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Thursday, June 27, 2013


Turned Fabuland Gazebo

Frodo would be proud. Maybe

Monday, June 17, 2013

I found this on my pants

Far from its home. Now I see how settlers spread pests...

Inch along. Little friend. Far and wide, on my thigh.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Taming Monitors and Iguanas.

When people ask me how I tamed a big lizard, the explanation I reach for is simple. Trust.

A wild animal that trusts you will not be afraid of you. If its not afraid of you, its aggression will vanish. Aside from injuries, and over the top feeding responses its pretty safe to attribute all reptile aggression to fear. This article does not address animals with aggressive feeding responses but rather aggression that isn't food related.

Sadly, the common thought and even advice that people have received is to tame a monitor or iguana you should take it out of its cage and HANDLE IT. Handle it handle it handle it. Not only should you handle it, you should handle it TONS, the more the better.

I won't say this doesn't work for some animals and in certain circumstances, the second I say that, people will be shouting the opposite. But what is safe to say is handling backfires and flat out doesn't work on most of the  highstrung animals people purchase. I know this because I've been there when people give up the animals they had high hopes for because it wont tame down or even becomes more aggressive than before. There are also a number of animals that start tame and become aggressive due to interaction with the handler.

There are two main reasons "handling" will not tame your aggressive lizard.

Firstly, most people are going to become increasingly frightened or wary of their pet as this goes on. This will unconciously affect your body language, how you grip the animal, how you hold it etc..Generally the turning moment were you will not "win" and theres a downward spiral is when the animal bites you. People who get bitten immediately drop the animal, put it away, or otherwise disengage it. The lizard has learned that you will ignore all his other warnings and that he must bite you to make you go away. Once the animal learns that biting works he will resort to it faster each time you handle him. In fact he may abandon all his other warnings and just nail you right away on the very next try. Monitors in particular are very intelligent for a lizard and I've personally witnessed two trial learning occur on multiple occasions. Its important to prevent bites but extra important to try to not react much when it bites you. You don't want it to learn that biting "works". At the same time you should recognize that its time to put the animal away, just don't drop it like its hot so to speak. You want a few moments to pass before you set it down if possible.

 The bitten owner will no doubt ably be nervous during the next handling session (lizard bites are extremely painful), OR completely give up, often giving the animal away.

The second reason "handling" will not tame your aggressive lizard

An animal that is struggling, running away, defecating on you, biting you, tail whipping, etc etc is very very frightened. When you interact with him and he does these things, he builds the association that you are SCARY.  You are not to be trusted, you will do scary, uncomfortable things to him. Each time he sees you there is already that bad history there.

You wouldn't tame a feral cat by picking it up and hugging it everyday would you? How about a tiger? Its the same concept. The animal is terrified and is likely not going to submit to you. He's wild and undomesticated, hes not thinking, hes just going on instinct, and instinct says that big animals (you) that grab him and restrain him are going to eat him.

Another commonly overlooked portion of the handling paradigm is that the animal is removed from the cage for the "taming".  The lizard goes from small, comforting, familiar surroundings and sure footing to a huge room with moving floor (your hands) often 4ft off the ground if the person is standing. Reptiles find small spaces comforting, and big spaces scary. Baby animals get eaten if they blow their cover. Baby monitors hide, brave juveniles and ADULTS walk around. They know they aren't food.

I am of the opinion that an Iguana or Monitor should NEVER be forcibly removed (aka, picked up) from their enclosure while they are gaining your trust unless its absolutely necessary. Their cage is to become their Home base or safe spot and they will climb out on their own or even better, onto you, when they trust you.

Front opening cages are best for taming lizards. The top openings of aquariums require you to hover over the animal which is threatening for them. When you slide open a screen top, to their eyes, the whole sky just moved and a monster appeared. Its better to have glass doors in the FRONT that you can open as little or as much as possible.

 Desensitization, hand feeding and BAT.

Firstly, its important to let your lizard simply acclimate and have a strong desire to eat before attempting any training. New homes are stress full to any lizard and many monitors and iguanas are wild harvested. They need to settle in first and for most.

