(Lil’ Murph – September/2018)
In the past I have not been the good lizard Mommy, friend to animals, or even a fair co-inhabitant of this Earth with them, for that matter. I suffer inside from it with memories. This guilt doesn’t come from intentional ill-doing, I take that back, maybe I stepped on a few ant hills. If I did, I stopped (I’ve always been in awe of the non-human world even wanting to give a certain lightning bug smashing boy a beat – down). Once, as a teenager I recall spraying a cockroach with hairspray. Please don’t ask me why. I’m sorry very large cockroach! To you I say, I take all insects outside now. I would not torture a helpless creature again.
Rather, this guilt is born of neglect, selfishness, lack of research, and the ignorance of youth. It began with my first salamander. Possibly I was aged 6 years. I don’t remember it’s name. My memory consists of one scene of it in it’s too tiny enclosure, then it’s burial.
Then, there was Adora, a lovely Crawdad (or Crayfish). I feel sad because it seemed as though she lived on the counter in a glass, hexagon-shaped tank for a year or two. She ate people food. She let me pick her up above her legs and behind her pinchers to clean her tank. She pinched me only once. I was around 8- 10 years old. While others were ripping off their legs and pinchers, I only wanted to be with and pet them. Somehow she (?) ended up being my pet. Maybe she was left behind by someone who brought over a bucket of them in creek water. She reversed into a cup for a cozy hide. It was so cute. I feel bad because I never thought to at least place her in a larger home, maybe next to a window for a view.
Next, we have Lara and Sara, 2 beautiful black-ish salamanders with neon orange-ish / red spots on their bellies. I remember being at the pet store when Mom chose to let me have them. I don’t remember what they ate. I don’t remember feeding them. But I must have. I had them for some time. Also, their hexagon – shaped aquarium was not a fair size. Perhaps I was 10 when I saw Sara dry and dead in the tank. Lara was missing. In desperation, somehow he (I think) crawled out. I found him later dry and dead in my closet. I was so afflicted, I felt I had the power of 10 of myself, but there was nothing productive I could do with it. If Mom has no photos in her collection of these salamanders, they’re beauty survives only temporally. These were gifts by my Mother. All my lizards have been a gift in every sense of the word.
Following in sad fates we have Goliath, a gift by a couple, when to whom I confessed her death, I was concerned for myself. Goliath enjoyed climbing the curtain to perch herself upon the picture window curtain rod. She startled many visitors when they turned and noticed a statue-esque lizard less than a meter from their heads and nearly as long as they are tall! Life supplied a tough turn when Goliath was my responsibilty. I had to leave her overnight in a house with no electricity and it was the winter. I left the oven set to vey low with the door cracked to keep her from freezing. She, by choice, rested at the stove all night.
Then, I had to move and leave behind many nice things including her 55 gallon aquarium (an awesome gift from a past family aquaintance). Where I went, I kept her (what I thought was temporarily) in about a 20 gallon tank until I could figure out another enclosure. This was cruel. In the mean time I was organizing what was salvaged from a 3 bedroom home into 2 rooms of an already full 4 bedroom home. Therein lies another problem. In spending my time making things organized and clean while mourning the loss of material things, I saw her saddened face and the light of life dissipating from her beautiful eyes daily. Her caged and broken spirit broke my heart, apparently, not enough then to empower me to find the means to fix this. She wasn’t getting proper light, heat, love or freedom. She stopped eating. I believe she killed herself. I live with this.
(Goliath in her 55 gallon tank October 1996)
This was before I learned lizards needed to climb and bask and have a cool area as well. Since then I learned heat rocks can burn them. Since then I learned of my stupidity and self-centerdness. I didn’t know lizards needed blankies either.
Next, this is Chris (Christmas present for my son ’96 or ’97) the water turtle. Please, if a turtle is in your future, and you read up on turtles real quick at the pet store, and learn your turtle can swim and climb out of the water as it chooses with properly placed bricks, know that some turtles may drown regardless if the water is higher than half it’s body width.
(Please excuse the blurriness. Nearly all of these photos are pictures I took with my phone of older printed photographs.)
Now we come to beloved Copper. I introduced her here: Mom Never Met Lil’ Murph I was (even with mistakes) more evolved (regarding respect, understanding, and compassion for creatures) to better love an exotic masterpiece. Copper was a gift by a family member. He bred lizards. He didn’t think she’d make good breeding material. She had a gimpy arm (calcium deficiency, birth defect, or injury?) and was extremely docile (because she wasn’t the competetive personality in her shared cage, & she was a very deep thinker, very aware of herself and surroundings, which I think slowed her some).
I had her a few weeks before her first vet visit. She was sadly skinny and malnourished but better than when I got her. She had been living on little crickets only. She got a variety of non-citrus produce immediately from me for nutrition. She had to have an emergency calcium shot. It hurt her, she ran acrossed the table back into my hands. She had internal parasites.
The doctor put her arm in a cast (as you will see below). It didn’t do anything. The doctor said she could break her arm & install rods to make it more normal. Another option was amputation. I told her no to these options. Copper’s arm gave her no pain, I would know it. She is beautiful the way she is. I feel Copper survived on love alone leading up to the doctor’s care. When she outgrew her juvenile cage, I constructed this.: Choosing A Home Within Your Home For Your Scaly Companion I tweaked it a bit for Murph when I decided Copper wouldn’t mind sharing some of her old things with a good soul. Copper was 9 1/2 inches long when I got her. As an adult she grew to be 17 +3/4″.
