The little zookeeper

Those of you fortunate enough to know my daughter Macy know she has a love for animals that’s as big as Texas. She’s said from her earliest days that she wants to be a vet and a zookeeper. I can think of no other vocations more suited to her, and despite the fact that she may end up at Texas A&M (oh, the horror!) for vet school, I support her.

Getting a little ahead of myself, again.

Keep in mind that we already have two dogs and three fish in our house, and that on any given day I’m meeting myself coming & going just keeping up with the necessities of getting through the busy day. So when Macy asks for another animal for Christmas, I heave a big sigh and think, what’s the best way to change the subject?

This isn’t the first time she’s asked for another animal. In fact, every time we go to the pet store she lobbies hard, and that girl is persuasive. Factor in my own love of animals, and we’re lucky we don’t have more of a menagerie around here.

I knew we were in trouble this time, though, because the only thing on her Christmas list was an animal. Uh oh.

A note about this child: from the moment we saw the sonogram image of her in utero we knew she was different. Different, good, that is. That first image showed a beautiful profile with her tiny wrist laid flat against her forehead in classic Scarlet O’Hara pose, as if from the very beginning she was thinking up some form of drama to unleash on the world.

Macy has never been like other girls. She never liked the Disney princesses, and to this day can be heard muttering under her breath when she comes across one of them on TV, “That Belle is so stupid.” When all the other little girls were having a Tinkerbell-themed birthday party, Macy wanted a barnyard theme. When all her little preschool classmates were tottering off to ballet class, she was in the backyard, digging for worms and filling the birdfeeder.

So it should come as no surprise that this fiercely independent girl not only goes her own way (despite the crowd), but has stayed true to herself for all of her 8 years. Her love of all creatures is here to stay.

While her first choice for a new animal was a chinchilla, the $150 price tag turned me off, and Trevor has a strict “no rodents” rule, so she moved on to a turtle. I told her that, while fascinating, turtles stink and I’m not sure they like to be handled, so she may be disappointed with a hard-shelled creature. Next up was a bearded dragon. Considering they grow to be 3 feet long and eat live mice, the answer was not just no, but no way.

Cue the leopard gecko.

Macy has taken care of a friend’s leopard gecko, the beloved Rico, so she (and we) knew what they were all about. So I went to Petsmart last week to look into it, see what all we would need to make her Christmas dreams come true this year.

There was a sale on leopard geckos. I love a good sale. However, that also meant, as the reptile lady pointed out, that they were selling more of the geckos, so I might want to go ahead and get mine and avoid the risk of coming up empty-handed when I was ready to purchase. Tricky sales technique, and it worked.

I brought the little guy home and set up his tank, with the two lamps and fake plants, the cave and the water dish. I put the mealworms in the fridge and thought about the best place to hide him. I settled on the guest room closet and when the kids got home from school, told them to stay out of there.

All was well. Or so I thought. I snuck up to the guest room to feed him the mealworms twice a day and to switch the lamps from day to night light. I thought I was being pretty sneaky. But a few days ago, Macy came downstairs with a very long face and a worried countenance.

After some coaxing she finally came out with it: she’d been looking for her clipboard and found the tank in the guest room closet. She was afraid she’d be in trouble, but truth be told, I was relieved that I was no longer in charge of the gecko’s care. I didn’t realize how stressful it was to keep him under wraps and alive until Christmas.

So we moved him from the guest room to Macy’s room, and she was tickled pink to know that she was the proud owner of a leopard gecko. We were busy getting his lamps plugged in in her room and so it was a few minutes before she decided to lift the cave and lay eyes on her new creature.

This is what she found. (Don’t look if you are squeamish.)

Sorry it’s graphic, but that’s life, people. The new gecko had dropped his tail. Apparently it’s common as a defense mechanism (when they’re being hunted) or in times of stress. Guess this little guy was stressed about his new home.

Ewwwww, gross.

But the little zookeeper wasn’t grossed out, she was worried. She was afraid he was going to die. Cue the tears. Merry Christmas, everyone.

After some quick Internet research, she was reassured that he was ok, this was something that just happens and that his tail would grow back in a month. We made another trip to Petsmart to treat him to some live crickets (gecko comfort food), and all was again right in our world.

This isn’t Macy’s lizard (didn’t want to subject him to even more trauma, so we skipped the paparazzi), but this is what his behind looks like.

Kinda creepy, if you ask me. But as the little zookeeper later explained, it’s all part of life, for a gecko.


9 Comments on “The little zookeeper”

  1. Ed says:

    Cinko is cute! Great story- too bad we all can’t drop a little extra weight so easily.

  2. Jody Hicks says:

    I’ll never forget when we were there for Macy’s fourth birthday that some well-meaning friend had sent her a “princess” card, and she looked at it and said with a bit of a pout, “I don’t want this card!!” And do I recall correctly that even as a young child she was not creeped out by spiders?! She’s an amazing and very special girl and will be a fine veterinarian!

  3. […] by pinkunderbelly It’s been brought to my attention that I have written about Harry and Cinco the leopard gecko, but not Pedey, the other canine member of our household. Well, excuuuuuuse […]

  4. […] My dad arrived, and  he took Macy to the pet store to buy the daily allotment of crickets for Cincko. That little gecko is on a major growing tear and has been eating at least 12 crickets every day. […]

  5. […] and I have a routine of riding to the pet store every day after school to buy crickets for Cincko, her leopard gecko. He’s got a big appetite, and I’m always afraid he’ll start […]

  6. […] The photo below is a photo of a photo in the tasting room at Quixote. I’d love to know the backstory, but suffice to say that I took this photo with Macy in mind, and fastforwarded many years to when she is a grown woman, and hopefully has a giraffe leaning in her window for a kiss. No idea who the woman is or what kind of relationship she has with that giraffe, and I don’t care. It’s a delightful portait of love plain & simple, and it made me think of my sweet little girl and her all-encompassing love for animals.  […]

  7. […] sooner rather than later. And, last but not least, I did not want Macy to see that dead bird. My little zookeeper has a heart as big as Texas, and her love of animals is legendary. In fact, she is at this moment […]

  8. feistybluegecko says:

    Oh my goodness, how did I miss this?! I wish Macy could pop round and visit as we have so many geckos around the house. And of course, because you know how much geckos mean to me🙂 Perhaps I don’t share the same comfort food though😉

    I am sure Macy will indeed be a great veterinarian.
    Philippa

  9. […] a love of animals as big as Texas, our girl never met a creature she didn’t […]


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