Friday, October 8, 2010

Gecko in my pants

Recently, my fiance and I attended a wedding in Arizona. I had never been to Arizona before and neither had she. While I could not live year round in such a hot place, we very much enjoyed the heat, the dips in the pool, and all of the wedding festivities. I could go on and on about the wedding, but something tells me that won't interest you so much as to know about the gecko in my pants.

The gecko was not so much in my pants-as funny and uncomfortable as that would be- as it was nestled in between the pant legs of my suit pants, previously used for the wedding ceremony, when I unpacked my suitcase in Maine after the 6 day trip.

We stayed at a condo in Arizona of our dear friends, the parents of the bride, and without a doubt, little lizards were everywhere to be seen. Did you know that there are 800 different species of gecko? I sure did not. The only gecko that I had ever seen was the gecko on the Geico commercial. I thought that gecko was spelled Geico and that the car insurance company had actually used the name gecko for it's business name, not just as the mascot. Honestly, I had no idea what a gecko was until it showed up in my pants.

This little gecko, only about the size of my fingernail and then some; had somewhat mischeiviously found its way into my suitcase while we were packing to leave Arizona. May be she was looking for a place to rest or take cover from a larger predator, or may be she was just lost. I learned that may be she was a house gecko who was just looking to move in and checking out the furnishings of this condo near downtown Scottsdale.

Unfortunately, this little creature was instead in for a long ride across the country in my carry-on luggage. Which makes me think that if she had been underneath the airplane, she probably would not have survived the cold temperatures or lack of pressure. In effect, she was riding first class to Boston and destined to live through this trip.

How our little friend avoided detection at the airport speaks to the 'meant to be' nature of this budding relationship between us and her. In some ways, I thought that may be she could have been better off being detected and sent back to her original habitat. But upon further internal digression, I realized that she was definitely a long way from home at the airport too, hitchhiking was not an option, and who knows if our not-so-happy airport security men and women would have helped her find a legitimate home anyway. She was ours from the moment she jumped into my suitcase it seemed and destined for the Maine winter and a glass cage that would be turned into a small palace.

So our baby gecko was flying coach with us to Boston from Pheonix without us knowing it, and anybody else for that matter. Turbulence and high altitude did not seem to bother the gecko as it cozied up in my loving pants. She must have been a little cold though and probably a little hungry too, but she did not complain while I definitely did. Since when do the airlines charge for snacks on the plane? But the drinks were free? Free ginger ale and 2 dollar animal crackers? What is this world coming to? But I digress.

After sitting in the trunk of the car that evening while we dined with relatives, our little creature was finally off to Maine in the back of the Subaru and destined for another twelve hours in my pants until I finally decided to officially unpack the following afternoon.

At first glance as I opened my suitcase, I initially thought that someone had played a prank on me back in Arizona, leaving a fake gecko in my suitcase...and yet that seemed childish. No, the gecko was real and seemed somewhat surprised by her new surroundings. I prayed that she did not decide to run for it because finding a small gecko in a big house would have been nearly impossible. Once again, our gecko, being the slow-mover that she is, stayed still and waited for our next move, which was to put her in a jar with punched holes on top until we could find a more suitable environment.

I must say that I was very anxious about finding this gecko in my pants. I felt bad for her. She was far from home and had endured quite a bit of travel. At the same time, I consoled myself by thinking that she was in good hands and that there must have been some "higher reason" for her decision to join us in Maine. Which inevitably lead to a flashback to Buenos Aires some 4 years prior where my finance and I found a baby bird who had fallen from a tree into a puddle near our apartment and had decided to give it a home and nurse it back to health. A week or so of polenta and milk and eating food out of our hands was pleasant for the bird (we think) and us (sort of, it sometimes ran frantically around the apartment and under things), before our little bird decided to check out to better things in the next life. Hopefully, our gecko will live longer. I don't think I can handle losing another tiny animal who'd lost its way.

Upon seeing this tiny creature in a glass jar by the stove, we realized that this environment was not going to do. I rushed to the pet store in town and was briefly educated on the eating habits and weather conditions needed to keep our gecko alive. I got a plastic case with air vents and a top hatch for feeding on loan, some dead insects, and a water bottle to aimlessly squirt water into her cage to keep her hydrated. Thus, our gecko was placed in her cage next to the stove for warmth for the rest of the day.

