Occasionally a discussion arises, on iguana mailing lists or amongst a group of iguana keepers when they gather together, about how our iguanas feel about us, interact with us, whether they like us--or others--or not. Often times, when it comes to iguanas who have been dumped numerous times from one uncaring, ignorant person or family to another uncaring, ignorant person or family, over and over again, it is not surprising that they don't bond with the next human in line, not being able to tell, at least at first, that this new human really gives a damn and is determined to do it right.
A caring fellow named Dan recently took temporary charge of an iguana named Zilla (not to be confused with my Zilla). Dan's Zilla was very ill, very poorly cared for (by a pet store owner who kept refusing to take her to her vet, insisting she knew how to treat her), and as a result, a cranky, unpleasant iguana to deal with, quite a change from Dan's own iguana, Moe. But Dan noticed that when he took Zilla to visit her owner, Zilla clung to Dan, making the distinction between Dan (good, trying to help) and her putative owner (bad, hurtful).I started to write a post for the list Dan posted his comments and observations on, but then I decided, what the heck, make it a blog entry. People who would never consider keeping iguanas for pets (and I wish there were more of them), as well as too many people who do, do not realize that iguanas, like many sentient animals, are blank slates. Treat them as mindless things, and they will give you back...nothing. If your treating them as things is combined with your not taking the time to learn how to tame them properly, you end up with an untamed thing who will scratch you and bite you and just generally be an unpleasant thing, giving you back exactly what you are giving it. And therein, of course, lies the problem: iguanas (and other reptiles) are not things.
Anyway, I started thinking about some of the iguanas who have come into my life through the last 16 years. I think how an iguana acts towards his or her humans depends on the individual iguana, its humans, and what happens over the course of the iguana's life.
Some of the iguanas I felt merely tolerated by were ones that had already been through several homes before they came to me. They settled into my home okay, made alliances with some of the other iguanas, avoided some of the other igs, and eventually went to new homes, where they did fine, if not exactly becoming cuddly.
The iguanas who adopted me, so to speak, were ones who had had only one home before me but had been ignored for most for the time there (both because their human took another human into their lives, and the new human didn't like the "icky" lizard, who was thus banished to a cage in a back room for several years). Two I kept until they died (Freddy and Elvys). Once is still living in the Clovis area, with the family who adopted him from me 9 years ago (Zilla is 16 years old now).
My only iguana now is Mikey, a Cyclura. I got him when he as 2.5 years old, from the breeder. Being a Cyclura, he was smaller than we expect green igs to be at that age - he was 6.5" snout-vent length (SVL), plus a tail about half again as long. He wasn't tame, and he hated being caged. He wasn't crazy about me, either. I didn’t spend as much time with him initially, as I was working on my book when he came.
There was also another human who spent quite a bit of time here for a couple of years. Mike enjoyed dominating him; Mike's enjoyment was probably enhanced byt he fact that Mike was having no luck dominating me. Eventually, Mike learned that if he didn't hide when I let him out of his cage, he wouldn't have to stay in the cage. It took about 6-7 months for this lesson to be learned, but learn it he did.
We had our daily routine - pooping in the bath, bath, food, basking in the ig room, exploring the house, bobbing at the humans who came over, freaking out when they wore plaid or Hawaiian print shirts, sunning outside, and going for rides in the car.
He was tamed within the year, and enjoyed being fawned over when we were out. But towards me, he was basically an jerk. It felt to me like he was being intentionally obtuse about his potty training, and his interactions with me, always squirming and scratching as if every day was the first time I ever picked him up. Since he was considerably larger than he was when he first came to me, my arms, neck, legs, even face, would get badly scratched and scraped, each and every day.
A few years after Mike arrived here, I evicted the up-till-then nearly constant human male from my life, and Mike warmed up a little, but he was still a bit chill towards me. He made like I was his personal slave, and so he was happy. Any time I reminded him that I was the alpha, he was not.
His attitude towards me over the past couple of years, however, has warmed up quite a bit. He will come over and hang out near me. I suspected that it was more a matter of where my hormones were in their monthly cycle, but it happens outside of those times, as well.
Like many iguanas, he has figured out that many good things are to be had from the magical Big White Box. He hangs out in the kitchen staring pointedly at me, then at the fridge, then at me, at the fridge, back and forth, back and forth, until I get the message that he wants a treat (the current favorite being roasted chicken, preferably warm rather than straight from the fridge). (And before anyone freaks out on me, his Cyclura folks are omnivorous so a small amount of animal protein is an appropriate part of his diet.)