BAT (behavior adjustment training) was developed with dogs and horses but work very well on reptiles in my experience. You just have to tweak it a bit. Instead of the lizard walking away from the scary thing, you are going to walk away from the lizard.

BAT is part about pressure and part about rewarding appropriate responses. This is the first step I use when working with an aggressive animal. Followed by hand feeding and eventually lifting.

You are going to place your hand in the cage with the animal (putting pressure on). First as a fist, and eventually as an open hand. The fist is very important in the early stages so no fingers get bitten. I prefer to show the animal the back of my hand if they are to the side of me or the top of my hand if they are directly in front. We want it to look like too big of an object to bite if it comes to that accidentally.

In this exercise the removal of your hand is the reward for good behavior.(taking pressure off)

Place your hand just barely inside the cage. The animal needs to see you do this. If it doesn't react, remove your hand from the cage. After a few seconds repeat. Hand needs to completely disappear between repetitions. Do 5-10 of these exercises then end the session.

If the animal reacts slightly to your hand being in the cage (puff up are the most common) just rest it there for a few seconds to see if the animal will settle. The moment they calm down, remove your hand.

If your lizard panics you will have to start slower and have your hand near the glass but not actually in the cage. If your lizard completely looses it, abort the session and try again the following day with more distance.

For VERY aggressive animals you will have to walk towards the cage and then away when they don't react. You leaving is the reward for being calm. Wait for moments of loose body language, coming towards you in curiosity, eye pinning or even licking your hand. These are all things you should reward.

As the animal progresses you should begin to talk to it to accustom it to human noises. This is a trigger for some lizards so it should be worked on.

As you progress you should vary the locations of your hand, adding different heights, motions, duration etc. All these things need to be added slowly. If your animal panics or gets aggressive, you've moved too fast and should go back a step. They will learn faster if you go slower. Every time you frighten them you are straining the trust you just gained. GO SLOW. You will have this animal for ten years or more if its young. There is no hurry.

"Hand" feeding is the quickest way to get your lizard to interact with you if its not otherwise aggressive or as the next step after you have done BAT.  If you are taming a monitor, I recommend teaching a bowl as a hot spot. Think of it as a vending machine. The monitor learns that food appears only in the bowl, which makes it a valuable training tool. The monitor will associate food with the bowl and not with your hand. Contrary to popular belief its ok to have the monitor associate you with food. You simply must add the extra structure to it to prevent being bitten. I do not like tongs or tweezer for this because they mirror the motions of our hands and that may confuse the animal in the early stages. I do believe tweezers are a valuable tool but not for this instance.

Start by feeding in the bowl for a few days to build the association. The bowl needs to be small or medium sizes and easy to manipulate. If the monitor will come up to the bowl with you present place one insect (or mouse) in the bowl and then place in the cage in front of the lizard. If using pinkies be sure to keep your fingers as tucked in as possible to prevent a feeding mistake.

Let the Monitor eat their morsel and remove the bowl completely from site. Then immediately repeat. Do this as many times as the animal will let you for several feedings. Be sure to place the bowl in different spots to make it clear that the bowl produces the food, not the "left side of the cage" or "on this one branch" etc. The goal here is to create a bowl hot spot so the animal will not be looking for food in other places. This is also desensitization because you are repeatedly putting your hands in the cage and then removing them.

For iguanas, if the animal has shown to be a bitter in the past, use the bowl method as described above, for all others feeding from the fingers is OK. I find that many fearful iguanas will refuse to hand feed on their normal food. They certainly have a hierarchy of favorite foods. Flowers (hibiscus, nasturtium etc) and fruit will generally convince the iguana to feed from your fingers when normal greens fail. Experiment with different foods to find your "high value" treat for training.

When you are hand feeding your iguana, its important that the animal has to take at least one step to get to the offered food. Iguanas have a tendancy to "glue" themselves to a spot once they calm down and you want to prevent this. If you place the food in its face, it will likely panic, as you have come into its space too closely or it will simply learn to "glue" down and not come to you. Having to take a step towards you and then feed reinforces that walking towards you is the right thing to do. As this progresses, you will want to have the animal walk further and further to get its reward, culminating in feeding on the edge of the cage.

