Holiday Herald: Iguanas provided plenty of surprise for one Christmas

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I bought the iguanas one Christmas Eve instead of a puppy that the kids really wanted.

I thought it would be much easier taking care of the lizards than trying to train a puppy. Besides, we already had a large unused aquarium, since all the fish died after the kids overfed them. The rabbit had not worked out, either, after Tuffy the cat found him out of his cage.

I waited until Christmas Eve to get them so that my neighbor would have to baby-sit the new creatures for only a few hours until the children went to bed.

After selecting two baby iguanas at the pet store and receiving instructions on their care and feeding, I put them in the trunk of my car. They were in a large, bakery-type white box with a lid. It was a bitter cold day, and I hurried to finish the rest of my last-minute Christmas shopping.

Before going home, I pulled into my neighbor's driveway to drop off the newest members of the family. I opened the box even though I had no iguana taming technique at my disposal.

I was absolutely horrified, however, to see the creatures frozen stiff. I'd left them in the trunk of my car too long. I murdered them!

My first thought was to throw them out with the trash and say nothing, which would be easier than coming clean and admitting my mistake. My conscience won out though -- I decided to tell the truth.

Besides, all of our pets had had proper burials except for the bunny that escaped from its cage. I never thought Tuffy could be capable of such carnage. The end result was that Barnaby bunny's partial remains ended up in the vacuum cleaner.

When everyone went to bed on Christmas Eve night, I took the iguanas from the trunk of my car into the laundry room and placed them near the furnace. I needed a little time to decide how to break the news to the kids.

Later that night, I went down to view the unfortunate creatures. I was shocked to see two pudgy little faces and four big owlish eyes looking up at me. I thought it was the miracle of the year.

I found out when I called the pet store later that iguanas, as cold-blooded reptiles, can go into hibernation when they became frozen. So much for miracles.

When Christmas morning arrived and the kids woke up, they were delighted with their new pets. After their near-death experience, Lizzie the lizard and Iggy the iguana lived for more than three years.

The older children assumed the responsibility of cleaning the terrarium and feeding the herbivore creatures their plants and vegetables. They had a great time taking them out of the terrarium and letting the pets crawl up their arms. I tried to iguana-proof the places I would prefer the lizards not occupy.

One morning several years later, we awoke to find Iggy had ceased to breathe. Two days later, Lizzy followed Iggy to that green iguana heaven. Finally, it was time to think about that puppy.

Eileen Connelly, a retired registered nurse from Churchill, can be reached at

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