The Reluctant Dragon


I have loved all animals all my life – furry, feathered, fuzzy, ones that creep – and till fairly recently, my home was full of them. I was definitely the mother on the street who would make room for the Hermit Crabs, transient crayfish and an assortment of baby birds as well as three dogs, two cats and a Bearded Dragon lizard who, despite raffish good looks was actually, well, still, a lizard.

I embarked on the reptile highway, especially, with both eyes open, fully aware that soon I would be the sole caregiver, maintaining basking light with the best UV rays, making questionable online friends via the “Herp Boards” when I needed advice and conducting the cleaning  of an oversized aquarium, say, 60″ in length. This task especially was not for the faint of heart, since this particular lizard only evacuated his bowels thrice annually.

I made the daily salads he required (radicchio and collard greens, finely chopped with a few raspberries) before I went to work, as well as maintaining a “cricket ranch” for his evening meals which we watched, coliseum-style as a family, marveling as he leapt about the cage  and then collectively winced at the sound of crunching, dry, exo-skeleton after he’d cornered one.

(By the way, the similarity in sound to eating an overly high stack of Pringles was both remarkable and disturbing).

This spectacle – not readily available elsewhere – provided serious street cred with sleepover guests especially, and both Frasier and Niles  seemed quite proud that we were That House …

I was fond of our lizard (originally named “Zilla” by Frasier (as in Godzilla), but the moniker later had to be changed to “Zilleen” (as in Celine Dion), after he/she laid a raft of eggs) but I cannot say that we really had a proper relationship.

She accepted raspberries and Granny Smith apple parings from my hand very gently but once she bit me in her greediness and left a perfect, serrated half-moon imprint of her teeth on my finger. These post-raspberry feasts always left her with a comical set of stained red lips which, on a lizard, can be really very striking.

That said, although I would never have another “exotic pet” for ethical reasons, (as well as the sheer amount of work involved to do it properly) I did cherish being considered the least squeamish of mums, as well as the one who might respond best to “but please can’t we keep him?”






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