This weekend, I’m in Florida, taking my elderly father to Spring Training baseball for the first time. It was something he’d talk about doing, but never did. Well, in his twilight, we’re making memories.
But that’s not to say this has been easy. Nothing’s easy with my dad. Between his general grumpy old man-ness and that he hasn’t been on a plane or in an airport since 1989, today has been at times a struggle. The true struggle began last night with iggy when I had to take Dorian to the emergency vet.
What? Dorian, star of stage and screen, in the hospital? Why? Whatever for? Well, the blame clearly lies with me.
Apparently my little prima Donna is no fan of parsley. He’s had parsley numerous times over the last decade and he’s never really complained before, but there was something about the mix this past week that he was just not having it. Parsley is listed on the Green Ig Society’s Food Information Chart as an occasional item. It’s good for calcium, but a little high in phosphates. He should have snacked that hard.
But he didn’t, so running short on time yesterday morning, I just grabbed some leaves out of the crisper and fed Dorian by hand. I wanted to make sure he ate something before I left for Orlando. So I would wedge a stem or stalk into his mouth and then he would take the rest. We did this with collards, turnips, and mustard greens, one after the other. It wasn’t like he was a Suffragette and I was force feeding him because it was bad form to have political prisoners on hunger strikes wasting away in the worst public relations move of all time. We’ve done this before, you get him started, and he’ll devour the rest in short order. But this time, Dorian just kept packing them in at the bottom of his throat, like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter.
I thought nothing of it at the time, but then around 5:39 pm, I notice the big lump in Dorian’s throat had grown exponentially. It hardened as well, as though it were made of quick-dry concrete. Now iguanas, like most reptiles, are incapable of chewing their food, instead they swallow large amounts of food whole. This is why you see crocodiles tearing chunks off their wildebeest in all those nature documentaries on PBS, though David Attenborough’s smooth tenor eases the trauma of seeing an animal torn to shreds by a large scaly predator. Most reptiles are also opportunistic eaters, gorging themselves by eating a tremendous amount of food at one sitting. You will often see a reptile basking with an enormous, bloated stomach, whether it’s from the fresh carcass of some other animal or an a large amount of fruit or greens they’ve managed to find. We’ve all seen pictures of large pythons with ridiculous bulges in their bellies after a large meal. Iguanas, for their part, tend to be grazers, and they have a better meter on their appetite, meaning they tend not to overeat, and unlike a dog, won’t eat themselves sick.
All this is to say, I was super concerned to see Dorian’s throat as full as it was hours after he first ate. Sure there’s been times where he’s eaten two full mandarin oranges and you could actually feel the oranges in his gullet, but not for hours. So I call my vet, Dr. Riggs, at his clinic, but he’s not in. So I tell myself, “it will be fine. Just give it a couple hours, and it will eventually go down. Well, finally around 8:00 I’m starting to panic, and not just because Dorian has this mass of greens, which I can actually see when I open his gaping maw, but also that I will be in Florida for the next three days, leaving him alone for the majority of that time. So eventually we head the to emergency clinic at Metro North, which frankly I despise. While I appreciate the convenience of having a 24-hour clinic, there’s never an exotic vet on staff. Instead you bring your ailing exotic in and the doctors there, many of whom have very little experience with reptiles, much less done a rotation in vet school, don’t have a clue as to how to proceed. They just end up calling Dr. Riggs, Dorian’s normal vet, and do a phone consultation with him. I really don’t want an exotic doctor by phone, I just want an exotic doctor.
As it turned out, the doctors did exactly as I imagined myself doing, grabbing a pair of forceps and yanking the ball of greens out of his gaping maw. The difference was dramatic, as Dorian’s cheeks went from the size of bowling balls to golf balls. The result was a clump of chopped greens that nearly filled the quart-sized ziplock bag they gave me as a souvenir. Sure, it was a goody bag from the worst carnival booth ever, but we earned it nonetheless. Dorian looked loads better though, and I was happy to get home and grab a couple hours sleep before heading down to Florida. When I return, you can bet I’ll be more careful feeding Dorian in the future.