Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lizards in Kevlar

A herp-world friend of mine, Roger Van Couwenberghe, has started selling Kevlar gloves and gauntlets that he found very useful in protecting his hands from serious and painful lizard bites. Roger asked me to give them a try and let him know what I thought about them. Since I found them useful, I thought I would post my experience with them here, as well as send them to Roger, in case any of the three or four of you who are reading my LIS blog have any interest in trying them out.

Hi, Roger,

Thank you for the opportunity to try out the kevlar gloves and gauntlets you have started using with your lizards. As you know, I don't have anyone at the moment who actively wields teeth and claws as weapons, so I had not been able to give the gloves and gauntlets a try. I just recently, however, found another use for them: abrasion eliminators!

Mike, my 7-year old Cyclura iguana, has skin crafted out of various grades of sand paper, none of them fine. Most of his limb and belly scales project back in upraised points. So, while he may feel smooth to the touch when running your hands over his chest and legs in one direction, running your hand in the other direction is a great way to remove calluses…and several layers of skin if no calluses are present. At 21 pounds, and 21 inches snout-vent length, there's a lot of power backing up a large abrasive area.

Mike will occasionally decide to hang out under my king-size bed or one of the large upholstered, skirted chairs or couch in the living room. In the summer when the temperatures are fine for him to overnight under furniture, I just leave him there overnight, knowing he will emerge in the late morning, ready for some serious basking and grub.

(Have I mentioned yet that sometimes menopause is harder on the iguanas than it is on the women going through it? This is why all the hunkering down under heavy furniture is happening - the weirdly fluctuating hormone levels are driving us both nuts. Thank goodness he's finally figured out that the space underneath armoire is too small for him!)

I am less sanguine about his camping out overnight during the Winter. This means I have to move the heavy bed faster than he is able to move with it so as to remain covered. Ditto the couch. Ditto the large heavy living room chair. The problem is that I have had to move the heavy furniture far enough away from him so that enough of his body is exposed to enable me to pick him up. If I have to pull him at all, I lose much of the epidermis on my fingers and palms as Mikey digs in and pulls away from me or locks himself into position. If I stop so I can to again push the furniture away to expose him further, he will have moved himself back into deeper cover by the time I get down on the floor again. Brat.

And thus it was one night last week. I let him stay under the bed during the afternoon, but with the outside and inside temperatures rapidly dropping, I wanted him back in his heated room. And so began the bed pushing once again. Mike was apparently taunting me, managing to reposition himself to keep just his nose even with the edge of the mattress frame. I reached under the bed, putting my hand under his belly and arms to start pulling him forward, whereupon my skin started to rip. Again. Just as I was deep into my "Don't give you - you have to get him out - Brat! - Don't give you - you have to get him out - Damn it, Mikey, stop pulling back! - Don't give you - you have to get him out", I remembered: kevlar!

So I stumbled to my feet, ran to the ig room, and grabbed the gloves and gauntlets, pulling them on as I returned to the bedroom. By the time I had returned, Mike had pulled back under the bed a few inches. No matter: I got down, got my hands under him, and pulled him out with no loss of skin. I did, however, get a major dose of Stinky Eye as I walked him back to the ig room. I told him to blame Roger and the kevlar, not me. Well, and himself for being such a doofus as to pick the coldest night of the Fall to decide to hunker down under my bed!

Friday, he went under one of the living room chairs in the late morning and stayed there. I gave him several hours of 'alone time', then donned the kevlar and got him out. More Stink Eye. And a harrumphing sigh.

This morning, he worked his way into one of his more accessible places: in between the file cabinet under my desk, and another file cabinet sitting about 18 inches away. Lined up on the floor in between the two are a bunch of notebooks topped by some bags of yarn. Behind the notebooks is a rather unruly mess of computer, phone, and other cords. Mikey insinuates himself into this area from behind, so he is hidden by the notebooks but still able to spy on me while I'm working at my desk. I play along for a while, making like I don't see his great hulking dark gray and spotted body filling up the space between the notebooks and phone jacks when I'm walking to and from my desk.

The problem is, however, that because he is as big as he is, he can't turn himself around to get out of there, not without getting tangled in the cords and hanking them out of the walls or equipment they are plugged into. My moving the notebooks out of the way certainly give him the space he needs to move forward, but that's not the point, that's not why he's planted himself there.

So, after running through my morning email and first mug of chai, I went and got the gloves and gauntlets, moved the notebooks to one side, and extricated him yet again.

This time, there was no Stink Eye, but that's just because when he plants himself in that spot, it isn't so much to hide because the hormones are making him cranky, as to annoy me. In this case, probably because I failed to leap out of bed and rush to fawn over him when he descended from his earlier this morning. Other times he's done this has been when my goddog, Sidney, has spent a night or two here. Or I "ignored" him for an entire day, when I've had to leave the house before he gets up and return home long after he ::gasp:: puts himself to bed for the night. Regardless of his motivation, however, before the gloves and gauntlets, extrication always involved loss of dermal integrity (mine) and smirking (yes, lizards can smirk, as any keeper of large iguanids will tell you).

No more! Now we both emerge unscathed, and only one of us is miffed.

I have never been a fan of using gloves with reptiles or other animals. Too often, people using thick leather gloves end up doing more harm than good, injuring or otherwise scaring the animal. While most critters learn that biting the glove is doesn't work to make the annoying/scary human leave it alone, that behavioral modification can be lost if the glove--the hand inside the glove--applies too much pressure or torque, unintentionally countering the desired modification.

These kevlar gloves and gauntlets are nice because they are thin and flexible enough that I don't feel like there is much of a barrier between my hands and Mikey. Mike is comfortable because the finely knitted fabric is soft, pliable, and relatively warm to the touch (compared with the outside surface of leather or other thick safety gloves worn for the same amount of time).

So, thank you, Roger, for saving my skin.


If you are interested in trying a pair of gloves and gauntlets for yourself, check out Roger's Kevlar Gloves & Gauntlets site.


Blogger Knatolee said...

And here I thought you were going to clothe MIKEY in Kevlar!!!

7:47 AM  

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