Oh Jim Davis, you poet, you.
A few of you guys know what I do for a living, probably fewer understand
what I do for a living. Earlier this year I started working for a company called All Pro Shipping. All Pro is a sub-company of the larger, and much older, Pro Exotics. Pro Exotics is the largest reptile breeding operation in Colorado. Started some 20-odd years ago by NFL linebacker Chad Brown and Robert Markland, Pro Exotics was once a small operation that grew into a retail store and finally became a private breeding facility for high-end exotic animals.
Pro Exotics specializes in ball pythons, specifically rare, high-dollar morphs ($2000+, usually).
Things like bumblebee ghosts
(my personal favorite)
as well as green tree monitors
and even goddamn Gila Monsters
I'm not a HUGE fan of snakes, or at least I wasn't when I started. I know it's bigoted, but I have a hard time connecting with animals that are largely incapable of reciprocating affection. I don't blame them for being what they are, but I like animals that want to cuddle. But they are really beautiful and I've largely come around to really liking snakes and other herps.
We have two buildings, one that houses our offices and the snake facility, which contains more than 2,000 snakes
at any time and another building that houses all of the lizards. The snake facility looks like this:
Those racks house the snakes, with one snake per tub. The tubs start off small for hatchlings and get larger as the animals grow. The animals' tubs are cleaned and watered daily, with feedings once a week. It is an immense operation, the business's motto is "Quality reptiles. Period." with a self-described business goal of "no disposable animals," which contrasts vividly with a lot of pet stores that shell out green iguanas and boas willy-nilly to whatever customer that walks in the door. I had cuban tree frogs when growing up and every public pet store I'd ever seen paled in comparison to this private facility. The place is immaculate.
is quite unrelated to the daily ins and outs of reptile breeding. I am the entire customer service department for a website run by All Pro, called ShipYourReptiles.com. As you can EASILY imagine, reptile breeders often sell their animals online to people throughout the country. And as you can imagine, pet owners have to move, sometimes to college or to a new job or getting deployed in the military. All of these people need to move animals, so they ship them using FedEx. Now, I know this sounds like a crazy idea. I mean, who would put a kitten in a box, tape up the box, and drop it off at a FedEx Office? No one. But snakes and reptiles are different. Lizards are pretty chill when stuck in reptile bags, and snakes seriously don't give a fuck
. "What's that? You want to put me in a dark, cozy container where nothing can bother me? Let's do this!"
And that's where our business comes in. Under normal circumstances, people can only ship animals through FedEx if they are a business shipping to another business. Our company has established a relationship with FedEx that provides us with unique privileges and abilities that come from specific agreements and understanding that we have with FedEx. To summarize, FedEx says, "Okay, ShipYourReptiles, you can ship live animals through us so long as:"
-all shipments are Priority Overnight
-all shipments are made Monday-Thursday to ensure packages do not get delayed over the weekend
-all shipments are in specific, pre-approved crush-proof containers
-all shipments are marked in accordance with Federal wildlife regulations
So you can go to SYR and essentially buy pre-paid postage through FedEx, and we offer a heavy volume discount, too. That's my job, helping people ship their snakes and tortoises and leopard geckos and beardies. And I love it. It's really fun, and the job is super interesting.
This morning at around 6AM I woke up with a call from my boss, hopped onto the computer and saw this:
The snake/office building was very much on fire.
Robyn, my boss, has continuously been updating the Pro Exotics Facebook page
Our swamp cooler, melted.
Inside, the animal racks
Shipping supplies (boxes) in the foreground, animals in the back.
Vision racks, melted.
More of the interior
We do not yet know what caused the fire, but it appears to have started in our unit.
The building looks to be a total loss.
It appears that ONE snake, a male boa, survived. A few ackie eggs may also be salvageable
It appears that my employment status is unchanged, as I am with ShipYourReptiles and that business is all online and "unaffected." But right now it's really all up in the air. I'm writing things because a) it's a really cool job that I love and I've wanted to share it for a while and b) because I guess I'm in shock to some degree and talking about it is cathartic. Nothing more, really. My mind keeps thinking about all the little critters in there and how horrifying it must have been, and then I am reminded of the pet store scene from Pee Wee's Big Adventure
and I want to chuckle for a moment, but then the harsh reality sets back in and I feel terrible. It sucks when small businesses get kicked in the balls, and it sucks when animals suffer.
I know the whole thing is totally
but writing about it has helped me relieve some stress. I think that's about it for now. Everything will be okay.