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?