We have a new pet.
My mother asked "How did you let yourself be talked into that?" Ironically, it was all my idea. Last Saturday morning I was walking the dog, and hadn't gone a block from our house when was walking right by a yard sale where a girl was selling, among other things, a gecko. She offered me the gecko (she called him Iggy Pop), the 20 gallon tank it was in, the rocks, sand, hidey hole log, water dish, and heat rock. For $12.00.
Interesting. Tell me about the gecko. How much care does it take?
Almost none, she tells me. (She is mistaken. More about that later.) You feed it every other week, dump in a container of crickets. Scoop out the poop occasionally. Walk away. What could be easier?
Wow! Sounds GREAT! I am sold! I am imagining a pet trade-up. The girls can take care of the gecko, whereas the fish have become my problem. I have been battling the algae slime in the stupid fish tank for two years, ever since my well intentioned neighbor dropped a half a can of fish flakes in the tank while he was fish sitting for us. The tank has never been the same since, no matter how thoroughly I clean it. I am ready to dump out the Fish Who Will Not Die, and drop the whole thing in the trash.
I called Hubby, back home with the girls. A gecko? Why a gecko? Because it's here, it's cheap, it's easy, it's more interesting than fish. Fine, whatever. He is okay with a gecko.
Put the girls on the phone. I talked to a girl. What do you think about trading the fish and fish tank for a gecko? They are thrilled. There is whooping and hollering. By the time the dog and I finish his walk and get home they have gotten themselves dressed and are sitting at the front door. Cash in hand we go collect our new gecko.
Garage sale girl tells us he's hungry, he probably hasn't eaten in over a week. So I carry him to our house, and after lunch we head to the pet store for crickets.
The enthusiastic animal enthusiast at the pet store is the source of all gecko information. It is from him that I learn our gecko (a common spotted leopard gecko) has been the victim of gecko neglect, and is miserable and malnourished. Normally a gecko's tail is kind of fat looking. Some of the ones on the internet have tails about as fat as their bodies. Our gecko's tail is nearly as thin as a regular lizard's. Oh my. How do we make him better? How do we nurse him back to full robust gecko health and fat-tailness? How?
Well, let me tell you. First of all, he (really a she) requires a basking lamp ($13.00 for the bulb, $14 for the lamp with a clamp, and those are the cheap ones. An expensive bulb is $60.00). The light should be 12 hours on, 12 hours off. (Labor Intensive! I'm thinking Electric Timer.) The heat rock she came with is AWFUL! It could burn her! She needs a heating pad placed under the tank. No I don't want to buy the reptile warming pad. I have a regular old heating pad at home, that will have to do.
Her diet should consist of DAILY cricket feedings. ($6.00 for 25 or so crickets.) She can go 3 or 4 days once in a while between feedings if she has to, but for the most part, she should be fed EVERY DAY. The crickets eat a cricket food compound ($7.00), but 12-24 hours before you feed her, you isolate the 2 or 3 crickets for her next meal and power feed them (it's called "gut loading" and you're getting as much nutrition into the crickets as possible so you can get as much nutrition into the gecko as possible) - fish flakes are good (I had those on hand). Then right before you feed them to the gecko the power-fed crickets have to be sprinkled with calcium powder ($5.00). This is bad for the crickets, they probably won't live another day once they're dusted, but it's great for the gecko. THEN you put the gut-loaded, calcium powdered ghost crickets in the gecko cage and she hunts them down. That's the interesting part. But let me point out this is not an "easy, no-labor pet." We are now caring for a couple dozen crickets, AND a gecko. There is more information in the gecko manual ($12.00) and there were a few other sundry things that are vital to the gecko's continued health that I can't remember. All I know is that with a 50 lb bag of dog food ($29.00) my total with tax for the trip to PetSmart was $103.52. The $12 gecko just cost me $70.00. That didn't even include a cricket cage (I'll use an old tupperware from home). I was ready to march the whole thing back to the garage sale. Where it would remain thin tailed and neglected. So... we're keeping it. But it's going to be a fat-tailed and happy gecko, gosh darn it! The tail seems to already have fattened up a little, just since Saturday.
Before we went to the pet store we caught the fish out and dumped out the water. The woman who cut Hubby's hair on Saturday afternoon said her son has a fresh water lobster thing that keeps eating all the fish they put in the tank. Would we be willing to subject our fish to a daring gladiator type battle for survival? You bet we would. It's easier than driving 20 miles to the only pet shop in town that will take them. The girls were all consumed with the gecko, they couldn't care less about the fish. They stopped caring about the fish the last time the tank completely greened over and the fish were no longer visible at all. The only way to check they were still alive was to look in from the top. And the fish tank still hasn't been cleaned out. It's sitting in the garage, I'm letting the old algae dry out and harden so hopefully it will flake and nearly fall off the tank.
I forgot to mention, the pet store guy told us that the trauma of moving and everything is kind of hard on the gecko, and she probably shouldn't be picked up much for a week or so. Are you kidding me? Did you see the age of my kids? The poor thing hasn't been put down since we walked in the door. She's just so fun to watch, she has this wacky waddle in her walk, she moves kind of slow, so she won't get away, she's friendly and doesn't bite, she is easy to hold, it's fun to watch her hunt the crickets, and she's so much more interesting than a fish. I just hope she lives til the end of the week. By the way, her new girl name is Dotty.
And did I mention that the crickets STINK. They have kind of a rotting food smell. And they chirp, of course, and keep the kids awake. So they are not kept in the kids' room with the gecko, they are now in a cupboard in the downstairs bathroom. Luckily Thing 2 is okay at catching the crickets, so they can be isolated and gut loaded. Thing 1 and I find catching crickets kind of creepy.
Just what have I gotten myself into?