could never return to frozen food, not that it was ever a total loss from the beginning.

Snakes usually eat once a week, but they, especially ball pythons when their body matures after five years, could go up to a year without eating. Nyonda would go without food for a few months during the snake mating season.

Anyone familiar with “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” could tell you that another quirk snakes have is that they can shed their skin. Haedike finds this to be one of the coolest things about Nyonda. When snakes go up to a year without eating, they tend to shed less. But because Nyonda is fed on a regular basis, not only does she continuously grow, but she can shed her full body length.

When snakes eat, they have to dislocate their jaw. To fix their alignment after they’re done eating, they yawn. Nyonda would pop her mouth open to yawn. Afterward, she would have little yawns here and there.   

But the best part about Nyonda is her patient, kind, and forgiving nature. Being that she’s a Ball Python, it might have been impossible to be described as these human characteristics. Not many snakes are like this, but Nyonda is quite the exception, especially in Haedike’s eyes. “I guess it’s weird to give these qualities to a snake,” Haedike said, “But she’s as warm and cuddly as a snake can get, and I love her.”