Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lessons in Herpetology

Our gentle bearded dragon, Bob has not been well lately. The poor guy barely eats and mopes around his cage. I suspect that this is due in part at least to the fact that his environment has not been at optimal conditions as these guys are not the easiest to care for. There is a whole array of UVB lighting and heating needs (with specific recommended temperature ranges depending on the area of the tank), vitamin powders (some of which should be given daily, others only once a week), crickets that should make up only a specific percentage of the diet (and must be given a disgusting gelatinous food called “Gut Load” prior to being fed to the dragon to ensure they don’t become calcium deficient) and specific fresh vegetables that must be chopped up to a size “no bigger than the space between the dragon’s eyes” to avoid “binding.” It’s really a miracle we’ve kept him alive this long but now he is languishing and I’m feeling terribly guilty as each day becomes more of a dragon death watch.

Last night, as I went back to the pet store to load up on another $100 of various foods, lights and heaters, my thoughts turned to another delicate and high maintenance pet that had been a fixture at a previous place of employment.

Marley was a giant white cockatoo that belonged to our front desk receptionist, Jarine. How and why he ever ended up in the office is a bit of mystery to me but as someone who is in favor of more animals everywhere, I was thrilled with his arrival and lobbied for him to have a permanent place in our office, going so far as to put up a “Let Marley Stay” sign in my cubicle. Earlier that year I had tried to institute “Take Your Cat to Work Day” and had only ended up seriously pissing off my otherwise docile cat and probably guaranteeing my spot as the odd one in the office.

Pretty soon there were little warning signs that life with Marley in the office might not be totally smooth. For one thing, according to Jarine, the slightest change in his general condition might mean death within hours and so the office temperature became tightly controlled, often in contrast to what the human residents might have preferred. The prospect of death within hours also meant that if Jarine sensed a change in Marley, he was immediately rushed off to the vet, leaving us without a front desk receptionist.

Then Marley hit sexual maturity and all hell broke loose. He took to shrieking at an incredible volume when he was left alone, which meant that client and board meetings were often punctuated with the sounds of someone being tortured in the adjacent room. To mitigate the lonely screaming, he was sometimes stashed in the office I shared with my co-worker. This was fine until the jingling and clanging of a large bird humping his cage started. “Oh god, he’s doing it AGAIN!” my office mate would say in horror as Marley temporarily satisfied his quest for a mate by violently thrashing in his cage.

The final straw however, was that Jarine would let Marley exercise by roaming around our kitchen area where the employees ate. Sexual maturity with no companion birds had made him aggressive and he would wander around and peck at ankles. Cockatoos are in the parrot family and even gentle pecking can result in blood loss. We all took to eating with our legs tucked under us.

Strangely enough, no one ever thought to confront Jarine and tell her it was time to take the bird home. I guess we all felt like it was the Director’s job to do it and she seemed preoccupied with more pressing matters. For my part, I quietly took down my “Let Marley Stay” sign and slipped it into the recycling bin.

**Update: I'm happy to report that while not 100 percent - Bob has perked up a bit on account of the recent changes.

**Side Note: Coming up with titles for these things isn't easy. I had to resist the temptation to use the obvious "Bob/Marley" AND "Marley and Me."