Adventures in Iggy-sitting

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I rule this house!

I rule this house!

Amber here. We’ve been busy in Dorian-land. Summer for academics, contrary to popular opinion, does not mean lounging by the pool and reading for fun. I’m busy at work on a few publications and finally taking some time to work on my book proposal, and Theo is buried in his dissertation work and preparing to do some fieldwork for his project. Dorian, of course, keeps us company through all of our work and frequently steals the comfy chair.

Last week, though, we had to take a trip that was a little less fun. We flew to Idaho for the memorial service of Theo’s uncle. I feel terrible that I was never able to meet him, but the stories everyone told at the memorial service gave me the picture of a man that both Dorian and I would have liked – a little bit of a rough exterior, but with a heart of gold.

Our trip, of course, meant that we again needed the services of a pet sitter. Our normal sitter was visiting family back home, so we had a new sitter (Emily) from the pet service visit us a few days before our trip to get acquainted with everyone. We spent a good deal of time making sure that she was comfortable holding Dorian and working with everyone’s routine. Dorian knew the jig was up. Someone came over and spent an abnormally long time talking about him and the other lizards? That means Mom (and more importantly, Dad) are leaving.

We got a great report from the sitter, though. While Dorian did knock down his food bowl the last two days we were gone, he didn’t leave any surprises on his shelf, and generally seemed to have been a good iggy. Emily let Dorian run around a bit while she was working with the other kids, which is key. Dorian needs to check everything out in the house and make sure that everything is in its rightful place.

The day we came home, though, Dorian was a funny ig. We had been gone just long enough that he was happy to see us, but short enough that he was also a little irritated. Mostly, he was happy to make his rounds and keep an eye on the iguana and beardies in the other room. He also had a long cuddle with Theo, but afterwards climbed down off the couch and head bobbed at both of us. How dare we leave! The funniest thing, though, was when I sat with Dorian in the papasan. We hugged for a little while, but then he kept turning around in the chair like he was uncomfortable. He sat on my legs, he squeezed into the space between my arm and the chair cushion, all of which said, “you need to get out of the chair so I can be comfortable.” So I did. I said, “you win, Dorian. You can have the chair.” As soon as I stood up, he turned around once and got comfy. He sat in the chair for most of the night and completely sank into the cushion. Everything in our condo is Dorian’s. Home sweet home, indeed.

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Spring Break Iggy

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The couch is mine!

The couch is mine!

Amber here. This semester has been rough. Our spring break, which is tied to Easter, came late this year, and I thought it would never get here. I spend too much time up in New York and not enough time at home with the lizards. Today, the first day of spring break, has been awesome. Nothing but cuddling. And Dorian is happy to humor me.

The best time to cuddle with Dorian is directly after his bath. I don’t have to worry that he might decide to punish me for touching him, he’s warm but it’s usually early enough that he’s happy to have hugs before breakfast. We laid on the couch today after his bath and both zonked out for a few hours. He’s the best cuddler because he never wants to get up. 20 minutes turns into an hour and an hour turns into two. I lift my arm up to look at my cell phone, and he bobs his head just a bit to say, “whatever you have to do can wait. We’re too comfortable right now.” This can be dangerous, obviously. But this was just the message I needed today. While Dorian will never like me as much as he does his dad, I am happy that he’ll cuddle with me like this. It was perfect.

