This is the story of a lizard named Sue. Her given, formal name is Susan.
Why Susan? Susan the anole started her life as a 4th grade class biology project. My son’s science partner Sarah declared that this animal must have a name that started and ended with the names of her caretakers: Sarah and Nathan. Hence, the moniker Susan was bequeathed to this tiny, sometimes green, sometimes brown reptile.
Anoles are very delicate creatures. Adapting an anole is free, but the stuff that the anole needs to live is not. It needs a large glass tank and proper humidity and temperature levels that are maintained with a heat lamp and daily squirts of a water mister. Within the tank, it needs a water dish and natural or artificial plants to hide within.
Then there is the strict diet anoles follow: Crickets. Live ones. Though the anole requires no walking or training, the anole owner must frequent the local pet store and bring these creaking creatures home in a plastic bag.
The crickets are kept in a separate container, and must also be fed lettuce, potato peelings or other vegetable scraps. In other words, the anole owner has a little ecosystem going on.
Anoles, unlike fuzzy and loving puppies, are not fuzzy or loving. But unlike puppies, you can leave an anole by itself for a night or two if you give it a supply of crickets and put its light on a timer.
One early spring weekend, my family decided to take an overnight road trip to Cleveland. Nathan threw some crickets in Susan’s tank and bid her farewell.
Unlike leaving a dog or a puppy, who become sad and traumatized when they are separated from their master for any length of time, I don’t think Susan really noticed we would be gone.
We returned from a short but great trip to the city where the phrase Rock ‘n Roll was coined. At the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum, we enjoyed looking at all the rock memorabilia and learning which musician inspired which musician in the attraction’s vast interactive database. In the special exhibit on Bruce Springsteen, viewing the original notebook where the Boss scribbled the lyrics to Thunder Road was almost a spiritual experience.
We cheered on the Cleveland Indians and ate some great food in the Flats Arts district. We couldn’t wait to come home and tell Sue all about it.
Only, when we climbed the stairs to Nathan’s bedroom and peered inside Susan’s tank, either she had hidden herself extraordinarily well, or she had fled.
Now, if you scroll back up a bit, you will notice that my son had fed Susan some crickets. But, alas, he did not completely close up the screen on top of her tank.
Our lizard named Sue was gone. So tiny and capable of crawling into any crevice of the house, including our ventilation and/or plumbing system, all hope seemed lost.
Nathan went to bed devistated.
“Suzie, Sooooozzie!” he cried in his bed. He cried himself to sleep.
As I tried to sleep that night, I was simultaneously touched that a boy could care so much for a tiny creature and creeped out that it could be anywhere in the house and we would probably smell it before we found it.
Two weeks passed.
It was a quiet afternoon before the kids got home from school when I decided to do some deep cleaning in the boys’ bedroom. I had moved the large bookcase from the wall and was dusting behind it when, from the corner of my eye, I noticed that a small, plastic toy lizard had appeared.
Only this plastic lizard darted across the floor before my eyes.
Susan! She was alive. I was elated and completely spooked all at once. I threw a small toy bucket over the found creature and waited for my brave daughter to come home and pick it up and place it in it’s tank.
Back in her cage, we looked at Susan, and she looked a bit humiliated and, well – pissed off. Her vacation and her adventure were over. She remains in her tank, now with a more securely fastened screened top, to this day.
Susan had lived on her own wits. She survived with no heat lamp or daily spritzes of water. And we guessed that she lived on the spiders and occasional ants that enter our house in the springtime.
So, what can we learn from a lizard named Sue?
- when all hope is lost, miracles can still happen
- Creatures, if left to their own devices, are very resourceful and resillient
- Nature, if left alone, can survive, even in the wilds of a boy’s bedroom
- anoles don’t read the manuals they come with and can live on pretty much any creature that creeps and crawls
- you really don’t need all that many creature comforts to get by
- Never miss out on an opportunity to break out of what ever cages that might hold you