Friday, August 5, 2011

Stego, my 40 year old reptile friend

Part of the routine of my day revolves around Stego, who's been my friend for over 20 years, and who's now over 40 years of age.

This stumpy-tailed lizard of mine spends winter nights indoors, snuggled up in his nest of dry grasses, within a carry box in the laundry. At about 9 a.m. I pick him up and carry him outside to his day-time pen. Here he sun bakes until about 12 noon, when he decides to go back to sleep, burrowing into the pile of dry grasses within his pen.

During the winter I don't feed him because he won't accept food unless the temperature is around 25°C for at least three to four hours. Being a cold-blooded creature, he needs to be this warm in order to digest his food.

Every week I give Stego a bath in the laundry sink. As I lower him into the shallow, luke-warm water I can feel his body relaxing. Usually he's happy to stay there for about five minutes, soaking and occasionally lapping the water with his large fleshy blue tongue. Before lifting him out, I scoop water over his back until his scales glisten, and then gently rub my finger along his underside to make sure he's clean. After dabbing him dry with paper towelling, I put him in his pen, in the sun.

Apart from the cleanliness aspect, the reason for his bath includes that of pure pleasure, and also to keep his scales in good order so that he sheds his skin in a healthy way.

At sundown, I burrow my fingers deep into his grass nest until I feel his scaly body. Then I gently lift him out and carry him back inside to his overnight box. I do this every night until the weather warms up and the frosts cease.

Being such a very old lizard, I don't want him to have the stress of below zero temperatures. I know it may sound strange to many people, but I love this lizard of mine and treasure the friendship and trust between us.

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