In Wyatt’s STEM program, there are several classroom pets. Throughout the school year, every time an extended school holiday drew nigh, he would bring home the same note seeking out foster homes for them. It was a first-come, first-served kind of process.
He begged, pleaded to pet-sit. And being that we like to see our baby boy happy, we filled out the paper with our top three choices for pets, even though there were things on the list like hissing cockroaches.
When he wasn’t quick enough getting to the teacher the first time, we decided that we would drive to school the next time the opportunity came around. We were going to be there when the doors opened.
Still not fast enough.
To be honest, I did not really want to get a pet. We don’t have room and we already have three pets, but it was only for a few days and he wanted one so badly that it was hard not to root for him.
He put his name in the hat every time the opportunity came around.
He was never fast enough.
When the last note came home Wyatt forgot to give it to us until the second day, and secretly I was glad since it was for a WHOLE SUMMER of pet sitting. Surely if he couldn’t get a pet on the morning after the note went home, he would never get one a day late.
We sent the note to school with only one pet marked — a cute little gecko named Geico, (cute here, is relative) — because it was the only one with a habitat that we could easily accommodate since OUR HOUSE IS TINY.
Wyatt got off the bus that afternoon, skipped down the bus steps and ran to the car waving a sheet of paper over his head.
Success! I thought.
Oh no. I thought.
The paper was a handwritten note from the teacher: the gecko had already been promised.
BUT, there was one pet that still needed a loving home, and we could have him for the WHOLE SUMMER if we wanted.
It was a bearded dragon named Rango.
And he came in a four-foot long tank.
And Wyatt wanted him so much.
So, now we have a four-foot tank on top of a chest that sits between our kitchen and dining room table.
Oh dear. Welcome, Rango.
On the first night we had him, he was wide awake with his head arched in that very judgmental way of his, and then all of a sudden he was draped, completely lifeless, over the round plastic cactus in his tank. Oh, good grief. He was dead.
He was dead!
His beard had been black all day, which meant he was stressed, and he hadn’t eaten. I was sure he had died from the shock of moving on the very first night we had him, even though we had done nothing. Well, we got him out to watch TV, but he seemed to enjoy that. Really.
How do you tell the teacher that you killed her class pet on the very first day you had him? And how do you get anyone to believe that you didn’t do anything to make him die?
Wyatt would be known from here on out as the kid who killed the class pet, I just knew it. I should have given this thing more thought.
Even though I could visualize all those signs in the reptile section of the zoo that say Do not tap on the glass, I tapped on it anyway because I needed to know he wasn’t dead. Surely he couldn’t be dead.
But he didn’t flinch, no matter what I did. There was no movement of his ribs to indicate he was breathing. I stared at him as hard as I could thinking that I could maybe ESP him awake.
Of course, that didn’t work either.
At 4 am, I got up to check him and he was still the same lifeless slug he’d been when I went to bed.
Tap tap tap. Nothing.
Wake up wake up wake up I AM LOOKING AT YOU WAKE UP!
At that early hour, I could think of no better explanation than I had before going to bed as to why I had a dead bearded dragon on my hands only hours after taking custody of him.
But at 7 am, the timer clicked his UV light on, and his head jerked up like someone had flipped a switch.
I have never been so happy to see lizard eyes in my life. Well, the truth is I had never been happy to see lizard eyes, but on this day those beady eyes were better than a double scoop of butter toffee crunch ice cream in a waffle cone — even though they looked down upon me with such disdain.
Since then, we’ve had bouts of worry over constipation, then a short period of relief when the constipation was over before the dismay set in when we had to clean up the result of the constipation being over. And once, when we were trying to let him get some sun, he ran away and hid under the porch. You would never believe how fast those short little legs can go. You might also never believe that I crawled under the porch to get him.
I don’t want to report a lost lizard any more than I want to report a dead one.
Alyssa has become good friends with Rango, even though she reports feeling as though he’s judging her too.
We will have Rango for about another six weeks. He is really not so bad after all.
I sure would like to know what he thinks of us.
Well, maybe not.