Five Lizards, a Fish, a Hamster, and One Goofy Cocker Spaniel

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When Mr. V and I were seniors in college, we had side-by-side on campus apartments. My best friend Michelle and I lived in one (with two other peculiar girls who couldn’t find apartment-mates), and Mr. V, Michelle’s boyfriend at the time, and two of our other best guy friends lived next door (one of whom is Michelle’s current boyfriend. Kinda strange.).

Granted all the freedom of being out of a teensy-weensy dorm room, Mr. V and I decided that we needed pets. So one night we wondered over to PetSmart, examined the store, and came home with two longtailed lizards, an aquarium, a large ornamental tree for said living space, heat lamps, and all of the other lizard-living accessories. And a betta.

The lizards, Lyra and Will, lived in the boys’ apartment. Keller, the betta, lived on the girls’ side. Keller was named after the dorm I lived in when Mr. V and I started dating–the home of our first kiss and many other happy memories. I’ll give you $5 if you can tell me where the other names came from without looking it up. And I’ll KNOW if you do!


Did you know that you feed lizards live crickets? Once a week or so we’d have to go to Petsmart, buy a box of live crickets that has a tube attached, and shake the crickets from the tube into the lizard aquarium. It’s really great entertainment in a very carnivorous and strange way.

Sadly, Lyra and Will died on the way back from a trip we took to Pennsylvania during Hurricane Isabel, when our campus was evacuated. They fried in the backseat. Oops. Keller, however, was unharmed. Really, it almost brings me to tears to think of those poor lizards, huddled together, eyes glassy. I loved those little suckers, as strange as it sounds.

Since we already had the equipment, we bought three new lizards: anoles named Vernon, Petunia, and Lily. (Have I mentioned we like books?) They were a hoot. The male lizards puff their chin thing out until it is huge and red, and start bobbing their head up and down (when they are, um, in the mood, I think). The girls chased each other around–fighting over Vernon, we thought.

The anoles moved with us to Tennessee, heat lamps and all. I believe they each died happy, peaceful deaths and were buried in the flower bed in front of our apartment.

Keller is a whole other story. Keller was the fish that would not die.

In an average little fishbowl environment, bettas are supposed to live 1-2 years. Our Keller had a little bowl, a castle, and some pebbles. He loved his food. If you would stick would fingertip in the water, he would come and nibble on it.

Bettas are crazy. If you put a mirror up to the bowl, they will try to fight their very image. They are fighting fish.

Living in a college apartment, Keller had everything put in his bowl–fingers, pennies, a piece of cereal. At one point I went out of town and had heard that you could leave a zucchini slice at the top of the bowl for the fish to eat on for a week. I think he ate some, but mostly it made a big giant mess of a fishbowl for us.

I rarely cleaned his bowl. I fed him when I remembered. We toted him to Pennsylvania, to my parents’ house in Richmond, all in a plastic tupperware. Please keep in mind that I killed a CACTUS Mr. V bought me because I could not remember to give it one ounce of water a month. But Keller, I could not kill.

When we moved to Tennessee, Keller stayed with my parents. I’m pretty sure he was around 4 when he finally up and died. During that time, my sister got a betta and he died before Keller. Ridiculous.

Since then, we’ve had Titan the biting dwarf hamster and, of course, Chester. Now, with Chester living somewhere that’s green, we had no pets for the first time in a LONG time.

It’s kind of a nice way to be. I’d forgotten the freedom.

2 thoughts on “Five Lizards, a Fish, a Hamster, and One Goofy Cocker Spaniel

  1. I had a betta in college. I don’t think it lived very long. I don’t remember.
    My coworker has a betta fish on her desk. It’s nice to have a living thing to take care of sometimes.

  2. Lyra and Will = Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials,” which include “The Golden Compass,” “The Subtle Knife,” and “The Amber Spyglass.”

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