This is where the first actual lifting should begin. Place your finger or hand on the animals chest for just moment. Do this a few times. If they object, go back a step. If they don't mind, start using pressure (as if to lift but don't actually lift) for just a second or two at a time. You will likely have to distract with food during this first session. Don't push it, end the session while your ahead.

Superman! Time to fly

This is where counterconditioning comes in. You are going to begin to "levitate" or float your pet for brief moments about an inch off the ground, then immediately feed/reward them. I introduce a clicker at this point because of the obvious delay between being lifted, set back down and then fed. Monitors and iguanas learn what a clicker is in two trials, so there is no need to load the clicker, just use it. I lift, click, then set the animal back down and present the reward (the hotspot bowl). Lather rinse repeat. You will need to work on height and duration SEPARATELY. If you add height, decrease duration and visa versa. If they begin to get frightened, end the session, TBH though, by this point I've never had an animal spook out. They do not leave the cage at all during this part of the training. The safety of the cage is working with you still. 

 Time to come explore!

When its time for the animal to start exploring outside their cage its important that they know how to get back to home base. As the animal trusts you more and more it will begin to ask to come out of its cage. Its important that the lizard is conditioned to being lifted and "levitated" for brief distances by this point because its your job to put them back in before they panic. Your lizard will have a pattern at this point;

Walk up to cage door and ask to come out.

Walk out of cage onto you or a surface

See something scary, be it a thing or another person OR they realize they are to far from home base for comfort.

Become overwhelmed and panic. Running at random, if your lucky they'll run back to their cage.

Its your job to put the lizard back BEFORE it spooks and freaks out. If you put the lizard back before it panics it will generally immediately try to climb back out again. This is good. Let it come out again, about the same distance, then put them back again. You'll find you can't get rid of them, they just come right back at you. This repeated in and out will desensitize the animal to the room at large. Its getting exposed to the same thing, over and over at low levels and learning that nothing bad is going to happen. Its also learning that it'd rather be with you than in that boring ol' cage.

Your Monitor or Iguana is going to be TOO BRAVE and then quickly turn into TERRIFIED during its first trips out of the cage. Its your job to curb their enthusiasm so no one gets hurt. If you think they can handle 6 inches, let them come out 2inches three or four times then end the session. This is also good practice for being carried and riding on you. They are like little kids that just can't help themselves. Be the parent.

You can introduce food at this point if you so choose, to reward brave (but not too brave!) behavior outside the cage. Make sure to use your bowl hot spot if you are feeding a monitor.

As time goes on you can add more and more freedom. If you want to carry your lizard, wait until they are acclimated to the room and then practice walking around in the room for several days at minimum before moving on to other parts of the house. A harness is a good idea for going outside.

In my experience, if people follow the above protocol you can have an aggressive iguana or monitor tame in aprox  30 days. There will be variation of course, but don't expect an overnight magic wand . Trust takes time! Be slow and methodical and you wont regret it. You will have a better pet, and your lizard a better life!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Screw elves...

The mythical forest should be populated by a race of bearded dragons in flower hats. At least thats my take on it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


I havent posted plants for a while, shame on me. I find it odd that my most intense obsession goes the longest between posts.

I scattered wildflower seed this year to fill in gaps between the immature perenials. This was one of the most robust. I *think* its a coreopsis but I'm not 100%. Ive only grown the yellow ones before and they are a different species. Either way, nice plant.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"How do you spot an aspie?

He's the only one working."

Love it.

Wordless Wednesday. Sir Mopeness


Customer brought by this very tiny ball python that he hatched. Eats, moves, sheds all normal. Just at 1/3 the size. All the siblings were normal size.

Kinda cute...for a

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hold still biatch!

So I can make sweet snakey lovins to you.

I've finally done it.

I've purchased my first domain name.

