Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Allow Me to Introduce... My Lizard

Have you been watching the new Life series on the Discovery Channel? I'm absolutely enthralled with shows like that, and I was particularly excited to see that one of the first episodes was dedicated entirely to reptiles and amphibians. I've hinted at my great love for herpetofauna on the blog before (and perhaps you've guessed it from my snake tattoo), but today I thought I'd go a step further and introduce you to Charlie, my pet lizard.


Charlie is a Chuckwalla lizard, and is native to the American southwest desert regions. I'm not entirely sure of his origins, though my assumption is that he was originally wild caught in Nevada. Having been purchased at a pet store, he belonged to a friend's son when I lived out in Minnesota, and when the son went away to college I adopted Charlie. That was in the winter of 1998, which would make Charlie at least 12 or 13 years old (they can live up to 25 years).

Charlie is a smallish lizard, measuring about 11 or 12 inches from nose to tail. However, he resides in an enclosure of epic proportions, which is roughly 5 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep. He inherited this palatial residence from my beloved iguana Pet, who passed away a few years ago. At first I wanted to get rid of the enclosure because the reminder of Pet was too painful, but in the end I decided that upgrading Charlie's living quarters was a more fitting tribute. So there it sits, taking up an enormous amount of space in my studio apartment. Watching Charlie, a rock-dwelling species, clamber clumsily up and down on the branches is entertainment that more than makes up for the oversized footprint of the enclosure. And more importantly, he really seems to enjoy having all that space.

You might not think it by looking at him, but underneath Charlie's harmless looking exterior lies the heart of a killer...



...of flowers. Yes, this diminutive reptile has an insatiable appetite for anything sweet smelling and brightly-colored. Nasturtiums are one of his favorite treats, and he's ruthless in devouring them. He's so enthusiastic when he gets a treat that you'd think he was a Komodo Dragon going in for the kill. He's especially attracted to the color yellow, and once he even tried to eat my DeWalt drill when Mark and I were making some repair on his enclosure.


The coolest thing about Charlie is his ability to inflate his body with air when he's scared or pissed off. In the wild, Chuckwallas inflate in order to squeeze themselves into rock crevices and prevent predators from extracting them, but after living predator-free for all these years, Charlie is pretty relaxed and rarely does it anymore. The only time he does is when he gets a bath, which then causes him to bob around in the water like a buoy. If I weren't afraid of stressing him out too much, I'd probably bathe him more often just to giggle at the sight of him floating in the tub.

Do you have any exotic or unusual pets?

28 comments:

La Historiadora de Moda said...

OMG!! Charlie is awesome! My late father was a zoologist who specialized in herpetology, so I grew up with tons of "weird" pets in the house: tortoises, boas, tree frogs, chameleons, monitor lizards, etc. I think at one point we probably had about 300 animals in our home.

I really want to have a pet tortoise or two again some day before too much longer.

FashionTheorist said...

Aw, he's adorable! I have a soft spot in my heart for chuckwallas: one of my favorite vacation spots is the area around Joshua Tree National Park, and chuckwallas are common out there.

My husband and I have a pet fish, who is not so unusual in and of himself, but is somewhat mysterious in his origins. We found him while emptying a preformed pond liner in my parents' backyard - on top of a hill, with no feeder streams. No-one had ever put any fish into the pond. We have no idea where he came from!

He was about 3" long and dark brown when we found him: he's now almost a foot long and bright orange, with a remarkably outgoing personality for a fish.

Northmoon said...

I love your chuckwallas Charlie!

I have a red-eared slider, not quite as exotic. I found 'Francine' on the sidewalk one day as I left for work. Advertised for lost turtles, but nobody claimed her. Checked and they're not native to Toronto, and the Humane Society would just kill her.

So I kept her and now she lives in a 100 gallon glass tank with six to eight inches of water and a basking rock. One of her favourite foods is cantelope, I wonder if it could be the same orange yellow thing? I'll have to try her with flowers this year.

Eyeliah said...

What a sweetie, my leopard gecko spike dies just last year, he lived to be very very old ;-)

Miss Peregrin said...

Charlie is such a handsome fellow! At the moment my boyfriend has a redback spider as a pet, but all the others are the normal cats and dogs. He does want more spiders though, and I'd love a python!

Healthy and Homemade said...

He is so cool! I love that he attacks flowers ^_^

I have a Russian dwarf hammy, not all the exotic but she's a feisty little b!%&$ lol!

Diana said...

Aw, he's so cute! I had a pet iguana as a kid, and I was completely infatuated with it. I convinced myself that I could teach it how to read, but I couldn't figure out how to get it to write so he could prove his literacy. I was a pretty crazy kid :)

LPC said...

So cool. As in so, so, cool.

