Monday, August 22, 2011

The Lizard Brain

In times past, I've taken my 9-year-old iguana rescue for walks around the property. Fafnir is not a fan of the cat harness, and when she's not frantically climbing trees trying to get out of it, she's performing alligator death rolls. I've really wanted to make exercising pleasurable for her, but using the cat leash didn't seem to be the way.

So this year I did what every mother reluctantly has to. I decided I loved Fafnir enough to set her free.

OK, I only turned her loose in the backyard. And I supervised her outside activity, checking on her hourly to be sure she didn't make a break over the fence. But it felt like I was setting her free. Trusting a lizard was hard. She could climb into the trees and not come down where I could recapture her. She could climb the fence and disappear into the nearby fields.

Or she could do what she did. Play in the trees for awhile and nap on the low branches. Swim in the ducks' kiddie pool. Wallow in mud. Nosh on the duck food. And, when she got tired, use the doggie door to come back inside.

I found her in the sunroom near her roomy, 6-foot-high cage. I smiled, imagining how she must have been trundling around the backyard and accidentally hit the flap of the doggie door and found her way inside.

The next day I put her outside again. She played, slept, swam, had a picnic lunch, then came back inside through the doggie door when she was done.

In her cage, from her basking shelf, she had watched the dogs and cats come and go through that door every day for six years. I didn't have to teach her how to use the door or what it was for (heck, I never even thought to try to teach her). She had learned on her own.

For nearly two months now, Fafnir has been coming and going, spending time out with the ducks then coming in and hanging out in the sunroom. All on her own terms. I set her free; she returned because she wanted to.

I regret now that I didn't give Fafnir enough credit long ago. I regret that I didn't recognize that lizard brain of hers is a pretty miraculous tool. Most of all, I regret that I assumed trust was something reserved only for those animals in whom the blood runs warm.

Who knew a wise old lizard could have so much to teach?


Sarah Laurenson said...

Heh! They know when they've got it good.

Our cats go in and out the dog door (roofed enclosure). I used magnets to teach them - like sides together kept the door from shutting completely.

Had I not done that, the one cat might have fell through the door accidentally. Close as he ever came to actually going through.

Am thinking on that post offer. Will come up with something, but it might be awhile. Have a retreat in less than 3 weeks and I'm one of the people putting it on.

Jo-Ann said...

I guess lizards are territorial critters, but learning through observation was pretty impressive.

Some reptiles are smarter than others, and our blue-tongue lizard got hiself out of the backyard a few months ago, and that was that.

Or then again, maybe he was quite smart, and escaped the kids who enjoyed to cuddle him.