Well, Bugs is 8 years old, and last summer he did a fantastic job of tending the garden. We told him he could get a pet of his own to care for. Originally, we were thinking a fish, but then you have to deal with water changes and potentially stinky water dripping on the carpet (we had enough of that when I had my frogs on carpet!) We decided to get him a leopard gecko, as they are easy to care for, hardy, and companionable (and I already know about them).
Then came the weeks of watching for a leopard gecko in need of a home. Sure, we could have gotten one from a pet store, but we prefer to rescue our pets (plus there was a chance that some of the taming process would already be done, as well as the growth process. Oh, and they’re cheaper). A couple geckos showed up on Craigslist, but we required Bugs to research the needs of his gecko before he could get one, and he became overwhelmed and quit (Ninja, meanwhile, did the required research work, coming up with what questions they needed to answer). So that opportunity passed us by, but that was ok. When another couple geckos showed up on Craigslist needing a home, Bugs quickly did his required research and proudly displayed his typed-up care sheet. We went that evening (St. Patrick’s Day) to look at the geckos, and ended up getting both- one for Bugs and one for Ninja.
Now, I’ve taken care of an adult leopard gecko before, but never a juvenile. I knew enough to look for alertness and activity and how well they adjusted to handling. I knew they were skinny, but chalked it up to them being juveniles. The owners told us they were feeding them super worms and we were skeptical, but bought them anyway. They are HUGE compared to the lizards!
Well, Ninja and Bugs were ecstatic about their lizards and we had to teach them not to drop them and how to hold them and all that handling stuff. Don’t put them on the couch. Don’t leave him on the table. Let him rest. He needs to warm up. Etc. Overall though, the boys did well. We tried feeding them, but they were not interested. Both were alert and seemed ok with the handling, although Ninja’s was calmer than Bugs’s and seemed tamer. They chose gnarly colored calcium-sand for the bottom (not too worried about importation as we are feeding them in a separate container) and chose rocks for decoration and hide places. Bugs and Ninja were both excited to spend their own money on extras for their lizards.
About 5 pm Saturday (we’d had them for 24 hours), Ninja’s gecko took a turn for the worse. He lay there in his cage, too tired to get comfortable. We tried to help him out, but when he didn’t perk up, Ninja and I whisked him to the vet. Two reptile vets came in to see him on a Saturday night (I love my vets!) and told us he was emaciated and gave us a syringe and a liquid diet. We force fed the little guy there in the clinic and then whisked him home to get under the heat lamp again. Then at home, I force fed Bugs’ gecko, flashing back to feeding my iguana Kala with a syringe shortly before she died. Not long afterwards, I checked in on them, and Ninja’s gecko was dead.
Crushed, Ninja asked to have a funeral for Green Ninja/White Tail/Dan/Ninja (he went through several names), so we buried him by a stump and Ninja said a few words “I loved you, Ninja.” Then we gave him lots of hugs and snuggles. Ninja says he doesn’t want to give up, so we promised him we’ll look for another gecko for him. Meanwhile, we’ve got appropriate sized food for Bugs’s gecko and are force feeding him daily until we can get him to eat. He’s nice and feisty, so hopefully he will rally.
When getting the boys a pet of their own, we knew this was a possible outcome. At least it wasn’t (mainly) the fault of either boy. The previous owners thought they were eating, but they’d been just putting the worms in the tank and assuming they ate, whereas we are feeding them in a separate container to monitor their feeding. The little lizards have already taught them so much- basic research, reading skills, review of reptiles and exothermic/endothermic differences, care taking, respect, etc. Now, Bugs and Rocky are learning how to comfort their brother as he grieves. Not that they haven’t already been through enough death!
It’s been really nice to see, though, how the boys have taken to heart their responsibility. “It’s your responsibility to keep them safe so they don’t get hurt,” I told them, and their handling skills dramatically improved. “Your lizard depends on you to give him everything he needs,” I told them, and they couldn’t wait to feed them- we offered food four times that first day, and they initiated it. Bugs has changed the water multiple times a day on his own initiative, whenever it gets sandy.
So we’ll see what happens- hopefully Bugs’s gecko recovers!
RIP Green Ninja/White Tail/Dan/Ninja