I love lizards, who’s with me?

I picked up a board on my deck the other day and a lizard flew off the top of it and landed on the ground in front of me looking pissed. He was black and staring at me accusingly (at least that’s how I interpreted  his look). Lizards turn dark when they are upset or angry. How awesome is that!? They are like reptilian mood rings.

deck lizard

Backyard Lizard (see how he’s looking at me? )

I kind of wish my skin turned a completely different color when I was angry so people would leave me alone. “Watch out guys, Stephanie is totally navy blue right now, let’s just give her some room so she doesn’t attack.” That would be nice. As it is I have to resort to slamming doors or something to display my indignation.

I missed lizards when I lived in Atlanta. It’s not like I was sitting around pining for them while I was there, but when I came home and once again started seeing them out of the corner of my eye darting here and there on trees and fences, I realized that they were a distinctly Floridian treat that I appreciated.

They have been a part of my every day scenery since I was a little kid. Just like seeing clouds in the sky, you could always count on every walk to and from the bus stop being punctuated with at least 20 or so lizards that would dash out in front of you along the way, racing from the grass on one side of the sidewalk to the other side. Sometimes you narrowly avoided stepping on them. It seemed as if they were eternally playing “chicken”, seeing which one could come the closest to our feet without being squashed. Little cold-blooded daredevils.

As kids we would catch them and then try to get them to open their mouths and clamp down on an earlobe so you could wear them like an earring (for as long as you could take it). I also remember being terribly sad once because I spotted a little baby lizard and when I reached to grab it I accidentally smooshed  it. I felt so bad about it that I cried, I just wanted to hold it, not kill it.

Speaking of killing lizards, my cat is fond of them too, but in a entirely different (and much more evil) way. Man, she loves to hunt those little guys. I know she’s managed to snag one when I hear that particular strangled meow she makes followed by loud purring. I will run downstairs to try to rescue it and find her flipping it around, it’s tail hanging by a thread or missing altogether, and usually bloody. Honestly, I don’t even think she means to kill them, she’s just having fun with her new “plaything”. What a monster. Thank god she weighs less than five pounds or else none of us would be safe in this house.

When I was in college I had a pet lizard, but this was a bigger one. His name was Buddy and he was a water dragon. I had him in my dorm room even though we weren’t allowed to have pets. I always felt bad about him being locked in a cage so I would let him out sometimes to roam around the room. Then my roommate would scream in surprise when she encountered him on top of her clothes in the closet. I bet she remembers those moments fondly to this day (not).

Water dragons are actually carnivores, unlike iguanas, so I had to buy Buddy live crickets to eat. Did you know that crickets smell bad? They do. They have the scent of a thousand smelly feet when contained in a box in a dorm room. And they are loud in a rustling, chirpy kind of way. They are the unwelcome pets that come along with having the other pet.

Buddy the water  dragon and me

Buddy the water dragon and me (I’m the one with the terrible early 90’s outfit and double chin from too much beer drinking)

For some reason I thought Buddy and I were actually “buddies”. I mistakenly assigned more of a personality to this cold-blooded creature than he actually possessed. One day at home I was lying in my bed reading with Buddy perched on my chest. All of the sudden he leapt on to my face and bit down on my nose. “Ahh!” I screamed and reflexively grabbed and tossed him to the end of the bed.

My brother came running in the room to find me with a blood dripping from my nose and Buddy at the end of the bed colored dark brown, which is apparently the shade a bright green lizard turns when they get thrown across a room. I guess my nose must have looked like one of the little pink frozen baby mice I was supposed to (but couldn’t stomach) feed him. I couldn’t blame him, he was just doing what water dragons do. But that was our last “group reading” session.

Buddy was also slightly suicidal, or deranged, maybe his forced domesticity depressed him. He repeatedly lunged and smashed his face into the glass wall of his cage over and over again so that he perpetually had an abrasion on his nose. I felt guilty, like I was his personal jailer. So when I moved off campus to a house, I decided that it would be a better living situation for him to reside on the screened-in porch. It was roomy, outdoors-ish, and had a tree for him to hang out in.

The porch was screened halfway up and aluminum from the bottom half down.  Alas, the suicidal Banzai charges continued in his new environment. We’d be sitting inside and hear a metallic bang from the porch and go out to find Buddy on the ground (colored a deep shade of brown, as you might imagine) recovering from hurling himself off the table into the aluminum wall.

He was a very troubled lizard and I have to admit that as an especially immature 20-year old college student I was not well-equipped to handle him (or her, I never really knew which sex he/she was by the way).

One afternoon I decided to just let him go in the yard, I figured that even if he only lived one day, it would be one day of freedom. Oops! That was an act born of ignorance, at that point I wasn’t aware of  the dangers of introducing a non-native species to an area. (Like all of the boa constrictors and pythons that people have let go in the Everglades which are disrupting the natural food chain and environmental balance). I was promptly chastised by a much wiser and more eco-conscious friend about it, but it was too late. Buddy was gone.

Although wild iguanas are fairly plentiful there, I haven’t heard of any water dragon infestations in the Miami area, so hopefully Buddy didn’t make too big of an impact on the local ecosphere. Live and learn.

Even though owning a lizard as a pet was a bit of a bust for me, I really do appreciate having them around. They eat mosquitos, roaches, spiders and other insects! Plus, I think it is totally awesome that we get to have tiny, harmless (to us) dinosaurs roaming around our yards in Florida.

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6 thoughts on “I love lizards, who’s with me?

  1. My 13 year old son is saving his $ for a bearded dragon (+ set-up). I had no experience with / knowledge of bearded dragons (nor “pet” lizards of any type) until he expressed genuine interest in getting one.

    After “meeting” one at a pet store, and learning about them, I’m looking forward to him getting one!!! Can’t wait!

    • i was sitting here wornkig late in the eve, my thoughts wondered to my child hood and remembered Bob Jenny….in a scrap book in my closet from my elementary years is posted a little brochure about a reptile show at a church on Key Blvd back in the early 60’s..i went and remember seeing Bob and all his snakes. I was thinking i would like to see him again and did a quick search ,,,the first thing i read was “Bob Jenny died today” my heart sank….as you live life on the down hill side of the hill you tend to want to reach back for those uphill days.Thank you for your post. Back in the early O’s i saw Bob at a show at the fair..i was manning a booth for our church and couldnt get over to see him, the crowd he attracted made it more than a short endeavor and I missed out. but i got to stand there and just watch him in action,,,a passion he had!Talking about Forman Scotty, i over the last few years listend off and on to Danny Williams (Xavier T. Willard ) on Koma and though “i sure would like to meet him” yet i never did anything about it……got a text message the other day from my sis that he had taken his own life. when i thought of Bob just now i also thought, now follow through or he’ll be gone too.my heart sank when i saw your post…the elementary kid in me mourns both of those gentlemen right now!!Thanks for your words on Bob. You obviously valued him too.cd

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