Sunday, May 17, 2009

Unique is Good

'Hey..what's hanging?'
Originally uploaded by peace1374
We used to have a cool Jackson's chameleon like this one.

Mark & I were in Hawaii and we had been looking around in a tiny little pet store in Lahaina on Oahu. They had the usual assortment of parrots, snakes, goats (yes, goats), and several kinds of lizards. Mark got tired of wandering around and went for a walk while I talked myself into why it was okay to purchase a jungle creature, keep it in a motel for a few days, then fly it across the ocean. And how I would explain it to Mark.

I chose my little friend and forked over my $65. Once he was boxed up (the chameleon, not Mark - he was boxed 'in'), I walked to the park where I surprised my patient spouse with the most bizarre creature we'd ever seen. It took him about 2 minutes to fall for him.

We named him Kili (Kee-lee) and he became one of our most interesting and funny pets ever. He traveled in slow motion with a kind of step-sway forward and back, step-sway forward and back movement. He loved to s-l-o-w-l-y climb up cords and curtains, and found popcorn ceilings to be quite the adventure. He was used to employing his prehensile tail as another hand/arm, so when he was losing his grip or sensing he was in danger, he would wrap his tail tightly around his leg. He'd inevitably fall - but we always caught him or prepared a soft spot for the landing.

He had 2 amazing, protruding eyes - each moved independently and looked like little beady telescopes.

His home was an old bird cage fitted with a big plant and a rabbit water bottle that hung down for him to lick. I also had a little bottle that dripped onto the plant, and I would mist it often with a squirt bottle. We'd take him out every day or so for his fill of meal worms or crickets. Problem was, the meal worms smelled awful, so I'd usually opt for the noisy, nasty crickets. But the crickets would get out of the cage, so we had to put them in a tall box, drop Kili in, and let him go to town. His tongue would zip out about 8 inches and snag a scurrying cricket, then he'd slowly, slowly chomp it down.

He loved to go outside on my hand and catch flies on the side of the house. He tried a Box Elder bug one time - a common and plentiful beetle in Montana. He clearly didn't like it and never, ever forgot what they looked like and never ate another one.

He also liked spending time on the lawn and once in a while I'd sit and read while he lounged in the sun. I came close to losing him a couple of times and spent some frantic minutes searching the area for a patch of green that had legs. Luckily, he couldn't move fast enough to get far. The funniest time was when I found him laying on the line where the sunny lawn met the shadowed. He was half bright green, and half forest green.

He became a favorite - we had friends who would bring thier friends over just to see him. One time, a family we knew purchased one for their teenage son, and I got a phone call from their veterinarian 2 weeks later. Evidently, Johnny's had died and the vet wanted to know how I took care of Kili. Evidently Jackson's are one of the hardest lizards to keep alive, and he was very curious about his habitat and diet. The vet was absolutely stunned to learn that my poor little tropical reptile lived in a bird cage, was fed random bugs outside, chased by the kitten across the top of our curtains, and often popped onto the dusty fake ficus tree in the living room for an hour of 'free play.'

I guess ignorance is bliss.

Kili died nearly 2 years after we got him. The very day Mark & I were in Lahaina, Hawaii.

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