I don’t know how many of my readers realize that I have an alter life – well maybe you might call it an alter lifestyle choice? I’m a massive pet lover or rather animal lover but unfortunately, as I mentioned in a recent post I’m allergic to dogs, cats, birds, horses and other types of farm animals. I guess anything with hair and dander really. My allergies actually ended up altering my education plans because, since I was a little girl, I had always wanted to become a veterinarian. Being a nurse is not quite the same, but I suppose that satisfies the nurturer in me.
Anyway- my alter life. Some of you know that I am a reptile lover. Yeah yeah, I know most of you aren’t, but I am and it’s not just because of my allergies. I’ve always been fascinated by reptiles and amphibians.
I was lucky as a child, we had a beautiful cottage on old family land. It had a creek close by where I could find dozens of frogs, salamanders, snakes and turtles. Even better, there was also an old rock quarry close to our cottage area too, and I’d visit that area regularly in June to see the turtles laying their eggs in the sandy ground, or to try to find the babies marching steadily towards the water.
I wasn’t given permission to have any type of pet at home when I was growing up, so as soon as I moved to Toronto and got my own apartment I got my first turtles. I was happy with the turtles for many years but I was starting to develop a strong interest in lizards. I spent several months doing research on what type of lizard would be best for me and I ended up- with my husband by that time- getting two Chinese Water Dragons.
At the time it was difficult to gather much information of true value on the internet and most of the books were outdated. This was 1995 By the way. I realized that with all of my research I had more information gathered in my notebooks and in various emails that I’d kept than was on any website on the internet. So I decided to start my own website and a mailing list for water dragon owners in December 1995.
Over the years I’ve become quite well known for my gigantic website on not just water dragon care, but the care of over 100 commonly kept reptiles. I even wrote an article in an annual reptile magazine this year. Even veterinarians contact me for my pet care information regarding iguanas and water dragons in particular.
I’ve cared for 6 Chinese water dragons, 4 geckos, 3 box turtles, two red eared sliders, two painted turtles, and 1 very large male iguana in the time that I’ve owned reptiles as pets. Right now I only have my adopted box turtles.
Most of the pets that I’ve kept were previously owned and had health problems, and due to my nursing knowledge I was able to develop my skills in special needs pet care. One of my dragons had leukemia, and another had fallen and had paralyzed her bowel function, and believe it or not I helped her pass waste, hydrated her with subcutaneous injections and kept her alive and happy for three years after her accident.
Our iguana came to us as a very sickly animal. He was the size of a one year old iguana but he was three or four years old- stunted, under weight, rock hard dry skin, both ear drums pierced, scabs on his body and dry gangrene in his toes and the end of his tail and he had these tiny little bugs crawling all over them. The pet store that gave him to us though they were fleas at first and tried to sell us flea medications, but flea medications would have killed him. They were just red mites. Some good soaks in the bath and constant cleaning of his very bare initial cage rid him of the mites quickly. Unfortunately it took us at least 6 months of caring for him two or three hours a day to get him healthy and tame.
Our iguanas name was Napoleon. He died in July 2004 and he took a piece of my heart with him. You might not think of a reptile being cuddly or friendly, but he was the sweetest friendliest animal I think I’ve ever met and he adored me as much as I loved him.
He’d follow me around the house when we’d let him, come over and climb into my lap when invited, and literally hug you back when you picked him up in your arms. He was 13 years old when he died and as sad as I am that he’s gone, I know he lived much longer than he would have if we’d never rescued him. Actually even after we rescued him we only hoped he’d live for three or four years – he was so abused. His bones were curved and bent out of shape too. Such a sad case.
So that’s what I do when I’m not blogging or working as a nurse. I write articles on reptile care for my site, herpetological societies, and magazines, and I help thousands of people every year through my site, email and my mailing lists.
Next time you go into a pet store that happens to sell reptiles- ask the clerk in the reptile area if they’ve been to Tricia’s page and I bet they’ll say yes.