Wow, this is very blurry after cropping. It is here anyway because you can indeed see a cast on her left arm and how tiny she was.
(Copper 2006- 2010 …and my Mom would not approve of pic #2 but she is no longer here, to me she and Copper are beautiful together)
Some days Copper looked very orange, or yellow, or a pale yellow-ish tan. Some days her eyes appeared in colors of glittery yellow, or copper, or light, icy blue. I just couldn’t tell you any possible science behind this claim! Murph’s colors vary some in a similar way. but not drastically.
Above (top left: Copper’s left arm as an adult and her funny position. top right: Look at that orange chin and nice round belly. bottom: How orange she is that day against black)
(Copper 2013, she was cremated with that teddy bear in that position with a soft blankie covering her just to her tiny nostrils. The twin of that teddy is seen below by her urn.)
Her last few years she had a sore (healed, returned, healed, & so on) on her cute bottom lippy. I often & gently rubbed a topical pain reliever onto it) She didn’t have much vigor the last 4 months or so of her life. She was loved dearly by her family, she loved each of them as equally as they loved her. Sometimes she insisted being held by certain people by refusing to leave them when they attempted to part with the embrace. 7/14/06 – 1/4/14. She held on until after Christmas (I somewhere have the photo of her wearing her Christmas dress and Santa Clause hat). She left this plane as a horrible blizzard approached. I was going to drive through it if I could have found a hospital for her but call after call: “We don’t handle emergencies for lizards.” These are beautiful beings. Why aren’t more people helping them? Probably, she was going to leave anyway. I felt Death in the room so I made sure everyone (and quite willingly it was done) held her. I am not sure in who’s embrace she died. I can’t describe the pain of having to keep her body cold for days because we could not traverse the roads to the crematory. The ground was frozen and I couldn’t bear visiting often the thought of her rotting in the ground, her essence away from us.
Sometimes, these days, some special occasions are celebrated because others expect it. Copper began, maybe a year before her death, wagging her tale as it dangled during our embrace when I’d come home from working all day! A few years before she left. She got a respiratory infection. I was scared I’d lose her. I slept with her and had a fan blowing acrossed us. It helped her breathe. We fell asleep. I realized I loved being with her in slumber too. She slept with me every night om the pillow for the rest of her life. Please do not try this with your small pets!!! I did not spend enough time with her near the end and I knew we didn’t have a long time together.
The brown teddy (resembling Mr. Bean’s Teddy) was her first stuffed animal. Placed in her cage by my son that loved her greatly, it was quickly discovered that she loved it. Sometimes Teddy needed a washing and a few sewings. When Teddy was replaced, she laid upon it right away. I gave her the heart-shaped rock on the stuffed dog’s nose. We were having outside time when I saw it in the driveway one day. That heart necklace was worn by me daily for years after her death. You will see the key to it atop my finger. I gave her the key the night her remains were placed in their resting place at her window. I was painting (one of my other jobs at the time) in the funeral home the day her remains were delivered to that location. I couldn’t believe the box in my hand containing the bag of her weighed as much as she did alive, it was like I was holding her. I sat, I cried, I numbed up enough to finish working.
Then, I shall introduce Jeremiah, a fish with a personality 10 times her/his size! I haven’t a photo of Jeremiah the Beta Fish to share currently. He or she taught me fish have feelings. Jeremiah’s entire being lit up & he/she swam differently when seeing family! The night I knew Death was coming for sweet Jeremiah, I was going to sit up to sleep vertically by his/her side all night. After all, I feel it was my fault he/she was dying (long story). I left for 10 minutes while another was in the room, that is when Jeremiah left, hopefully in peace and feeling loved.
9/25 was, would have been my Mom’s birthday. I feel I didn’t do right by her either. I’m still doing my best (probably always room for improvement) to be a good daughter for my Father, helping him with a # of things and gladly visiting often. He is amazing, unique, and loving. He loves many cats born by abandoned cats and has had them ‘fixed’ to prevent more homeless animals. They bring him joy and rid him of loneliness or boredom. There isn’t much good in beating ourselves up over things, but it is done. We can only hope to learn and improve ourselves. The photo below is of my Mom years ago, it’s a Polaroid snapshot! I don’t know where she was, when it was taken, or by whom, but maybe I get my love for animals from my parents…..
We convince ourselves to do or not to do things and often blame decisions on circumstances. Someone once said, I’m paraphrasing here, “It more often than not will be regretted the things you don’t do, more so than the things you do.” Make sense enough?
( Lil Murph 2017 & 2018)
This all may seem ridiculous to some, but I don’t care if that happens. Animals have been better and more enjoyable to have in my life than many humans. They have earned their places in my heart and my Bearded Dragons have helped me in very rough times with their love and calming dimeanor.
I have focused on the exotic animals here, but, to Snickety the Cricket and all scaly, furry and feathery loved ones I’ve been lucky to know, I’m sorry I wasn’t better for and more deserving of you. I’m trying to be better and deeply hope I am forgiven by each and every one of you. I wouldn’t take you for granted again.
“Give me Lizardry or give me Death!” -Dawn Renee ♥