Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I Don't Wanna Iguana

Yesterday my son and I visited the animal shelter. I'd already checked out the place a few weeks ago when the kiddo was at his dad's house, and I wanted to show him what it was like. First we looked at the Humane Society facility adjacent to the shelter. The animals there are owner turn-ins; the accommodations are spacious and have been decorated by interior design students. It's like the Ritz for dogs and cats, and the bunnies have it pretty good there, too. Then we walked over to the shelter, across a courtyard containing a beautiful fountain bearing bronze statues of dogs and cats running. The shelter takes owner turn-ins as well as strays, and the animals live in large, cage-like "cells." It's not terrible, but it's not pretty like the Humane Society.

When we first entered the shelter, we were greeted by a volunteer. This is a great feature, and I'm sure it helps people feel more comfortable in the large, potentially intimidating facility. Since I already knew my way around, I took my son to the first wing, which houses small animals and exotics. We saw lots of rabbits, one bird, and a few hamsters. In a separate room, in a large aquarium, was a huge iguana. I called my son over to have a look; he stepped into the room and took a step back when he realized what was in there. The iguana was still shedding; the front portion of its body was a deep green, and the back portion was grayish and flaky. It seemed interested in us, and slowly scratched against the tank glass with its long, sharp, curved claws.

"We're never getting one of these," I told my son, "unless you want one someday and you're old enough to take care of it all by yourself." After college, I'd had a roommate who owned a much smaller iguana. It was kind of neat, but my roommate let it roam the apartment despite my requests that she keep it in her room. Once it climbed onto some freshly ironed drapes I'd left on the ironing board and pooped on them. Another time, when I was having a party and my roommate wasn't home, I got a little cocky and put the iguana on my shoulder; it immediately sought warmer ground, using my lower lip as a toehold on its way to the top of my head. I had a lovely, bloody scratch from my lip to the bottom of my chin for the rest of the party, and I felt like an idiot. Granted, both incidents weren't the iguana's fault, but it did occur to me that the pleasures of iguana ownership were small compared to the hassles.

We studied the huge reptile for a few minutes as it continued to scratch slowly at the glass. "Do iguanas bite?" my son asked. "Sure," I said. "They have very sharp teeth, actually." My roommate had had her finger sliced by the iguana at least once, and I'd seen the creature take very defined bites out of the tissues in the box on my roommate's bedroom floor. The kiddo thought about this, then took my hand as we left the room. "Are you ever going to make me get an iguana?" he asked a bit nervously. "Heck, no!" I told him, and laughed. He was embarrassed, and told me I should have respect for him and not laugh. "After all," he said indignantly, "I do have a brain, but I'm only six-and-a-half, so my brain is only six-and-a-half inches, or pounds, or something, and I was just asking a question!" I hugged him and told him I was just laughing because he was just a delightful little person, and he felt better.

I suspect he also felt better knowing I would never make him get an iguana. ;-)

To be continued.