My household has become embarrassingly exemplary of why snake-keeping is fraught with perils. In my acceptance of a reptilian pet (an "I-can’t-keep-her-can-you?" giveaway I took on 18 months ago), I thought I knew what I was in for.

Namely, frequent mice feedings (mostly live because my local snake store seldom stocks frozen ones), yucky snake-poopy cage cleanings and enough human-serpent interaction to hone her tame personality to perfection.

For all this time, Dart has been a model pet. She’s never struck at me or my son (in whose room she resided). She’s been exceedingly healthy, shedding her skin regularly and never missing a meal. And she’s been to several children’s gatherings to show off her reptilian beauty and lack of sliminess.

But all that’s in the past now. Dart is gone. I noticed the hole in the screen cage topper a month ago, which I repaired with cotton balls (I know, very stupid, but I truly thought she couldn’t reach it anyway).

This past Friday I made a trip to my favorite reptile store, selecting two hoppers (big mouse babies) for her regular meal. As usual, I closed my eyes when I transferred them to her lair…and walked quickly away.

Later, I checked up on her appetite, as I always do within a safe timeframe—four hours? Two happy, healthy mice peering up at me: one black, one white.

I searched under the copious mound of shavings I’d changed the week before I’d gone on vacation: Nothing! No Dart! And stupid me: no cotton ball, either!

So you know, I live in a very old home by Florida standards (1920-50). Every manner of small critter has access to my home via numerous tiny crawl spaces in the Florida pine structure.

Though we searched far and wide we knew almost immediately that she was gone.

Yep. I’m now one of those irresponsible snake owners whose pets has joined the ranks of the released or escaped. I feel horrible.

One silver lining: I live on a wooded acre with plenty of adjacent acreage any corn snake would consider heaven. I can only hope she’s off finding significant prey species to consume. Good-bye Dart…and forgive us our stupid human tricks.

Hmmmm....I wonder what mice eat?