Monday, August 5, 2013

A Stray Beardie Named Roscoe

It was a cold and rainy Thursday night. I was working late at the adoption center when the phone rang. The woman asked for me. It was a young lady who found a stray bearded dragon on the streets of Dorchester. Right now it's in a cat carrier, and she's afraid to touch it. I wondered how she knew to ask for me. I am gaining a reputation quicker than I thought? I scheduled this woman to come in the next day with the bearded dragon.


When it came in, I realized it was a male and an adult. It looked under the weather, literally and figuratively. I was well prepared for his arrival. I had already chopped out an epic salad and made a warm habitat for him. By the end of Friday night while working late again, I realized he couldn't move his right leg. I knew then that he needed to see a vet. I'm sure my fiance is getting used to my calls by now, pleading that we spend at least half of our only day off together to go to the vets with a reptile we don't even know. He knows enough by now to say okay. The founder had called him Roscoe, and I kept the name. So, I packed up Roscoe for the train ride home, abandoning my own personal items at work. He saw my favorite vet, Dr. Mertz from New England Wildlife Center. I sometimes wonder if he is sick of seeing my face with a banged up or severely ill reptile in tow.

Roscoe and myself at the vet

He found out that Roscoe has metabolic bone scoliosis, hence the right leg. This is something that he has to live with unless an owner would prefer amputation. For the most part, it is something you just have them live with as a handicap. He also told me he is certainly underweight and sick. I took him home with his medication. We bought various beardie supplements on the way home. He won't eat on his own. He won't drink on his own. And naturally, won't medicate himself. Every day, my fiance and I forced fed food, water, and medication. Any time we approached him, his beard went black. I know, you hate us, Roscoe. Being that he is contagious, we had to be very careful not to get the rest of our clan sick. We fostered him for a week.

Roscoe in foster care

We luckily found him a wonderful home with a father-daughter duo who is well versed in sick and injured bearded dragons. They own quite a few. The daughter, Lauren, volunteers at the New England Wildlife Center. She does amazing work with her beardies. It is satisfying to know we saved another life. I am so thankful to Lauren and her father for taking on such a wonderfully charming bearded dragon who deserved a second chance at a better future.

Roscoe with his new family

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Why Leopard Geckos are Awesome

There are many reasons why leopard geckos are awesome. They are a gecko with moveable eyelids yet still sometimes lick their eyeballs anyway. They are a hardy species. They stay small (average around 8" in length). They are also easy to take care of. I would definitely list this reptile as a good beginner pet. A single gecko can live in a 20 gallon tank with a lid. They mostly just need some places to hide. Like all reptiles, they require a temperature gradient in the tank. This means that one side of the tank has to be warm, another cooler. I achieve this by using a small heat pad underneath the tank. If it is really cold, I have a heat bulb that emits a blue light.

This is a good setup example:

Notice that this person uses paper towels as the "substrate." I highly recommend this to avoid impaction. I know it doesn't look as pretty, but it makes it safer. If you feel like you have to use a sand, I recommend teaching your leo to be tong fed directly and never let food hit the ground or hang out in a tank.

This is my current tank set up. I use advertisement flyers that are non-glossy.

Another important piece to gecko welfare is a moisture box. This is often missed in novice gecko care. Typically every month, a gecko sheds its skin much like most reptiles. In order to have a proper shed, the gecko must be hydrated. To assist in their shedding in a non-invasive way, a moisture box should be created for them. The majority of gecko owners make their own since a really good one doesn't exist yet in the market. Basically, buy a plastic storage container that is big enough for your leo to lay in. Cut a hole on one side and make sure to soften the edges. Then, put moss in it. It is important to make sure it stays moist. I leave a small spray bottle by his tank and spray it down every day.

Another cool thing about geckos is what and how they eat. They are insectivores and should be given gut-loaded worms, crickets, etc. This is where we typically lose people in the pet department. Most people don't like the idea of having live worms or crickets in their homes. If you want a reptile, as I mentioned before, it is necessary. I don't even find it abnormal that I have multiple worm containers hanging out with my milk carton. (Many worms need to be refrigerated.)

