Thursday, January 17, 2013

A tale of two lizards

It started this morning when my brother called and asked if he could stop by. I was in the middle of cleaning a very messy monitor enclosure and I thought a break sounded like a great idea. The majority of the work was done and the three foot black-throated monitor lizard was in his "holding cell"—a large plastic box with latches on the lid—in the corner of the room. I figured he wouldn't mind napping in the box for a spell while I cleaned his water tub outside.
A few minutes later my brother, Jaron, arrived sporting a large grey tote box. Inside was a new donation for our reptile menagerie: a Sudan plated lizard. Things were a bit messy in the lizard room, which also houses small turtles and my wife's cat, so I set the tote atop a large metal cage. After admiring the new lizard for a while we went to the living room to visit for a bit. Shortly into our visit we heard a strange thump, then metal rattling and other such ruckus. Probably the cat, I told Jaron. Upon investigation, we found the cat perched at the top of her cat tree and the agitated monitor prowling the room, hissing and thrashing his tail. I chased him all over the room as he huffed and puffed and knocked over the cat food bowl. Finally a grabbed him just as he was about to disappear behind a heavy wooden shelf. He had popped the lid right off the plastic box, to heck with the latches (which have kept pythons and boas contained). I returned him to his enclosure. 
"Always and adventure around here," I said to my brother. I had no idea what the rest of the day had in store.
We had a nice visit, after which I left to pick up my 6 month old son, Ridley, from the daycare. Later in the afternoon, Jaron and I spent some time playing with Ridley while my wife was out for a much deserved visit with one of her friends. Suddenly we heard a crash. 
"That was the cage!" I yelled, running for room. "Watch Ridley for me!"
Sure enough. The idiot cat had tried to investigate the new plastic tote, knocking the whole mess down from atop the metal cage. And, of course, the plated lizard was gone. 
"Jaron, watch the door in case the lizard runs out! I don't know where he went." I quickly searched the room and saw the terrified plated lizard darting under the monitor enclosure, a huge wire and metal contraption. By this time Jaron had come to the door.
"I think I can get him," he said, dropping to the floor to reach for the lizard. "Oh no!"
"What?" I was next to him, but couldn't see what was going on.
"He's getting into the monitor cage!"
"What? How?" Then I saw: the metal rail that was one vertical corner of the enclosure had a channel that was open at the bottom. Much too small for the monitor, it was just big enough for a scared plated lizard to get stuck in.
"We've got to get him out. That monitor will eat him," I said, opening the door to the enclosure. The monitor sat on his middle shelf hissing and whacking the sides with his tail. "Grab me a towel."
A moment later I had the towel over the monitor, a trick that often helps calm some reptiles. It worked!
I dropped to the floor, removed the large plastic tub that made up the floor of the enclosure and dove inside. "Just let me know if that monitor is about to feast on my neck!" I was on hands and knees trying to free the eighteen inch plated lizard from the metal channel. I was at this moment that Ridley started to cry from the other room, and not just a little bit.
"Stay here!" I ran to the bathroom, washed my hands quickly and rushed to Ridley who had been playing on a blanket on the living room floor. As I lifted him I saw a huge smudge of poop on the blanket. Wonderful!
"Give me just a minute...just keep an eye on everything." I could here the monitor hissing and the cat meowing. Onto the changing table I threw down a small blanket, swung Ridley into place and opened the diaper to a horrific sight. The blowout was worse than initially expected. And then it got more interesting; poop was everywhere and the box of wet-wipes was empty! I scanned the area and saw a backup diaper bag. Reaching in I found the wipes and went to work.
"This is gonna take a little longer." I started closing up shop and discovered the poop-splosion had gone up his back, almost to his neck. I went to work. Minutes later Ridley was cleaned and in pajamas. "Here you go, buddy," I said, placing him back on the floor. "Play with some toys." I knew he wouldn't.
Back on the floor in the lizard-cat-turtle room I tried to work the plated lizard up the metal channel, but he was trapped inside by the plastic ties that held the wire sides on. Ridley was already crying again. I ran out, spouted some soothing but wholly ineffectual words to him and grabbed a pair of scissors on my way back. 
The monitor was still behaving, but made me nervous as he scratched on the shelf above my shoulders and neck. He's not an aggressive lizard; but he's still nervous around people and he'll climb you like a tree, digging claws into you the whole way. I worked at the plated lizard, who was obviously scared out of his mind but stayed very calm as I manhandled him. It was the only way to get him out. I started clipping plastic ties. 
"Don't worry about the monitor; go get Ridley." The baby was still crying.
A minute later I had the lizard free just as Jaron came to the door with my little boy. I placed the scared plated lizard in his tote, slid the monitor's floor tub back into place and closed the door. I whisked away the towel and click-click-click, I fastened the three latches.
Five minutes later I was washed up and putting Ridley to bed. Just another day.

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