I can’t remember exactly when Riley’s fascination with reptiles began; it seems at this point like he’s always had a special place in his heart for all kinds of creatures scaly and slimy. (Well…someone’s gotta love ‘em, right? Shudder…) And for years, now, on and off, he’s been lobbying with varying degrees of insistence to get a non-furry pet of his own. His animal of choice would be a frog or toad, but…let’s face it, there are all sorts of valid objections—at least in his parents’ eyes, that is.
The primary problem, of course, is dietary…specifically the fact that these darling little guys prefer to munch on insects…of the “live” variety. And to be perfectly clear, there is no UNIVERSE in which I would be entirely happy with crickets living (even for a short time on their way to becoming a meal) in my refrigerator. (I know, I know, it’s become trendy for even humans to eat them these days as a source of protein and nutrition, blah blah blah. But even if I weren’t a vegetarian….just…eww…)
Then there’s Husband’s…somewhat less rational…phobia: that he’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a 4-legged hopper SITTING ON HIS FOREHEAD. (Seriously, dear? You might want to talk to a professional about that one—intelligent, vengeful amphibians who break out of their cages and stalk you in the wee hours. I’m just sayin’…)
Anyway, between the bugs and the habitat requirements to keep such water-loving specimens content, even Riley admitted that his beloved frogs and toads might be a bit much for us to handle. Not to be deterred, though, he quickly rallied, and switched his focus to their…drier…cousins: lizards. However, this, too, proved discouraging once he started to research the food (again with the dang crickets! Or mealworms—equally icky…), the fussiness of some species in terms of temperature (monitoring a heat lamp—one more detail to manage), etc.
So the whole issue was back-burnered for a while—until a family friend asked if Riley would be available during Spring Break and willing to care for their pet…lizard…while they went on vacation. Uh…of COURSE he would! (Gulp…) As it turns out, they bought their crested gecko specifically because it does NOT feed on creepy-crawlies (Whew!) and—aside from liking its enclosure on the humid side—has few environmental demands, either. (Yay!) All of this was earnestly conveyed to me by my friend, reassuring me that it would be both safe and simple to have Kiki as a temporary houseguest. (Side note: she admitted that the family is not at all sure of Kiki's gender, so we'll go with the neutral pronouns from here on out...wouldn't want to offend our androgynous reptilian pals, right? Or whatever....)
After we formally agreed to the lizard-sitting duties, Kiki was ceremonially driven over to our house and deposited in a place of honor on the living room coffee table. We gathered around to hear the instructions for her upkeep and to avidly watch her…hide shyly behind the plastic tree in her tank and ignore the hubbub. Not terribly entertaining, I must say. But on the plus side, the entire set of directions for “How to Keep Him/Her Alive” consists of the following: 1) mist the cage when necessary to maintain some moisture in the atmosphere; 2) each evening, remove the previous day’s dinner, then mix a fresh batch--which is one small scoop of a tropical-fruit-smelling powder and water--to form a paste; 3) empty and refill the water dish; 4) just kidding—that’s it!
As you can see, this whole task could not have been easier, so we were pleased to accommodate our visiting reptile. We found out over the next few days that it appeared to be more active in the early a.m. hours; we’d often come downstairs just after waking up and find it clinging to the glass wall of its habitat, or lounging in the fake tree, or even perched on the side of its water bowl. Aaaannnnd…that was about the extent of its antics.
Ooh, except for that one time it was actually plastered to the door that Riley would have to open to perform his nightly care tasks, and I—very helpfully, I thought—attempted to persuade it to relocate by gently tapping the glass and repeating in a soothing, encouraging voice, “C’mon, Kiki, you’ve gotta move, now. Let’s go—you can DO it!” Derek stood nearby, witnessing this nonsense with a wry expression as the lizard completely ignored me, disdainfully. (Wait—are reptiles capable of complex emotions like that? Eh, heck if I know—no one ever called me a…lizard whisperer…)
Finally, unable to restrain himself any longer, Derek commented, “Ya know, Mom, there are signs at the zoo that tell you NOT to knock on the glass!” Why, thank you, son, that’s super-informative—and can you see how totally traumatized she is by my supposed harassment? (Pffftt--uncooperative creature! She did eventually, at a time of her own choosing, decide to leap down toward the floor of the cage—it was by far the most excitement we experienced in 5+ days of Operation Lizard Watch, I tell ya…)
All joking aside, overall I have nothing to complain about, since as pets go, the lizard is completely silent, odorless, and—not only does it NOT eat bugs, it subsists entirely on a product that emits an aroma very much like a delicious banana smoothie. So I let a few days go by before I casually asked Riley if having a lizard in the house had renewed his enthusiasm for getting one of his own. To my surprise, he thoughtfully replied, “Noooo…I think it’s too much work, with all the other things I already have going on. I’d be worried about having something else to add to the stuff I have to get done, every single night.”
Huh. I absolutely expected that to go the 100% opposite direction, and had braced myself for the fact that I’ve put him off for so long, I might just have to suck it up and give in…or, you know, NOT! So, while Riley agreed that it was nice to "borrow" his friend's gecko, and that he was okay with stepping in anytime they needed a short-term reptile-hotel for a few days, evidently Casa WestEnders will (mostly) remain a blissfully reptile-free zone…For. The. Win!