Its an easy thing to do, and inexpensive, but I had held off on it for a few years now to make sure I was intent on this blogging thing. Having your own domain seems like a commitment in many ways. I didn't want to commit to som'thing that I didn't have my heart in. I think the blog is the perfect outlet for me, I need both a place to put troubling thoughts and a place to store memories, as I basically can't remember shit. I also need the control of have say in things. Veto power if you will.

There is a saying to describe Leos;

"Makes a great Chief, but a lousy Indian".

This is me to a T. Perhaps its more of an aspie trait than a made up lion trait, but I digress. ;) I actually prefer to be slightly on the backburner, but have my ideas respected and listened to. The top boss has the boring paperwork job, I need to get my hands dirty. Can't do that planning payroll.

 Nothing kills me more than an incompetant boss who doesn't listen to what I have to say ( coughpetsmartcough) esp when live animals are involved. You can make sales and not kill animals you know, its doable.

Big box stores need to learn this or stop selling them. I loved raising Parrots at the big box, but hell to the yeah was I excited when PETA made them stop. It was fun, but it wasn't right morally, by any stretch. I did the best I could while I was there, but ignored tumors, sales to morons, stolen birds, aspirated birds and all the other nonsence that went on the second I left needed to stop.

Anyway, back to my point. I'm in it for the animals, their well being, and my sanity. I'm at that point in real life, and now I can be at that point on the web without anyones money making greed holding back the truth.

Because thats what its all about to me. Truth.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Complaint I filed to Ripoff Report

With the typos fixed. Of course. ;)

Once upon a time I had to deal with a Bizarre Woman when I saved a dog.... I removed her name to keep her from trying something insane. Shes already been sued for stealing a dog after pissing someone off.

" I adopted a dog from this "rescue". This dog was a medical case that no rescue wanted. He was also elderly.

Money was raised to pay for the dogs many surgeries, to be given either directly to the adoptor or paid the the vet doing the surgery. This amount was about $250. Donated by random kind people who could not take the dog on themselves

I took possession of the dog who required a dental, huge tumor removal and three hernia repairs. My vet was generous and only charged me $2,000. This was cheap for what was done. The dog also has hip dysplasia and two luxating patella, that due to his age The vet elected to leave alone. He was extremely overwieght when I obtained him. Basically the most unadoptable dog ever.

"K" never sent me the dogs paperwork, microchip info or the $250. When I contacted her she told me I wasnt on file and she didnt know anything about the money raised.

I figured out very fast that the money was a lost cause and so I insisted on the dogs vet records/ vacine records. At this point she turned into an irate delusional person and the wierdest convo ensued. She spoke in word salad rivaling the mentally ill. I stayed calm and she yelled into the phone. Claiming I stole the dog from her and she was going to have me arrested. When this didnt work she then asked me to call her attorney.

I called K.K's "attorney" and left a message. He never called me back. I googled his name and phone number. He was a regular person, NOT an attorney and simply another rich dog "rescuer".

I finally convinced her to send me paperwork. I had to sit through her life story and other wierd nonsensical ramblings and be very patient. Her excuse for being crazy to me was a worker was pulling dogs, selling them and buying drugs with the money. She said she "knows" that I am in a conspiracy with the drug user and the dog I adopted didnt really exist.

I have screen shots of her talking to this "drug user" on facebook even after she claimed she reported her the the police. Instructing her to pull more dogs.

Sadly this sealed the deal in my mind that rescues are not for me. I always had pulled my own dogs from shelters and after this, I"ll never use a rescue again."

Having to type this out years after the fact just makes me shake my head and wonder how the world even functions. I'm glad to have it written down so I can put it behind me and stop thinking about it. Sadly this woman is still in business.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Hatched a pair of gargoyle geckos today. Had to rearange things to make space for them.

My big group of 9 or so crestie hatchlings had to give up their crib. Sorry guys. Its ok though because I hooked them up with a better pad. It was time anyway...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fish heads, fish heads...

Rolly-polly fish heads.

I think the bait fish get overlooked to often as food.

Better than tuna. Imo anyway.

The Abominations Hatching Photo Dump

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Its so hard not to love what most hate.