Moira, my tiny Ctenosaura similis, has her first pink princess bed. Well, it is pink and it is a bed, but it doesn’t say “Princess” or have a little crown on it like Kismet’s old one did. Of course, it is a bed designed for tiny dwarf hamsters and cost all of $2.49, so I guess I can’t expect much, right?
I know this will sound crazy, but Kismet, my cherished rock iguana, loved the color pink, especially bright, bold hot pink. From a scientific perspective, it likely reminded her of the delicious hibiscus flowers she so enjoyed. But she chose pink dog beds and pink blankets and stole the dogs’ pink toys. Let’s face it—there was nothing scientific at all about Kismet.
But back to pink. It’s important that you know I did not dress up my lizard every day and I never, ever forced her to wear the little costumes and outfits. I was accused of this by a few individuals who really did not understand Kismet. As if anyone could force a half-grown Cyclura to do anything, anyway! Would I really be stupid enough to try to compel an animal with over 120 razor sharp teeth and a tail that can whip with the power to possibly break a limb to put on a pink dog shirt? Nope.
For reptile shows and school presentations, she was often decked out in a pink princess dog shirt. She even had a ruffled skirt for the first episode of my daughter’s short-lived YouTube series, where the scenes opened with my daughter and Kismet having a princess tea. Kismet’s unexpected death and my husband’s abrupt terminal cancer diagnosis that same summer deflated all our enthusiasm for putting that show together. The final nail in the coffin for the series was when our filmographer moved away. Four or five episodes aired, but the rest never made it to final editing, which is really a shame because the show was adorable. When Kismet first died, my daughter considered continuing with Kismet’s mate, Sebastian. Then we found out about Mike’s cancer and . . . well, it just wasn’t in the cards.
Kismet loved people and she loved riding in the car, and she had already stolen several pink dog toys from our greyhounds, when a friend and I took Kismet for a ride. We stopped at this cute little pet shop on the way home. I walked around the store carrying Kismet and suddenly heard screaming. A woman was yelling something about an alligator in the store. It took me a minute to realize she meant Kismet. I tried to explain that she was a harmless rock iguana from the Caymans, but the woman remained unconvinced. The clerk told me not to worry about it, but I did worry, because this was very bad PR for the reptile community. Her reaction is an example of why so many people post on social media that we have a responsibility not to bring our reptiles out in public. But, is that really fair? Some people are afraid of dogs, but no one tells dog owners to keep their pets home. I did not want anyone to be upset by Kismet’s presence, but I also did not want to leave the store before I had finished shopping. I was in a store that welcomed animals, including my scaly princess.
I looked up and saw a rack of dog t-shirts. There was a hot pink sleeveless t-shirt that would fit Kismet. I walked over, bought it and put it on her right there in the store. Not only did she not object—she seemed downright pleased. She crawled up to where her front paws were on my shoulder and she could see behind me. With her body stretched up, her hot pink t-shirt was clearly visible.
I turned around and saw the lady who had screamed a few minutes before. I bristled, but she seemed calm enough now.
“Yes?” I asked politely. “Were you talking to me?”
She nodded and took a tentative step forward. “That’s such a cute little animal. I was wondering what she is.”
Sarcasm played at the edges of my lips. “The same animal you thought was an alligator and freaked out about, right over there.” I didn’t say it, even though I wanted to. Instead, I smiled. “She’s a rock iguana from the Cayman Islands.”
“She’s very sweet.” The lady looked her up and down, her gaze going back and forth from Kismet’s face to the hot pink t-shirt. “Can I touch her?”
I nodded and repositioned Kismet with my hand under her chest. “Yes, “ I said. “Of course.”
The woman petted the t-shirt first and when Kismet only cocked her head, she moved her hand down to Kismet’s side below the bottom of the t-shirt. “Ohhhhhh,” she said, “she feels like upholstery fabric.”
I laughed. I had heard that a number of times. “I guess she kind of does.”
She asked more questions and I answered them. By the time she left, she knew about the endangered Cyclura lewisi and how, at that time, there were very few left in the wild. By the time she left, she knew about the International Reptile Conservation Foundation and the Blue Iguana Recovery Program. She had listened with fascination, petting Kismet the entire time.
All because of a hot pink dog shirt.
After that, Kismet wore that shirt, and others that followed,
every time we left the house. Every place we went, people asked questions and
asked to pet her. Never again did we have anyone act afraid or scream
“alligator.” Instead, we were often able to educate people on the iguanas of
the Cyclura genus and various conservation efforts to save them. Kismet, for
her part, got to be petted and fawned over.
People can think what they want, but anyone who ever watched Kismet
being petted and fawned over could tell she enjoyed it. And when the cameras
came out . . . well, that is a whole other blog post.
Moira is much too small for even the tiniest dog t-shirt. Even if they made t-shirts for mice, I think they would be a bit too large. And, of course, I do not know if she would take to them with the same enthusiasm that Kismet did, or the dignified resolve of Sebastian (who has his own set of costumes).
For now, though, Moira is sitting in her tiny pink bed, looking rather pleased with herself.
Susan Glynn Mulé is the author of Princess Tien.