Pet Tips 'n' Tales

A Boy and his Zoo

Photo by Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"
Mattie, an 11-year-old 6th grader, loves all types of animals. Liz, his Bearded Dragon, is 3 years old and only one of the many pets in his personal zoo.

TALES

"I have a lizard, 3 frogs, a bird, and 2 dogs," said Mattie.  "I learned to love animals from watching Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, on Animal Planet.  People tell me that I have a zoo," laughs Mattie.

"I've had Liz, my lizard, for 3 years and he has really grown. The cricket man, Brandon, who delivers Liz's crickets, taught me that when a Bearded Dragon's throat color turns black like Liz's does, then this means the dragon is a male and not a female. I liked the name Liz, so he's stuck with it.

Liz knows that every two weeks when Brandon comes, Brandon is delivering a box of crickets and becomes excited. Liz eats about 100 crickets a week. Most people don't have a cricket delivery man or know that 250 crickets cost $10. I wonder how Brandon counts them?

Liz likes being held up next to my shoulder.  When you walk with a lizard it is important to make it feel secure. These lizards feel scaly to the touch and have pointy ends on their scales, but not so pointy that they hurt you. Liz's eyes are bluish.  He doesn't have ears like a person, cat or dog. His ears are holes in his head. Liz's feet are dark red and his body is grayish with a little bit of orange and white.

My friends think Liz is cool and they want lizards, too. Lizards are expensive - up to $150.  When my granny died, Grandpa Jerry gifted me the lizard to make me happy. Some of my friends are trying to earn money to buy lizards but some parents said, "No, you can't have one."

In the summer, I take Liz outside on a little ferret leash, but he wiggles out of the harness, and I have to chase him.  Liz is a fast runner and kind of wiggles side-to-side when he runs.  He runs as fast as a dog! One time, I had Liz outside and he leaped at me when I tried to pick him up and bring him inside. He wanted to stay outside.  You can't blame him; it is better than being stuck in an aquarium, but he couldn't survive our weather.

Liz gulps his crickets and eats romaine lettuce, and meal worms from the cricket guy. He drinks lots of water and bathes in it.  He loves lying in his water.  I sure wonder what he is thinking some times. Liz's aquarium's temperature needs to be 80' all year long and Liz loves lying in the sun on the back of Grandma's couch.

Some people who get lizards ignore them, or unknowingly torture them by scaring them. If you run with a lizard, or are not kind to them, they are smart enough to learn not to like you. It shows that they have feelings and a mind that thinks and remembers.

Grandma Liz says, "When Jerry and I married 2 months ago, luckily, Mattie and his pets came with the marriage. I have always loved animals and brought a dog and a fish into the family. I have 5 children and they've had hawks, raccoons, skunks, and chipmunks as pets while growing up. So this is a perfect marriage, considering Mattie and his zoo. 

Mattie is good with his animals, but he is only 11 years old so occasionally we must remind him to take care of them. From his research on them, he knows more about his pets than we do. He loves reading and if he is interested in something he reads books about it or researches it on the Internet.

Despite being newlyweds, Jerry and I take Mattie everywhere, including camping and traveling. We are enjoying our summer with Mattie because he is the nicest young man. He was our ring bearer, and to calm his grandpa's nerves during the ceremony he patted his grandpa's back the entire time.

Anyone considering a lizard has to realize that they are serious business and a lot of work,"
said Grandma Liz. "Also, everyone thinks it's funny that Liz and I share the same name."

TIPS

Fleas? Diatomaceous earth, a natural powdered-rock product, is available at feed and grain stores and can be sprinkled onto your lawn and floors to help keep fleas at bay. (We vacuum it up after 2 hours). The product is non-toxic and works by drying out the fleas and their eggs.

Twice a year we "superclean" our cats' scratching posts.  We begin by blowing the fur off  with a leaf blower. Then, we wash them by hand with borax soap, followed by pressure washing, and finish by drying with the leaf blower.  Diatomaceous earth is then sprinkled onto the rugged posts to stop flea eggs from incubating. Caution: If your post has pressed board or cardboard use caution with water.
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