It’s easy to understand why anyone would love a cat, a dog, or a bunny. They’re cuddly, they can love us back, they can be trained to perform useful work, and can even play with us.
But I love lizards and turtles, too. I’ve had many different kinds as pets. You can’t teach them to do jobs, I’ve never known a lizard to play, it’s hard to be cuddly when you don’t have any fur, and as for loving us back–well, I’ve had a few lizards and turtles who did a pretty good imitation of it, and maybe it wasn’t an imitation after all.
Dogs and cats, rats and bunnies, goats and horses–they’re mammals, like we are. That means we have a lot in common. We can get into each other’s heads, as it were. You can understand what your cat wants, even though she can’t tell you in words. Your dog can understand what you want, etc.
But what about a lizard or a turtle? (Those of you who are wondering why I’ve left out snakes–well, I’ve had no experience with snakes.) These are very, very different from mammals. No parental care: the eggs hatch and off they go.
But I’m here to tell you that you can win the trust of a lizard or a turtle. They will lose their fear of you, certainly seem to enjoy it when you handle them; and if they’re big and smart enough to be allowed the run of the house, they’ll often seek you out, and seem to be happy in your company. And if treated kindly and gently, they can learn to do things that they’d never ordinarily even think of doing! You should have seen my iguana cuddled up with his doggy and catty friends. Unthinkable, really. But he’d been around long enough, and thoroughly hand-raised from the time he was a tiny little green thing, to be able to adapt to many unusual situations.
To me a bond with a reptile feels special because I know how different they are, I know what a great gaping space a turtle and I have to bridge before the turtle wants me to tickle the top of his head and the underside of his neck. A turtle in the wild who allowed anything like that would have to be totally crazy. To have the little slowworms (legless lizards: charming little souls) scooting over to me to get fed and petted–well, really, that made me feel like something very fine was happening to them and me. It felt like a glimpse into God’s restoration of Creation.
When I had an art class to teach, I used to take my iguana to school because the kids liked to draw him, and feed him wild strawberries. He behaved himself all day, with perfect manners. He had a bond of trust with me that he extended to most other humans. He and Patty hit it off from the git-go. He and Patty’s dog were instant friends.
Reptiles are capable of much more than we expect from them; and to have had a role in bringing it out–well, what can I say? I love it when that happens!