The best part of owning a gecko is watching them eat. My boy Helix really gets into it. He reminds me of Jurassic Park when Alan says the T-rex's vision is based on movement. It seems that way for our gecko! Take a look at this video:

Regardless of what I say, always do your homework before taking home any reptile. Be sure to understand the reptile's needs for its entire life. Also, it is best to have everything set up ahead of time before getting a new pet. If you've ever had to move into an apartment without furniture so you had to sleep on a pile of clothes on a wooden floor, you'd understand why.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Live Food Care: Part 1: Crickets

If you own a reptile, it is almost inevitable that you will deal with live food. Not always: if you have an herbivore or you feed frozen mice, then you are certainly in the clear. However, many reptiles out there are insectivores. I own three reptiles that require insects for their diet. Helix is ALL insects while the turtles also have pellets and greens. I could give some to Salinger for her protein source, but I prefer to use dry cat food instead (maybe I should also write a blog on tortoise protein nutrition options since there is a misconception that ALL tortoises are strictly herbivores). But for now, this post is on crickets. How to care for them and how to set them up.

First, you would need a cricket keeper. You can either purchase one from a store, like so:

This is the smaller one. There is also a larger keeper available.

Or, if you're like me and want to go do it yourself, you can also make one fairly simply. Buy a large tupperware/food storage container. Use an awl to cut small holes on the top for air flow. Wah-la!

Next, purchase two small food dishes. There are some at the pet store for a dollar each. You will need these for food and "water."

For the food dish, use the cricket chow you can find at a pet store. For the water dish, I recommend soaking 2 (or more, depending on how many crickets you plan to keep) baby carrots for a couple of seconds under water. Then, chop them on into about 4-5 pieces. This is how I personally like to give them nutrients and water. There is a product called Cricket Quencher that many people use instead of the carrots. I find that more crickets drown in this than the carrots. It is a personal preference. You can certainly use the Quencher if that suits your needs better. So the two bowls should look like this:

The last thing you will need is egg carton. You can either ask the pet store to give you some (they often ask you) or you can save your own egg cartons and cut them into smaller pieces. I do both. I recommend buying crickets from the actually store, not the cricket to go containers. They often have a shorter shelf life. It is also cheaper to get crickets from the stock batch. We found out we have a better success rate of survival with Petsmart crickets over other pet stores. They take really good care of their crickets, and they already have them "gut-loaded" so you don't have to wait to feed your pet.

And then mix it all together!

1. Container 2. Dishes 3. Food 4. Water/Carrots 5. Egg carton 6. Crickets

Make sure to store them in a dry place. Temperatures should be around 75 to 85 degrees or so. I tend to tell people to buy only a week's worth supply at most. Crickets have a short life span. Feed them to your reptile using feeder tongs. Crickets make an excellent food source than other insects so it is worth it to take care of them so that they take care of your pet!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Salinger knocks her water bowl over

Salinger does this almost every day. She puts one foot in and knocks it over. Some things even I can't explain for reptile behavior.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Feeding Turtles

To minimize debris in turtle tanks, we have Franklin and Little Foot eat pellets in travel tanks. It helps us monitor their food intake and makes for a cleaner tank in the end. With this, rinsing out filters, and scooping out feces daily, your tank cleanings will only be every 2 or 3 weeks.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Fix a Feral Cat Clinic

The Animal Rescue League of Boston occasional hosts "Fix a Feral Clinics." It is a spay/neuter and vaccination clinic for feral cats (cats who are under socialized and afraid of humans --typically in an aggressive way). These are cats that are unsafe for the domestic life. Therefore, it is best to sterilize them and send them back out so that they do not create more lives for their "colonies." It has always appeared to me that ARL believes in letting the colonies die out instead of euthanizing them which is highly debatable among animal groups (see the wiki article on the subject matter). I personally think it is the most humane option. Outdoor cat life spans are typically no more than 10 years. However, one cat trapper did bring in two cats to be euthanized that she was feeding for 12 years. Usually these colonies have someone watching over them. We call them feeders. Due to their safety, they don't typically handle them outright but may leave food or monitor how they look. If the cat is in pain or very ill, they come to us to end their suffering. Despite many clinics like this in the past, there are still lots of cats out there that need to be sterilized. Today alone, I believe we may have neutered/spayed around 65 cats. Luckily, we did find a couple of cats that were already spayed/neutered. In this case, they were vaccinated and set to go. For vaccines, they get the rabies vaccine and a feline viruses vaccine.

