July 18th, 2011
Meet Rango, our 12 hour pet. He wasn't in our household for long, but we certainly enjoyed the unexpected company while it lasted.
One morning in my garage, I saw a brown lump on Olivia's stroller. Upon closer inspection, I was startled for a second to recognize it as a Jackson's Chameleon. It was about three inches long (with tail curled up, not extended) and, as chameleons go, pretty mellow.
I pointed it out to Olivia. She shrieked and backed away. Such a girl.
"He's cute. Let's think about adopting him," I insisted, and enlisted my neighbor Dennis' help in bottling up the lizard for me. I had to keep my schedule to get Olivia to school and me to work on time. I have always enjoyed (most) critters large and small, and would have loved to have been a veterinarian.
When I got home, we brought the lizard inside to play with. First things first: a name. I read Jackson's Chameleon are originally from Kenya, so we considered Barry Senior, but ultimately, 'Rango' won because it has half the syllables and double the whimsy. Rango is a chameleon in an animated movie by Gore Verbinski.
I also learned the juveniles are brown, turning green only when mature. Since I had the computer on, we decided to show Rango YouTube videos of adult chameleons, so he would know what he'll look like when he grows up. That led to videos of crickets, so he'll know what his prey looks like up close. He seemed to perk up at the chirping sound.
Naturally, one can't go on YouTube without paying homage to a popular search term, cats. Therefore, Rango got an education on feline behavior: cats fighting, cats playing, kittens eating. If he's going to be part of a household, he needs to know about this well-loved domestic animal.
We gave him a tour of the house. The dog sniffed at him, her nose almost the size of the entire chameleon, and walked away. As he did not smell like bacon or act like a tennis ball, Inca quickly lost interest.
Ocho, however, was a different story. She was extremely taken with this oversized gecko and tried to demonstrate her hospitality by opening her mouth and putting him inside. This did not go over well with him. Olivia and I quickly concluded that portion of the house tour.
We sat at the kitchen table and looked at him on his stick. He's really cute in an ugly way. I like his prehensile curly tail and his didactyl feet. I like the way his tri-horns make him look like a dinosaur. I think his separately mobile eyes are funny.
I grinned at him, and his stereoscopic eye probably interpreted my teeth as predatory; he leaned slightly away from me and, as much as a chameleon can register expression, looked unnerved.
With my finger, I gently petted his back and sides, letting Olivia copy me afterwards. Rango tolerated this, but was probably confused at all this touching. He really didn't care for his tail being touched and actually stood up and walked away.
"I like him too, Mommy. Can we keep him?" Olivia asked. I had, by now, figured out Jackson's Chameleon eat live crickets. I don' t have time to regularly go to the pet store to buy crickets. A conversation with my co-worker, Ms. Galves, cemented my decision to give him away. In her chameleon-rearing history, Ms. Galves found crickets expensive and difficult to keep.
I know my neighbor a few houses away has a cage with her own chameleons, and she offered to take ours. "Let's let him live with his chameleon friends at Aunty Joann's house, OK? Then he won't be lonely, and we can still visit him all we want," I said.
Olivia remembered she had a bug book and wanted to read it to him, so he could consider expanding his culinary repetoire. Rango had story time before moving into his new digs.
"It's getting late. Let's move Rango into his new house," I prodded. We walked over together, Olivia holding the jar.
When we got there, Olivia smooched the air above Rango. "I gave him a kiss, Mommy. How can I give him a hug?"
"That's very nice, Sweetie," I answered, amused. "Don't really put your lips on him, OK? He might have weird lizard germs. You can give him an air hug. Just hug the air above him."
My kid encircled the space just above Rango with her arms. "Air hug, Rango! We'll miss you!"
With that, we lowered him into his new cage and went home. He was a really fun distraction, but I think he'll be happier at Joann's house.
In the meantime, I'm now motivated to rent Rango, which we have never watched. I'll have to remember to bring our Rango back over when we have movie night, so he can look at his namesake.
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