Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Story of Dave the Chameleon

June 1, 2008

Current mood:nostalgic

No destruction story this time.  This is one of rememberence. 

A lot of people ask me where I got Dave from.  I always tell them, "well it's kind of a long story."  Then people want me to tell them anyway.  So here it goes. 

    The story starts out on a sad note.  It starts out with the death of my Grandfather Ray (my father's father.)  I went to West Virginia to attend his funeral.  During the viewing day I wore my nice Italian suit.  On the funeral day I wore my black orchestra suit.  My Grandmother Betty requested that the Grandsons be some of the paulbearers.  Well, like any funeral it started to rain during the funeral service.  However, by the time the service was over, it had stopped raining.  Everyone then packed up, and headed to the cemetery. 

    As one of the paulbearers I helped pick up my Grandfather's coffin, and started to make my way 250 yards to coffin holder that was located right in front of the gravehole.  Now, this is West Virginia.  They don't have sand.  They have clay.  Red clay.  As I helped carry the very heavy coffin through the mud, I started sinking into the earth.  Then the mud splashed up the legs of my black suit.  So I have this nice red clay over my black suit pant legs.

    I do what I can to clean my suit off at my Grandmother's house, but I know I'm going to have to take it to get dry cleaned.  So I leave West Virginia with my Mother.  My Dad came up seperate, and was going to stay a few days.  Once I get back home I head down Sunset Lane to the dry cleaners.  I explain what happened, and how I came to get red clay all up and down my suit.  I say take as long as you need to get them right.  The very nice lady said that it should be no problem, and that it would be ready in two days.

So a few days go by, (I wanted to give the dry cleaners plenty of time to work on the suit.)  I head back down Sunset Lane, and drop into the dry cleaners.  The very same nice lady showed me their excellent work.  Not one bit of red clay on my black suit.  I pay and thank her, and head back down Sunset Lane.
    I'm driving along when I notice something start to cross the road in front of me.  I swerve to the left to avoid hitting it.  I slam on the breaks, and pull over into the grass.  Then, honest to the Gods, I yelled out, "THAT WAS NOT!!!!!!! WHAT I JUST THOUGHT IT WAS!!!"  I jumped out of the car, ran down the road, stopped traffic, and carefully picked up an Old World Veiled Chameleon.  This was the first time I met Dave.

   So I put him in the floorboard of the passenger side floorboard of the car.  I turn up the temperature so I don't freeze him with the air conditioning.  I pull into my driveway, get out, and open the front door.  Now, my Dad had just gotten back from West Virginia in the early morning.  I hadn't had a chance to see him since he had gotten back.  I said, "Dad, don't freak out, but you're not going to believe this.  Look what I just found in the middle of Sunset Lane."  I then showed him Dave.  He said, "What kind of lizard is it?"  I said, "It's an Old World Chameleon, like Louie the Lizard was."  (Note:  About 8 years ago I had an Old World Chameleon named Louie.)  He then asked, "What was it doing there, they don't live in Florida?"  I said, "No they live in Africa."  (Note:  The Veiled Chameleon is native to Saudi Arabia and Yemen.  They are definately not native to Florida, much less the U.S.)  I then told my Father the story of finding him.  I said, "This guy is either an escapee, or some idiot released him into the wild."  I then got an old towel and an aquarium, and put Dave in it. 

I then said to my father, "You're not going to believe this, but do you know what today is?"  He said, "I've been to West Virginia and back, so I've kind of loss track of the days."  I said, "Today is October 4th.  It's been two years to the day since Bruce (the Bearded Dragon) passed away.  (Note:  Bruce was my pet Bearded Dragon for five years.  You can see a picture of her, yes HER, in the my photos section.) 

   So we had a big, family meeting, and it was decided that since, A.  I had worked in the pet industry, and actually knew how to take care of reptiles, B.  This lizard had come to me on the day that Bruce had passed away, and the day that Dad had gotten back from West Virginia, C.  Dad feeling tenderhearted.  D.  Some sort of Karma type thing, that we should keep this Chameleon, and he should be part of the family.
   Of course there were a few things to do.  One being naming him.  I'm generally good at naming pets.  When you work in the pet industry you tend to get good at it.  However, I had the worst time finding a name.  It was my Dad who suggested Dr. David Livingstone, the scientist/ explorer who explored Africa.  So that became his name, but around the house we just called him Dave. 