Apparently, geckos will not eat anything bigger than their head, which makes sense, so the overly large dead insects that I sprinkled into her cage just sat there, unquestionably dead (the gecko knew it as well as I did) until I threw them out later on. I did witness our gecko taking a sip of a water bubble left on the side of the plastic cage which was pleasant to see before I then realized how I was following the every step of our baby gecko quite obsessively, hoping she'd pull through or that we would not ruin her young life by mistake. Was I losing my mind?

Peke, in her resoureful way, decided that she was going to catch some small knats or bugs for our gecko to eat. Gecko's are carnivorous and like to hunt their prey before feasting. Peke, quite ingeniously, devised a scheme for "almost" killing these small insects that frequently annoyed us by endlessly circling the trash, our sink in the bathroom, and elsewhere throughout the house. She hit them ever so slightly with her finger, knocking them out temporarily, and would then race them to the cage. She's drop them in next to our gecko who'd engage in a brief stare-down before gulping it up effortlessly. Yep, our baby gecko was learning to hunt. She was being served up live knats by her adopted mother who took pride in her astute knat-catching abilities. Our gecko ate four knats that evening.

The lighting in and around the cage was pretty poor still. The stove was not heating very well since our wood was wet from being left outside in the rain. We played with different combinations to try and shine some light on our gecko for warmth. Peke had a "very strong" light bulb which we used at a distance to keep the cage pretty warm the first night. We were told to put the light over the cage and did so for about 10 seconds before we realized we were about to fry the gecko to death. Her jaw dropping told us he was gasping for air and we stopped quickly and regretfully.

While trying to remove the top of the cage temporarily to give her food, we think I cut off part of her tail too because it was no longer there when she resurfaced. Not only had our gecko already flown across country, survived living in a suitcase, in the car, and survived being dangerously close to her version of the sun; she had lost her own tail in a freak accident.

Fortunately, I was somewhat relieved to learn that they sometimes lose their tails on purpose to escape from predators, a "pre-programmed function" of the gecko, and that they will heal and even grow back. All thoughts of getting a gecko playmate for her as consolation were thrown out the window however when I read that her lack of tail could be the source of bullying (bullying even exists at the gecko-level?) by other geckos. I equated it with having braces in the 9th grade or being an innocent young boy wearing turtlenecks to school every day throughout junior high and unknowingly brushing your hair back over your ears as an unconscious routine (long story).

Our gecko was destined to be the spoiled only child of our family who would have anything and everything she wanted until we adopt something else in later life.

Thus, we woke up on Day 2 with our gecko on our minds. It was like having newborn child. Well, sort of. It's easy to see all of this as being somewhat ridiculous. We were obsessively caring for our gecko and needlessly worrying about its health. Well, I was needlessly worrying. I sympathized with our gecko, I only wanted to the best for it. Is that so bad?

We made our second trip to the pet store and engaged in a training session with the friendly, pony-tailed staff person. He directed us to the special light bulb our gecko would need, the fake green plants, a thermometer, sand for the surface of the floor, and some worms we could cut in half to feed her with. Kindly, he also gave us a used glass cage about three times the size of our plastic one for only five bucks. 30 dollars later (we have only minimal funds these days), we had the basics to provide for our gecko.

By the end of the day, our gecko had a new habitat that resembled a small palace. It was littered with sand, twigs, rocks, fake plant life, and the appropriate lighting to keep our critter in about 75 to 85 degree weather. She ate more knats and stared at us curiously as we stared at her curiously through the glass window of her new home.

Strange as it is, I am now thinking I should go check on the gecko who we have affectionately named Liz or Gecka, for short. I can't say too much about what all of this means, but things happen in life for sometimes seemingly mysterious reasons. You have to be open and flexible and roll with the punches, to make the best out of sometimes awkward circumstances that you would have been otherwise unprepared for.

Be the difference in the life of a gecko...and check your pants before you leave your next desert vacation or a tropical island getaway.