DeKALB – Mariah Thick's jaw dropped and her eyes widened when she opened them to see she was touching a 7-foot python.
"When I felt the length of it I thought it might be a snake," said Thick, 12, of DeKalb. "The tongue scared me, and I thought it was going to bite me."
Thick's surprised reaction to a python was part of the DeKalb Public Library's Paws to Read summer reading program. The library invited Animal Quest to show off and teach children about ten different animals Wednesday.
Animal Quest, owned by Jessica Reedy, makes school, library and birthday party visits to educate children about animals. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the DeKalb Public Library.
Wednesday's event featured a tarantula, hedgehog, bearded dragon, ferret, tortoise, python, bullfrog, squirrel, coatimundi and a giant rabbit.
"It was nice because [Animal Quest] provides a menu of animals to choose from," said Edith Craig, DeKalb Public Library programming and public relations coordinator. "We picked out animals we thought the kids might be excited to see."
As animals were introduced, volunteers were asked to stand in front of the group, close their eyes and hold out their hands. Animal Quest handler Haley Gaede brought the animals by the line of volunteers, asking the children to guess what they were touching.
"Everybody was really excited," Reedy said. "Everybody wants to touch and learn about the animals. Our job is fun."
The children were told that if left alone with the python, it could kill them. So Thick's favorite animal was the giant rabbit, which weighed in at 22 pounds.
Children were excited to touch the hedgehog, but Reedy said they aren't as quick as they may seem.
"It's funny that Sonic the Hedgehog is fast in the game," Reedy said. "They're not fast in real life."