The Vacation Blues

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Amber and I have just finished off another monster roadtrip; this time to Mobile, AL for the 2014 GoDaddy.com Bowl. I write just finished off , but that’s not entirely true. We just hit bumper-to-bumper traffic in Northern Virginia as we close in on the early morning rush hour. 15 hours ago, when we left sweet home Alabama, we never imagined that we’d be in the middle of such gnarly traffic at 5 a.m.
What’s pressing my brain at the moment, (besides the intense fear of death as my wife fiercely negotiates traffic at high speed), is a comment by our pet sitter, Becky, who stopped by Sunday and Monday to take of the lizards. She mentioned Dorian “wasn’t eating very much.” Normally, we’d worry over such news, but we’ve taken enough breaks to know what’s really going on.
Dorian has such separation anxiety, that when we leave for an extended period of time, he freaks out, thinking we are never to return, and with it, our preparation of his delicious and very nutritious food. It’s not as if he grazes over the time were gone, that’s not something he does normally, even when we’re home.
What we’ve noticed is that after days of not eating a full or even half a bowl of food, he’ll completely pig out when we get back. The first day of return, he’ll power through not just one bowl or two, but sometimes three full bowls, plus any snacks with which we dare placate him. It’s like he’s the hero in a shonen manga, with stacks of plates and mounds of food ready to be devoured by the hero’s voracious appetite. This proves problematic, as often is he case, we prepare just enough food for our absence, leaving us scrambling to make enough salad mix for our hungry igs!
You’d think he’d exhibit the opposite behavior, squirreling away food until we got back. He gets a fresh bowl every day with the pet sitter replacing the previous day’s mix. But he doesn’t, and I expect that we’ll have to scramble in mere moments as we just turned into our neighborhood. I’m already humming Bananarama as we pull into our condo.

Wanna See a Picture of My Kids?

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This weekend the wife and I traveled back to the heartland for my high school class reunion. Unlike a common trope in popular media, I actually looked forward to seeing all my former classmates more than a few years later. We had an anesthesiologist, a few dentists, a lawyer, even a country singer from Nashville, … people who have really made something of themselves, … and me. But seriously, it was really great seeing all these old friends from all over the country who shared four fantastic years together in a dinky backwards hick town in northeast Indiana. If you really think about it, it’s remarkable that so many talented and amazing people came out of that small town full of small people, small minds, and small ideas.

Other than my wife snarking “Well now I know that all I have to look forward to is crow’s feet,” we couldn’t help but notice how so many of my classmates had kids, but (importantly) didn’t define themselves by having mini-clones. Ages and genders were mentioned, but other than an initial demographic offering, the children were better left seen and not heard. These are people who more than the sum of their loins, and I feel pretty lucky to be able to hang out with some really cool peeps who don’t judge me for not breeding.

But my wife and I are parents in a way. Our children just happen to have scales. We had quite an enjoyable time showing pics of our little squirts to my shocked classmates. Exclamations of “Holy cow! They’re huge!” and “Wait, he just walks around the house?” made us snort and snicker with a knowingness we just love to share. It is such a treat to share with non-reptile people how great they can be as pets, and how much spunk and personality they, and especially the iguanas, have.
My favorite reaction may have from Leslie who said, “Omigish! I’m such a (wuss) that I’d be scared to be around them!” only to change her tune “Oh well, now I admit, that is pretty adorable,” when shown an iPhone pic of Dorian and Irwin cuddling on the couch together.

One other note, it really didn’t surprise people that I had such strange and exotic pets, which in turn was not much of a surprise for me. Let’s be honest, you gotta be a lil’ weird to walk around with a phone full of photos and ready to share, “Hey, you wanna see my lizards?”

The Bearded Footrest

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The relationship between my lizard kids never ceases to amaze me. I have written on this before, but Dorian the Iguana and Irwin the Bearded Dragon love hanging out together on the couch. This is especially true when Dorian has been out most of the day, (normally after he makes his evening rounds natch). The routine is usually this, Dorian gets down at 4:30 p.m., does his rounds, usually comfy-ing down in a bedroom for a while, before meandering out to the kitchen to watch what we’re doing while we fix dinner. When he gets tired, grumpy, or just plain underfoot, we’ll put him on top of the couch give him a treat. Not long after that, (and usually the juicier the fruit, the more likely it is to put him in a food coma), he’ll start to wiggle around and get comfy on the space between the window and couch. It’s pretty entertaining to watch as he stretches and pushes himself and the cushions to get into a prime spot for dozing.

