Zookeeper Tales Wednesday: Freedom!

People react to fear in varied, fascinating ways. Some folks scream. Some punch. Some run away. Some freeze. Some retreat into denial, or bravado; others go into ‘protect everyone else’ mode.

Panic is much the same thing.

When I was still living in Philadelphia, I chipped in with some friends to buy my ex husband a pet savannah monitor lizard. I use the word ‘pet’ loosely, as these critters are by no means domesticated, and normally I would say buying a pet for someone as a gift was a Very Bad Idea. But I was a zookeeper and he had a strong interest in reptiles, both as living beasties and as something vaguely akin to dinosaurs. (Vaguely.)

Wolfgang was interesting and intelligent and powerful, and from watching his antics, my own love of monitor lizards was born. I have a strong belief that no cage is actually large enough for any animal, so while Jason was away at a conference, I obtained and customized a much larger enclosure for Wolfgang to inhabit. The tank was several yards long, perhaps 2 yards high and deep, and was frankly a monster to maneuver into a suitable position in our dining room.

But even that tank was, apparently, not quite large enough.

One evening, I walked into the house with my housemate, Daniel, and my coworker, Linda. As we walked towards the darkened dining room, I was slow to process the fact that the cage lid was no longer on the tank and instead of a 2-1/2 foot lizard, the tank now housed a heating lamp swinging forlornly by its cord.

My reaction? Instant denial. I don’t really see that.

Linda’s reaction was instant amusement. She pointed at the tank and started laughing.

Daniel, being the token male, did not have the response I would have preferred. he chose instant panic, literally armflailing, yelping, “OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!”

His hysteria broke my shock. “Daniel? Stop.” He did. “Linda? Let’s find the bastard.”

The household cats actually helped just as much as Daniel and Linda did, as we found the cats staring with a combination of terror and intrigue at a spot under a radiator. Time would prove that this was always the best way to find any missing critter – just wait for the cats’ OMGWTF reaction.

With Wolfgang safely deposited into his home and the lid of the tank very securely fastened, I turned to my companions.

“Jason never needs to know, right?”

They both started laughing. “Darn right he does!”


This does not mean I’ve ceased to want a monitor lizard of my own.



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