In the last six months, he now spends the night near me. Well, he curls up under the back part of my U-unit desk, with his head between the wall and the file drawer that sits under there. He comes over here about 7-7:30PM, and curls up there, where he sleeps until morning.
Our morning routine goes something like this: He climbs down from his iguana room sleeping area or out from under the desk, goes into the bathroom, and makes noise with his claws on the linoleum floor. That gets me up and into the bathroom to run his bath (and also take my morning meds). I go back to bed for as many hours as my body needs, and then get up, take my shower, and then drain his tub and run more water for him if he is still in there.
Over the past several weeks, however, there's been a change.
He has discovered my bed.
Now, he actually discovered it before, when he was tracking Sluggo, my bluetongue skink, one time. Sluggo, despite having ridiculously tiny legs and even tinier toes, manages somehow to climb up onto my higher-than-normal bed. (Re his legs, it’s like, when his wide heavy body made it to the end of the assembly line where the legs, feet and toes are plugged in, the only units they had left were ones belonging to significantly smaller lizards. Instead of waiting for appropriately sized leg/feet/toe units to be restocked, they just stuck on what they had, and so he has these skinny short legs and teeny feet and toes.)
When Mike came, Sluggo was bigger than him. Despite Sluggy never having done anything to intimidate or scare Mike, Mike was terrified of him. It wasn’t until sometime after Mike was significantly bigger than Sluggo that he realized that, and has had a mad on for him ever since. Part of his usual daily routine is to cruise the house looking for Sluggo and checking to see if by chance I left the front door open so he can go cruise the neighborhood and scare the neighbors’ dogs.
But, I digress. So, one day, Mike was scent tracking Sluggo in my bedroom, and discovered that that trail when up the side of my bed and under the covers…and so Mike followed. A few times over the past year, Mike would track Slug up there when I was up there trying to nap.
But now, Mike isn’t tracking Sluggo: he’s using my bed to sleep in! He has been climbing into the bed and either burrowing under or between pillows, or under the flannel-covered down comforter, and going to sleep. Sometimes he does this in the afternoons. Other times, like tonight, he goes in the early evening.
Usually, I pick him up and put him in his own bed before I go to sleep. He then reminds me a little kid: He keeps his eyes closed, his legs down along his side in the typical “iguana sound asleep position” and tries very hard not to move or open his eyes as I carry him from the bedroom through the den, kitchen and into his room. He has to open them a bit and move his limbs when I put him down, but he goes right back to sleep.
Twice I have let him stay in my bed over night. Both times were when his body was far enough away from where mine would be that I wouldn’t risk being sliced and diced by his tail and sharply keeled scales when I moved around at night.
Last night was the second time. He was sound asleep on the, uhm, guest side of the bed, under the pile of comforters (two live on my bed, one folded in half on top of the year-round one). The only thing you could see of him was his face, from his eyes down to his snout.
I heard him occasionally shift position, his scales making soft shhhhhing sounds against the flannel sheet and duvet cover.
At some point, the shhhhh sound went on much longer than usual. I turned my head as I twisted my torso enough to reach out to touch him – and my cheek bumped into his snout. I pet him for a bit, and he gave my forehead a couple of tongue flicks. I reached out to turn the clock’s light on and saw that it was 8:20 AM. Even in bed, Mike gives me a wake-up call, though a bit later than usual because of the blackout drapes in my bedroom.
So, up I got, up he got picked, and off to run his bath we went. I took my meds, went back to bed, and all was right in our world.
Let me just go check to see how he has situated himself in my bed tonight…
That’s my boy!
Of course, this means that if he makes a long-term habit of this, I’m going to have to get a heating pad for that side of the bed… sigh
Ah, well, while he’s been sleeping in my bed, I’ve been working on a new pair of socks and a new scarf.
The socks are Lane Cervinia Forever Jacquard in color 20. I was this same yarn on a website (Elann.com, perhaps?) with the color named “Black Forest”. It wasn’t until I was working on the toe box of this one that I realized they meant Black Forest as in "Black Forest Cake", not the spread of trees in Germany.
This scarf is my usual *K1, yo, K2tog* pattern worked up in JaggerSpun’s laceweight Zephyr (50% tussah silk/50% merino wool) in Real Red, on #5 straights.
Well, enough with the writing, on to the knitting!