Gwana, my Big Green Iguana
Little Green Iguana finds a home.
One afternoon in 2004, my son, Clay, telephoned me. He was at a pet store in Mesa, Arizona -- not far from our new home.
"Mom, I found a really cool lizard here at the pet store. Do you mind if I buy him and bring him home?"
"Yes, I mind! I don't want a lizard in the house. I won't be able to sleep."
"Mom, it's not just any lizard. It's a baby iguana -- you know, like Uncle Ron's iguana?"
"No, forget it. Don't you dare bring him home because I'll send you right back to the pet store with him."
Less than a half hour later, Clay came through the front door with the iguana. I told him to take the lizard directly back to the store. Sons have a way with mothers. I made good points in my arguments -- about being against animals in captivity or the fact that humans shouldn't live with reptiles because they have bacteria -- and what if he eats our birds when he gets bigger -- but none of this succeeded in squelching the happiness on Clayton's face nor the humor in his rebuttals. Soon I could see the absurdity of not having this green creature in our midst. Of course we needed to rescue this poor fellow. So the next thing Clay brought in from the car to the house was a large terrarium.
I told Clayton that he was to be totally responsible for the iguana. He agreed he would: absolutely, no problem, naturally and certainly. And he told me what he decided to name him -- but I can't remember the name. To me, he was Gwana.
Be a Good Boy
I think it's terribly sad for an iguana to be stuck in a house made for humans as did my son. (Though it seemed better than being stuck in the back of a pet store.) So Gwana had his daily routine including a spray-down in hot or warm weather and his own enclosed portion of the yard for a couple hours in the late afternoon. Clay enjoyed shopping for just the right vegetables and greens for his growing little green pal.
Sometimes Clay would be busy running here and there as eighteen-year-olds do. Always I would repeat my instructions to Clay as he ran out the door to some new activity, "Put Gwana away in his terrarium before you leave. I do not want him defecating while you are out!" Somehow those instructions were seldom heard. So I would go to find Gwana in whichever of the few rooms he was allowed in. His favorite position of sleeping was to sprawl his body across five or six hangers in the closet with good clothes hanging on each hanger and his tail hanging down toward the floor. Oh, my. Can you imagine? I could imagine -- how frustrating it would be to try to make Clayton come home, clean up what could not possibly be properly cleaned up, freshen the room and -- well, that's all I'd be doing is imagining because there wouldn't be any chance Clay would actually cut one of his evenings short to come home and do that. Therefore, as the garage door closed each time and my words echoed in my ears, I picked up the not-so-little-anymore lizard and carried him gently over to his terrarium, placing him quickly on the bottom before he could scramble out. I became masterful at placing the lid firmly on top before Gwana could leap out and run from the room. Then I'd turn out the light and tell him to be a good boy -- as I closed the door. Sometimes I felt as though Gwana was as much my iguana as he was my son's.
Time went by.
Some evenings Gwana would fall asleep on top of Clay's bedroom closet shelf. Gwana was a deep sleeper.
I recall Gwana getting a little heavier to lift down from the closet shelf. At least once a week over a period of 24 months, I found myself climbing up on a chair, stealthily reaching for and grasping Gwana and then bracing myself for his reflex as he awoke from his sleep atop the closet. Instantly, he was ready to whip his tail at the enemy. He would turn his head and see it was only his human's poor mother trying to balance him safely while she climbed off the chair and placed him carefully into his new and improved larger enclosed living area.
Iguanas Have Feelings Too
It was during this time that I had my beautiful little dog, Shadow, in Mesa. She was quite curious about Gwana when he was little, but she became wary of him as he grew bigger. Our birds were nervous when they saw him, too. But Gwana only saw the birds and dog from a safe vantage point: Clayton's or my arms as we carried him to or from the back yard . Gwana was not allowed to roam the house without close supervision.
The Green Iguana or Common Iguana is native to Central and South America. They can grow to approximately 4 feet, 9 inches long -- on average -- and some specimens have been measured at six feet long. They are herbivores.
Gwana was big -- at least four feet long from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail -- the last time I lifted him from the closet shelf to place him in his temperature-controlled sleeping quarters. He never once hurt me with that tail of his. He never scratched me. But he would look into my eyes and silently ask, "What am I doing -- living in a square constructed abode with no trees to climb and no living plants to eat? Please take me outside."
I felt so sorry for him even though he could enjoy the backyard for hours each day during certain months of the year. Clayton had special lighting and heat set up for him in the house. But I wished Gwana could be a free soul like he was intended to be. He hadn't been free in the pet store. He had never known freedom. I wondered how he would make out if he was suddenly allowed his freedom after two years of receiving his food on a platter every day. I thought it odd that my son could feel a bond to an iguana. Little did I realize, I, too, had developed a fondness for him.
Gwana lives happily in a neighboring state now and has done so since 2006. He has a new human family and they take good care of him.
I asked Clayton the other day if he ever misses Gwana. He knew who I meant even though he had called him by a different name.
"No, I know he's well-looked after. I wouldn't mind getting a Bearded Dragon one day, though."
"Well, then I'm so glad you're all grown up and living in your own place. Bearded Dragons are really ugly and, anyway, I don't want a reptile in the house ."
"That's what you said about iguanas before I got one, Mom. Look how much you liked him."
"I know. It was strange. I remember the day after you moved out-of-state. You had packed up all your furniture and belongings -- and taken Gwana with you, too. Do you remember? And I happened to walk past your empty bedroom the morning after you had left. I felt this pang of something -- sort of like a fish trying to swim up my throat. At first, I didn't know what it was."
"You missed me."
"No. Actually, I missed him. I knew I'd be talkin' to you on the phone that night. But I'd never be talking to him again."
Our Little Gwana in the Christmas Tree Boughs
© 2012 Pamela Dapples