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Gwana, my Big Green Iguana

Updated on June 19, 2014
Adult male green iguana.
Adult male green iguana. | Source

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.

Young Green Iguana
Young Green Iguana | Source

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.

Shadow, my sweet dog.
Shadow, my sweet dog.

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

Gwana, the iguana -- when he was little -- hanging out in our Christmas tree.
Gwana, the iguana -- when he was little -- hanging out in our Christmas tree. | Source

© 2012 Pamela Dapples


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    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      5 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Nice to see you, GarnetBird. I will be by to read more of your hubs. I've been away sometimes from here, but I always come back. That's so cute about your Iggie. I'm sure you miss him. Our pets never leave our hearts.

      My newly adopted nine year old cat likes to lay on the counter too -- until my husband comes in and shoo-shoos him away.

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 

      5 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      I had to revisit your photos..miss my green iguana. I developed an allergy to him, but I found him a good home. Wonderful photos. My Iggie liked to lay on top of the radio and listen to a golden oldies rock station I always left on.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      5 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Thanks for visiting, pinning and commenting, DrMark1961.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      He sounds like he had a really good life. I let my Tegus out to run around the house, but am so glad they go back in to their cages to sleep. I am pinning some of the great photos.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Thank you for visiting and commenting, wetnosedogs. I'm glad it made you chuckle.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Brett.Tesol, I'm so glad you're not running on ceilings yet. lol.

      I like to know there is at least one little lizard in the house at night as a sentinel for any bugs that might think they will crawl over me while I sleep. I never dreamed I'd learn to like a big lizard, though. Thank you so much for the votes and the sharing.

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      6 years ago from Alabama

      A delightful hub. I had to laugh at the first closet episode, but it's no wonder you bonded with this iguana.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett C 

      6 years ago from Asia

      A nice story. I actually was surprised that when I moved to Thailand, I actually liked to watch all the lizards and wildlife. You end up with lizards living in your house here, as they are just too fast and can run on the ceiling ... something I haven't perfected yet lol.

      Shared, pinned, tweeted, up, awesome and beautiful.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Thank you, moonlake. You sound a lot like me. Oh, well, we're not too far gone yet. At least we're not worrying about the comfort of pet snakes yet.

    • moonlake profile image


      6 years ago from America

      When our son was a teen he brought home an Iguana about 2 ft. long. There was some reason why someone couldn't keep him so our son took him. I was up all night with that lizard worried he wasn't warm enough checking on him every few hours. We did not have the right equipment for an Iguana in this climate. The next morning when I went to the hospital to take my stress test my doctor wanted to know why I was so quiet. I told him about the iguana and how tired I was. He laughed but said I couldn't stay up worried about an Iguana and not getting my sleep. Our son finally found the iguana another home, he couldn't take care of him not with work and school.

      Enjoyed your story voted up and shared.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Thanks, Nell, for dropping in all the way from England. lol

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi, I can totally understand your bond with gwana, I love animals and even one that may scare me to start with would end up being the family pet! lol! great story, thanks!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Thank you, Angela. Always love to hear from you.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      7 years ago from Central Texas

      Thank you for such an absolutely delightful read -- my son, too, was drawn to reptiles -- rattlesnakes. We never did reach the point one lived in the house but...oh, well...beautifully written article. Best/Sis

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Thank you, grand old lady. Yes, knowing Gwana helped me not to be afraid so much of creatures that don't look cuddly. On Maui, for instance, I know so many women that are really afraid of geckos in the house (not the local ladies -- they're fine with them.) And I'm happy to be able to have a gecko in the house because they eat large critters such as cockroaches. Thanks for stopping in.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      GarnetBird, it's so nice to hear from you. I hope you're doing well.

      That must have been difficult to give him away. Thank you for commenting.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you for sharing your experience with your iguana. My cousin has a large one that she carries on her shoulders. Through your piece, I came to see that the iguana as a creature has its unique personality. And I love the time you shared together with your Gwana:)

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 

      7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      I had a green iguana for 2 years and sadly had to place him in another home as I developed an immune disorder and would become when sick cleaning his cage, etc./He was very personable and I gave him a daily bath. NICE sensitive hub!! Love your photos.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      tlmcgaa70, nice to hear from someone who felt this strange bond with a lizard. I don't plan on every getting another one, but it was an experience and they certainly have their own little personalities. It's so nice you took Iggy for walks! I didn't know, like you, an iguana would eat a snake. I'm glad I never had to witness something like that.

      Thanks for the votes.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Nettlemere, my son did all the reading and researching on how to care for Gwana. He was a healthy iguana. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

    • tlmcgaa70 profile image


      7 years ago from south dakota, usa

      iguanas are amazing. i had one that i got from my niece, it kept biting her so she asked if i would take it. it was just a baby still, just about 8-10 inches. i remember one day when Iggy was about a foot long or so, i had caught a baby bull snake. i wondered if it was possible to keep the two together. no sooner had i set the baby snake in the tank then it went into strike mode facing Iggy. before i could get it out of there it struck...however things did not go as planned, Iggy was much faster than that baby snake, and what was meant as a powerful strike ended up as bad news...the baby snake ended up sailing directly into Iggy's open mouth, and he quickly gobbled the poor thing up. it happened to fast to believe. i was always told feed them fresh fruits and veggies. i never expected my Iggy to eat a snake. Iggy loved to go for walks and eat tree leaves and play in mud puddles. the first time i walked into the store in our little village with this 3 foot iguana on my arm.shoulder.head, i heard whispers of (it's a dinosaur), and it made me chuckle. great hub, voted up and awesome

    • Nettlemere profile image


      7 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I enjoyed reading of your experience with Gwana. We had a couple of adult green iguana's at college where I studies and it was hard work getting their care right, but it sounds like you did well with him.


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