Sometime after that, we’ll do much the same with Irwin, he gets his bath, maybe a treat (or veggies if he’s been stubborn and not snacked his greens) and either keep him with us while we work and read, or just as often. Let him crawl up with Dorian on the couch and go to sleep there.

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The humorous part there is how often Dorian or Irwin use the other for the most uncomfortable-looking pillow. On this particular night, Dorian was using poor Irwin as a footrest. Keep in mind, and you can tell from the pictures included, how much bigger Dorian is than Irwin. His head alone is nearly the entire length of Irwin’s body, and his toes are nearly as long as Irwin’s tail. I’d be lying if I didn’t wonder about Irwin’s well being at times, but not once as either seemed to upset by the other’s actions.

DSC08081Irwin for his part didn’t seem to mind the ginormous foot covering his back. I can’t stand having my wife’s frigid feet on me, not sure I’d be all that enthused to have Shaquille O’Neal’s size 22 dogs on my back either, especially if his toenails looked like Jim Carrey’s in Dumb and Dumber. Eech… let that image sink in for a minute for you.

In the end, I think it just shows another side of the personality that my scaly kids are blessed with, one so many friends and acquaintances have the most difficult time comprehending. Dorian and Irwin have come to some kind of agreement, it seems to be working. Who am I to judge?

Cuddle up with a Good Book, and an Iggy

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Friends who have dogs and cats often tell me about that one of their most favorite things about having a fuzzy friend is the ability to curl up on the couch with a good book and their special friend cuddled warmly in their lap or next to them as they read. When I tell them that my iggy does the same thing, they always give the same dumbfounded look of disbelief as if their waiting for the “I’m just kidding” to signal a chuckle or chortle at the gullibility of those who would believe such folly.

DSC08062But no. Here is pure photographic proof that iguanas cuddle with their owners and their good books just like that mangey cat your crazy aunt claims speaks Spanish because she caught him watching Univision one day. I don’t read a lot for fun anymore, sometimes getting a PhD is like George Costanza just out of the pool in the Hamptons, horribly sucking all that is fun and good out of your life. Normally, I’m reading some tome from my communications research hurriedly scratching down quotes and excerpts from the various texts. I’m so focused on devouring as much material as possible, and saving so much of it for posterity (and that darn dissertation I’ll be writing), that as such, I don’t really cuddle with Dorian when reading.

But every now and then, I do, and here I am reading about digital games and ludology on the couch recently. You can see Dorian is fast asleep, hogging the pillow like usual, and cuddled in snuggly as I read from the book. After reading a few pages, I’ll knock of for a nap, and Dorian will stay right with the entire time. Sometimes though, he’ll show his displeasure at my divided concentration, and put his hand on my book to draw my attention to what’s most important, his comfiness.

And here you thought it was just cats and dogs who used the paws of distraction.

Tale of the Tail

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Poor Dorian has gone through the wringer with his tail. We’ve had him back and forth to the vet a few times with the two amputations and the resultant checkups. We finally thought the tail had healed properly.

But lo and behold, we see the end of Dorian’s tail start to dry up and “get crunchy” and we start to think “Oh no, here we go again.” But then we notice the skin is separating itself from the flesh of Dorian’s tail, like a scab peeling, where the the edge of the scab starts to pick up. It doesn’t bother him when we touch it, and it almost looks like we could just pull it off; which we dare not do considering we’re in this mess to begin with from an infection. Then out of the blue, the end of his tail just falls off.

DSC08054Well, not the entire end of tail, but all the skin just fell off. It looks like a crunchy iggy skin doughnut, or better yet, like one of those small pieces of chicharrón guapos snack on while  downing a Tecate and watching El Tri on TV Azteca. I actually did sniff it a bit to see if there was cheesy smell to it, and yes, I know how completely strange that sounds. Lord know I’ve been in enough locker rooms to recognize that stink. The wife was out of town, I really had no idea what to do with an iggy tail chunk or what to do with Dorian, who didn’t really seem to mind that his tail meat was naked. He was a little sensitive to having it touched, but I just chalk that up to his general “don’t touch my tail” attitude of the last several months.

