Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Love at first lizard

For years now every cute pooch that passes our way has left me with a twinge of regret, slowly mounting to guilt. Luke and Eleanor would be so delighted by puppy kisses, doggy chase, and canine cuddles. And wouldn’t a pet teach them responsibility, respect for animals, and provide a faithful friend in moments of frustration? Yet, I couldn’t quite sign on for the complications that a pooch would bring into our lives. Did we want to spend big bucks to board a dog every time we traveled to visit family? What about all the hair and furniture abuse in the house? Shouldn’t I at least wait until both kids are fully toilet-trained before taking on another potty pupil? So we hemmed and hawed for the past few years over the merits and troubles of dog ownership, never quite ready to take the puppy plunge.

But then it dawned on me: dogs aren’t the only pet available. There are plenty of lower-maintenance pets that could help teach our kids the same valuable lessons, making a more gradual bridge to the responsibilities of dog ownership. Thus began our backyard hunt for a lizard. We had lots of laughs chasing the lightning-fast critters for weeks, never getting nearly close enough to pick one up. But then one morning Erik heard a curious rustling in our recycling bin. He looked inside and lo and behold, there was our new pet, conveniently contained in the bottom of the bin.

The kids were elated when Erik came in with the news and ran out to help. Unfortunately in the hubbub of scooping the lizard up, he shot off his tail as a wild wiggling decoy. Luke thought that was hilarious but Erik kept his cool and got the tricky little guy into the bucket nonetheless.

Luke had picked out a perfect name weeks before. He chose “Russell” because we always hear these lizards rustling in the leaves and grasses. Here Russell is spying a cricket on the rock.What a wild spectacle it is to see him pounce on a cricket and chomp it head-first with its legs sticking out on either side of Russell’s mouth.

Erik is a pet softie so Russell didn’t stay in the white bucket for long. Soon he moved on up to this 55-gallon tank. Now that the weather’s cooled a bit we’ve added a heat pad and UV light. We keep it by our back door so the kids can go outside to check on Russell or just look through the window at him anytime.

It’s precious to see them collecting ‘presents’ to add to Russell’s tank and going out to say good night before bedtime. What a sweetie that little Russell is, I hope he’s happy with us for a long time to come!

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