Primrose was given to me in February 1998. I had bought a snake, which was being shipped to me. I opened the box, and there was a little green iguana in a small box, next to the snake. My friends had sent me the iguana to “plump up the box”.
Lucky for her, I had handled iguanas before and I at least knew they didn’t eat lettuce as a main part of their diet. I rushed out to the pet store and bought a tank and all the things I thought I’d need, including a book, a hot rock, crickets, and commercial iguana food. These were all things that the book said were good for iguanas.
The tank was set up and the iguana was settled, and I got online to see what other information I could find. Luckily, I found some excellent sites within a day of searching. The hot rock had never been used, because it didn’t leave enough room in the tank. That was returned, and the crickets were sacrificed to the freezer. The commercial food was shelved, and the fresh food overran my refrigerator. The book I bought served as a place to look at pretty photos.
She was covered in mites, and I found a good vet and got rid of those mites. After that, everything was smooth sailing for about a year. Primrose was now so big that she didn’t fit into a 55 gallon tank, and I made her a free-roamer in my 1 bedroom apartment.
In spring 1999, Primrose started acting strange. She became very jumpy, wasn’t eating much, and was digging in the bathroom all day long. “Thunk, thunk, thunk” hour after hour. It was April, and we were having some nice days and some cold and rainy days. Once nice day I put her on the windowsill to get some sun, and I dozed off. I woke up, and she had torn out the screen and jumped out the second story window. She was gone.
I looked for her past dark, and my parents helped when they could. A friend drove down the next day from over an hour away to help me look. I was desolate, and feeling guilty, because I knew she was doing this weird digging and I shouldn’t have fallen asleep. I called all the shelters and veterinarians in the area, as well as the police, and left a number for them to contact me. I made a reward poster using a photo of a friend’s iguana and placed it around my apartment complex.
For three days, she was gone. It was cold (30-40 F) and rainy. We could not find her. Then just as I got off the phone from arranging a cherry picker to come by so I could scour the roof of the building, I received a phone call from the local police. Someone found an iguana under a bush in their yard, and they had just called to report it. The address was about a half a mile away from my apartment. I ran to my car and drove over there, and sure enough, my iguana was under a bush, ice cold, and was being held in place by a milk crate with a rock on it.
I took her back home, and warmed her up. I had bought food while she was gone, in case I did find her. She managed to eat some watermelon (good for rehydration) and when I put her in a warm bath (lukewarm is warm for iguanas) she drank deeply from the water. She had lost a lot of weight, but that was mostly from dehydration. Of course, I also called my vet and made an appointment.
The next morning, I brought her in, and she was x-rayed. To my surprise, she was gravid. I had missed all of the early warning signs, and she had slight MBD (probably mostly from being gravid, and slightly from being a free-roamer without enough ambient heat). She also had a major infection, and we were afraid that an egg had broken from her 2-story jump onto concrete and rock. Her eggs just showed up as blobs on the x-ray, and we couldn’t see them clearly.
This prompted the decision to spay her. They removed her eggs, but none were broken. Once I finished her series of antibiotic shots, her WBC (white blood cell) count was close to normal (it was on the high end, but she’d been through a stressful time, and the count went down as she healed). She rubbed the stitches off twice while healing, and wound up being stapled shut both times.
She’s perfectly fine now. Healthy, strong, and growing. I do feel that If I had properly ig-proofed the rooms, and that I hadn’t been as negligent as I was, that she would not have gotten so sick and needed an emergency surgery.
I was EXTREMELY lucky to get her back. She crossed an extremely busy road during rush hour, and I have no idea why she wasn’t made a pancake. If I hadn’t notified the authorities, and if the person who found her hadn’t notified them, I wouldn’t have her now. There are many “ifs” in this story. Thankfully enough right choices were made to overcome the wrong ones.