DSC08053I didn’t think it was an emergency type situation, but I did want to get him checked out as soon as possible. As you can see in the picture, the pink fleshy part just looked oddly exposed, like something out of a CSI episode or anatomy book, and felt supple like an uncooked tenderized steak. The black nubbin at the end was the most sensitive part of his tail, and was the part that freaked me out the most. It looked like an exposed bone or tendon, but was soft and made Dorian wince every time it was touched. You can also see how the whole thing sort of shriveled up, and the loss of mass also concerned me. But mostly, it just looked raw, and that was the most disconcerting part for me as an iggy dad.

I made an appointment and packed Dorian up for a trip to the vet. Dr. Schwartz’s clinic is about a 30 min drive, but he’s simply the best there is.

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The Wheaton Animal Hospital is a smaller clinic, but can do everything the big practices can do, including both of Dorian tail amputations. Dr. Schwartz adores Dorian, and routinely compliments how gorgeous, well mannered, and what a good iguana he is. It’s absolutely true Dorian is all of those, but my wife jokes that by the time Dr. Schwartz usually sees an iggy, that poor kiddo is on his last legs and subject to poor husbandry and lack of quality handling time. Dorian is spoiled rotten, well taken care of, and snuggled. Snuggling alone probably puts him in a distinct minority of less than 1% of all pet iguanas.

After checking him out, Dr. Schwartz couldn’t believe how well the tail has actually healed considering all the trauma its been through. He kept saying, “Wow, I just can’t believe how good that looks.” In the end, his optimism at the progression of healing in the tail really put me at ease and alleviated the concern I had about the tail.DSC08056 We ended up jerry-rigging a cast to place over the tail, just to protect it from banging around as Dorian climbed up and down his tree and for when he did his rounds of the apartment. After rubbing on some silver sulfadiazine cream to aid the healing process, we took a big syringe tube, cut to size, sliced a notch in it for Dorian’s spikes, and wrapped it once in vet wrap and once in surgical tape. It was a club when we were done, but that thing was not going to come off easy.

Pooped out in the Papasan

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I’llDSC08043 post a pic of this in here later, but one of the great things about having your house at 81 and having reptile kids is watching them sack out in the living room. I have a mid-term tomorrow in my media law class, so I was cramming for most of the night. Fortunately, my iTunes genius mix has just the right study mix. Mostly, it’s just indie rock bands that have a mellow-ish sound; lots of Xx and Grizzly Bear with a side of MGMT among others. It starts with The Temper Trap’s “Though I Have Wronged You” and spits out indie awesomeness from there on. As I write this, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys is serenading me with that lonesome howl, “Lies, lies, lies…” Man, good stuff.

The lizards must of thought so too, though they all zonked out earlier to the tunes and just the relaxing nature of being home alone with Dad in a comfy papasan. I had Gobo the Asian Water Monitor out earlier, and she zonked out on the couch. Obviously, Gobo’s dietary habits include Irwin the Bearded Dragon sized rodents, meatballs and eggs, she has to stay on the other side of the room from him, ergo she crashed on the top of the couch behind me as I studied.

I put a towel down for Dorian in the seat of the papasan in case he decides to express disapproval of me for having Gobo on his couch later. He’s seriously zonked over there, so here’s hoping he doesn’t get up before me and have his revenge with weaponized poo. Funny how such an adorable little guy can be so incorrigible.

Well I gotta crash myself. Big exam tomorrow, and the wife returns from New York. Should be a great day!