   Next was finding a house for him.  I couldn't keep Dave holed up in that little aquarium forever.  So I checked online about what kind of enviroment he should be kept in.  There was some really nice people who had websites on how to build Chameleon cages (or manisons as I call them).  I so got to work.  I went to Home Depot, picked up the wood, and started building away.  (Note:  If you look in the myphotos section, you can see the cage I built.)  When finished it stood 6 feet tall, 2 by 2 feet with 4 ft. by 2 ft. by 2 ft. being living area.  I then found a Chameleon friendly plant and put it in there. 

Now since Dave had been in the wild some, I figured he had picked up a few bugs/ parasites.  I took him to my trusty vet at Safari Animal Clinic in Tampa.  Dr. Nelmapius is probably on of the best reptile doctors around.  He put Dave through all the tests, and pronounced Dave in great shape.  He said something I thought was hilarious.  He said, "If you put a cat in the wild for 3 days, it will come back with every parasite, and disease known to man.  You put a reptile out in the wild for 6 months, it will come back heathier than when you left it." 

    Now the thing that surprised me about Dave, was his size.  He was full grown and big for his species of Chameleon.  I wasn't sure of his age, but he was at least 2 years old, and could possibly be 5 years old.  Something else that surprised me was, why would someone let a $300-$400 lizard go into the wild?  It takes all kinds. 

     When people ask me, "What's he like?"  I always answer the same.  "He's very feral."  You see, all that time he spent in the wild helped develop his attitude.  He was one tough lizard.  He had to be to survive.  I had to be careful how much food I put in his cage, because he would hunt down every last thing, and eat it.  He would eat till he got sick, if I let him.  He was also very careful about moving around the cage.  He would shake like leaves on a branch to blend into the background.   He was also very silent when moving.  Even though they are supposed to be slow, Dave would be on one side of the cage one second, and then on the other side in the blink of an eye.  You wouldn't see him, you wouldn't hear him.  He would just appear.  Also, like all Chameleons, he could change colors in a split second.  He could change color faster than you could blink.  At first, he would blend into the leaves so well it was impossible to see him.  After he got used to us, he would mainly change his colors to suit his mood.  Yes, I'm being truthful.  When he was angry, he would turn the most brillant shade of burnt orange. 

I figure Dave had a tough upbringing.  You see he was missing part of the front left fingers of his front paw.  He only had the inside part of the claw, not the outside.  It made climbing a bit difficult for him  Dr. Nelmapius said that it was most likely caused by a lack of calcium when he was young.  So Dave sometimes had a bad habit of falling to do two reasons.  1.  He would try and overextend himself when going across the cage, and 2. The missing part of his front right paw. 

    Unfortunately, falling appeared to be his undoing.  You see, one day he fell and hit his head on the edge of the plant in his cage.  He was stunned, and didn't move for almost an hour.  Looking back on it, I think he suffered either a stroke, a blood clot, a broken neck or broken bones.  He only got worse from there.  Basically, he couldn't move at all, or change colors.  I knew he was in bad shape when he fell, but when he lost the ability to change colors I knew he didn't have long to live.  He passed away the morning of Sunday, June 29th 2008.  I can only estimate that he was at least a minimum of 4 years old, and possibly older than 5 years old.  Generally, the livespan of a chameleon in captivity is 5 years tops.  So think of it like this.  What happened to him was the equivialant of an 80 year old man falling off the roof of his house, and breaking his neck. 

    That night, I buried him in the shade of where a few young oak trees come together.  My Dad is taking this real hard.  He always thought it Karmic that Dave found me of all people.   Dave did come to my Dad when my Dad had just come back from his Father's funeral.  My Dad is not Pagan like I am, but he always believed that Dave was a magical/ karmic being that came to us for a purpose.  He believed that much more than I ever did.  (Note:  Sometimes I'm a little too cynical.)  Now that Dave has passed away, does that mean his purpose was sevred?  Are we now accepting of the fact that Grandpa Ray has passed on?  Now that I have made changes in my life, is this a sign that things will be changing drastically?  They are all good questions, and can only be answered in time.  I have always believed that all life is energy, and that energy never dies, it just gets transferred.  I hope his energy gets transferred to a place of great happiness.

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