I was 15 when my friend Anna asked if I would care for her young iguana while her family took a trip. I knew nothing about the reptiles, but I said, “Are you kidding?? Absolutely!”
Okay, maybe I didn’t say it that way, but I distinctly remember thinking it. How cool would it be to have “Iguana Caretaker” on my relatively short resume? In my mind, way cool.
And so, Pikkel came to live on the Blue Star Ranch for a month. I rearranged my room in order to make space for her large aquarium, and I iguana-proofed everything per Anna’s direction. Anna handed me a piece of paper of instructions, kissed her iguana goodbye, and left me staring at a 2 foot lizard and wondering what on earth I’d gotten myself into.
7/10 (the first day)– “Pikkel is so attentive! She has free reign in my room, and she likes to be up high. The first time I came in to check on her, I didn’t see her at first. I thought she’d gone into the closet, which I accidentally left open. Then I saw a tail swish and found her on top of my big dresser mirror!
The second time I checked on her, she wasn’t on the mirror, or on the window screen, or in her cage. My gloves were on the floor, so I bent over to pick them up, and when I stood to put them back on my coat rack, guess who I found 3″ from my face? Pikkel, lounging across the rack.
…Pikkel’s a great jumper. She startled me when she jumped up from the floor onto my bed (where I was reading), nearly into my lap!”
I wish all of my journal entries from that time were as detailed. Over the 3 weeks I iguana-sat, this was the most I ever spent on the subject except for a few lines about shedding feet and refusing a meal.
I remember the first time I gave Pikkel a bath quite clearly. I expected her to walk around in the shallow water, but the instant her claws hit the water she took off with the most elegant movements! I had no idea iguanas could swim, and she clearly loved every minute of it.
She loved to be stroked and held, but by the last week it was clear she missed Anna. I never thought a reptile could look so sad, but she did, and the day Anna arrived to bring her home was a happy day for everyone.
I came away from the experience grateful for it, because it completely answered my question of whether or not I wanted an iguana for myself. The answer? Decidedly no. Fascinating creatures, but the level of dedication and care they require far outweighed my desire to own one.
To this day I’m still learning about iguanas thanks to Pikkel, because it was during the writing of this post that I learned that green iguanas live 15-20 years and can grow up to 7 feet long! (You would think I’d already know that after almost a month of babysitting one.)
So thank you, Pikkel, for giving me a glimpse into the life of an amazing animal, and while you’re no longer with this world, your memory definitely lives on.