An Apartment Iguana

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dorian_caliOne of the things that was a bit difficult for all of us to get used to in the first few days in our new home was living in an apartment again. While Dorian and Gobo were used to apartments in Louisville and DeKalb, Caliban hadn’t lived in an apartment for 6 years, and Irwin hadn’t since I adopted him. There were noises, of course, and both Dorian and Irwin seemed startled to hear voices out in the hallway. There was loud music, but the thing that bothered Dorian and I both the most were the kids playing on the stairs and screaming in the stairwell. (We share a dislike for children’s voices.) Dorian would sit in his tank or on the couch and close his eyes, as if trying to ignore then would make them go away, and then he would head bob one of those slow head bobs that he warms up first. While neither Dorian nor myself look forward to screaming children hour in the afternoon, we’ve at least gotten used to it. They prompt fewer head bobs from Dorian now.

One of the first things I let Dorian do, once the movers had brought everything into the apartment and had left, was to let Dorian sit on the couch. Iggy’s favorite thing to do is to sit on the back of the couch and to look out the window. He couldn’t do that in the house in Illinois, because the picture window was on the other side of the room from the couch (as well as incredibly cold in the winter). While I’ve been unpacking here this week, Dorian and I have a routine: I get him up in the morning, give him a bath, and then let him sit on the couch in the sunshine for at least an hour before returning him to his tank for some food. He’s loving it.

The one good thing about moving is that it’s shaken up Dorian’s relationship with the other iguana in the house, Caliban. She’s always been scared of him and likes to run away from him. He’s never tried to hurt or attack her; he just likes to head bob and tell her that he’s the one in charge. Because they’re both a bit out of their element at the moment, they’ll actually sit on the couch together sometimes. That might change, but I’m enjoying the change of pace on that front at least.

Iggy Road Truckers

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disapproving_iggyThis is Amber again with the next installment in our chronicle of my travels with iggy to the east coast.

Since I’ve helped Theo move four times, I can say that the most difficult thing about moving are moving the kids’ tanks. Dorian’s tank was almost impossible to get into his apartment in DeKalb (and almost impossible to get out). Gobo’s tank was impossible to get out of that apartment, and we had to leave it behind. Finding a place in the DC area was made more challenging by the need to find a place that would fit both Dorian and Gobo’s tanks. Our incredibly helpful friends looked at places for us equipped with tape measures to make sure we could fit the tanks through doorways. It was even more difficult to find a place that was ok with the reptiles, which is a story for another blog post.

We also rented the largest truck Budget had available in order to fit the tanks in. This was a 24-foot diesel monster that I was so grateful my dad offered to help with. (He used to drive delivery trucks for a lumberyard, so driving these kind of trucks was something he was used to.) The engine was loud in the cab and everything rumbled, which made me a bit nervous for how the kids would travel. (Though part of me also thought that Dorian would enjoy it; I almost bought him a trucker hat for the trip.) Dorian, Gobo, and Caliban each had a large duffel to travel in, and Irwin had a small box. We decided that the best plan was for me to take the skittish girls, Gobo and Caliban, in the car, and for my dad to take the boys in the truck.

We loaded the kids in the car and the truck around 5:30pm. I put Cali on the floor in the front seat and Gobo on the floor of the back seat. My dad set Dorian carefully on the floor of the truck, and Irwin sat in his box next to my dad. And we were off. We made it to the Indiana border, through Indianapolis, and then stopped in Richmond shortly before we crossed into Ohio. We woke up Irwin when we peeked in at him, but by that time, (after 9pm) everyone was fast asleep for the night. Once Dorian got comfy in the truck, my dad said, he was out for almost the whole trip. Cali wasn’t so quiet. Once we started the trip, she scratched around for a while until she got comfortable, and it helped for her to hear me talking. After that, though, she would wake up every couple of hours trying to scratch her way out of the bag. Our next stop was Wheeling, OH at around 3:30am, and then we drove through a section of West Virginia and the hills of Pennsylvania, making it to the Maryland border shortly before the sun came up. We hit the greater DC area just in time for morning traffic.

We were all road weary and tired once we finally made it to the apartment and unloaded the kids in the truck. I set Dorian’s bag down in the empty living room and let him wander around. He explored the empty rooms with curiosity, interested and a bit excited to explore his new home. We’re still settling in here, but Dorian’s happy to explore.