3goodrats said...

He's lovely! In additional to my very standard cat, I have a rabbit (which I don't recommend.) My favorites are rats though - I don't have any right now, but I have had many and will again. I find reptiles and amphibians fascinating creatures, but when it comes to pets I want something furry that I can snuggle with.

Heather said...

He's a handsome lizard! I myself have two beautiful bearded dragons, and while I have never fed them flowers my smaller male loves blueberries.

I also have a Merriam's kangaroo rat that I caught myself out in the Big Horn Mountains Wilderness in AZ, and a cannibalistic tiger salamander.

And then I have two cats. Normal, average, shelter-adopted kitties. :p

ReaderRita said...

He is so cool - we used to grow millions of nasturtiums in our yard; I'm sad they all went to waste...

Sheila said...

How awesome! I love Charlie!

I grew up with a menagerie of pets: rock lizards (we caught them in the backyard), a few garter snakes (ditto, backyard), a box turtle (escaped and got squashed on a road), hamsters, guinea pigs, and now I have two cats, who I love dearly.

Anonymous said...

does a male cat so fat he has man-boobs count? ; ) he's very friendly. and an incredible mouser, in his own way - the only time we've ever had mice is when he brought them in to teach us to hunt. (instead of hunting them, we've learned how to capture meeses with the hav-a-hart, leading to many inspirational, if tiny, 'born free' moments.)

i'm glad you're giving Charlie such a capacious, loving home! great blog!! lunarose

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but you just needed to know that I literally peed myself reading that last paragraph and imagining him bobbing around all pissed off at being bathed!

Poppy Buxom said...

We have a Malayan box turtle. He's adorable, and so easy to take care of. He's sort of like a pet rock bumping around in his enclosure.

EvaNadine said...

i had an iguana back in college named Cosmo, but unfortunately, she passed away several years ago.

i just introduced my readers to our Bearded Dragon, named Raul Duke:
http://stumbleintostyle.blogspot.com/2010/03/mixing-high-and-low.html

and we also have a maliuromastix named Mali (very creative on that one). she is very shy, so its tough to snap a photo of her, but she has been "out and about" in her tank lately, so maybe i will be introduce her soon!

Anonymous said...

How about a cat that adores Antiques Roadshow? (& he's also named Charlie)
When I was growing up, we had 2 chameleons that lived loose in the house (mostly on the drapes) - great at keeping the pesky insect population down.

Monica said...

I have 2 adorable dogs now but I've had rats in the past and my last two were named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They were real sweetie pies, but alas...they are now dead.

Lain said...

I am so glad you posted this. He's lovely. I had been wondering about him.

I have 2 salukis (dogs, but a rare breed). I had a blue and gold macaw, but gave "him" to a breeder when "he" started laying eggs. She is happily producing baby macaws.

I love reptiles, but have never owned one outright. My college roommate had a ball python, who I was very sad to lose when we moved apart. He loved to wrap around my shoulders when I typed. My sister has a sulcata tortise - who is 60 pounds and nearly 3' in diameter.

The Fabulous Gloria Blackwell said...

Charlie is so cool! I also enjoy reptiles my favorites being the lizards that live in our bushes outside the house. I love to just watch them watch me. They are like mini dinosaurs!

WendyB said...

He's got a fancy house!

Sal said...

Oh Charlie. I miss his company. I SWEAR we had a rapport.

Louise said...

What is unusual about our pets is that they all live with us full-time in our 40-foot tour bus home. 1 dog, 2 cats, and 4 tropical fish. Dogs and cats are pretty common in RVs, but I've never met anyone else with fishes. They are perfectly happy in their 5 gallon acrylic tank, and have been to more states than 90% of the humans in the US. So I supposed that makes them well-traveled and sophisticated fish.

Kelly said...

Oh Charlie! He's too cool!

I have a fuzzy mutt, who I love dearly but who is the least exotic thing I can think of :)

Anonymous said...

My parents had one in their backyard about a week ago! They live in the AZ desert! Nice to see what they were talking about! He looks happy and comfy!

kanishk said...

I really want to have a pet tortoise or two again some day before too much longer.
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A-C said...

I love life! (except for the Oprah narrating part, but I do my best to forget that its her that's narrating).

As for unusual pets---we have 2 chinchillas. They are super soft, squeak-bark a whole bunch and ricochet off walls. LOVE them!

wendyzski said...

Awww yay lizard!

I have a bunny, and have to argue with the above poster - they make AWESOME pets if you learn about them and get them speutered. Without the hormonal drives they are curious and funny critters that can be litterbox-trained. Mine lives free-range in my apartment (She's currently doing her furry-speed-bump impersonation in the middle of the hallway) and sleeps under my bed.