Here are the steps:
1. Catch ferals and bring to clinic
2. Anesthetize cats one by one
3. Once cat is "under," get a basic exam from a vet (note any medical concerns to report to feeder)
4. Prep for surgery (which is what I did and will go more in-depth later about)
5. Neuter or Spay by highly qualified vets
6. Post Op - Receive feline viruses vaccine
7. Recovery (back in trap and monitored)
8. Trappers pick up cats or they stay overnight or they are set up in the shelter!

Sometimes cats that are trapped aren't so feral after all. They may have been someone's pet at one time. It may even have a microchip! In those instances, the cat may be set up in the shelter. Most often, the cats stay overnight for recovery or are taken away by their trappers for monitoring. Recovery can be tricky. After a procedure like this, they have a hard time keeping their bodies warm. Some of the cats were under heat lights or given warm pads if they were cold. Every cat is different on how they handle surgeries, just like humans.

ARL has all these steps down in a circuit around the medical side of our building. It is very efficient and makes sense. After steps 1-3 occur, the cat was handed off to one of four people in the prep for surgery stations. We were in pairs. I was fortunate to be paired up with Jessica, our very knowledgeable vet technician. She showed me how to prep cats for surgery since it was my first time. Our job was to ear tip the cats, express their bladders (or emptying their bladders), shaving the area that will have surgery, and cleaning the area. Once this was done, we brought them straight to the surgery area. It may sound easy but some occasional hiccups may arise. For instance, one female I was shaving and cleaning started having contractions throughout her body. Jessica realized right away she was going to throw up so we unstrapped her from her spay board, and Jessica tipped her face down to the garbage can so she wouldn't aspirate (when food or objects block airways.) Sometimes we may notice a cat starting to wake up a little. This meant the cat needed an additional injection before going to surgery. We were always checking for breathing and heart rate. Just as it can be dangerous for humans to be "put under," so it can be for cats as well.

It was a very rewarding experience. As my manager says, "it is instant gratification." You get the satisfaction that 60+ cats will not continue to reproduce in the wild just by what we did today. They also received some medical treatment they may not have had a chance to receive otherwise.

After my duties, I did snap a couple of shots while helping some of our team with recovery. Pictures below:

Kitten waking up

Many cats in traps

One cat a little more alert

When I arrived at my home today and took a look at Hermes, I was immediately thankful he was given a better life. I was thankful he didn't end up a feral cat. I couldn't even imagine it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Brushing Hermes Teeth

During Hermes' annual exam last June, we found out that he had mild gingivitis. Like any fanatic cat mom, I wanted to do whatever it took to make sure his teeth didn't get any worse. My vet recommended dry food for dental health and brushing my cats teeth. I was a bit shocked to find out that people actually do this. It has been almost a year, and Hermes gets his pearly whites brushed about 4x a week (though some vets recommend every day). He is also on T/D Science Diet for cats.

You don't get a cat to brush overnight. It takes a proper introduction. The best cat toothpaste I have seen thus far is this one:

Something chicken flavored is your best bet. Hermes took to this one really well. I started out just introducing the toothpaste to see if he liked it. I let him lick it off my finger. After that, I introduced him to the brush. I let him come up to it and investigate.

He then starts to lick at it. If I don't move the brush a little, he will mostly lick the toothpaste right off without actually brushing. However, I can usually gently coax him into chomping down on the toothbrush. While he chomps, I guide the brush around his mouth.

Once he has had enough, I give him a treat of licking it clean. I then throughly rinse the brush before putting it away.

Dental health is very underrated and often overlooked. Dental disease left untreated can lead to serious health concerns like tooth loss to bacterial infections. If teeth are not properly cared for, it can lead to expensive dental procedures since cats would need to be sedated for teeth cleaning and extractions. It is cheaper and safer to do preventatives!

It doesn't have to be all work and no play! There are toys dedicated to dental health as well. Hermes has these ones:

Here are some signs to watch out for. If you notice any of these, contact your vet!

-Dark red line along the gums
-Red and swollen gums
-Ulcers on gums or tongue
-Loose teeth
-Difficulty chewing food
-Excessive drooling
-Excessive pawing at the mouth area

But, if you own reptiles, fish, birds, or amphibians, you don't have to worry about any of this. :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hermes turns 3!

On April 27, 2013, my cat turned 3 years old. Well, not exactly. I adopted him when he was only 5 months old with an estimated birthday to be around late April. With most animals, having an exact birthday is darn near impossible. As Hermes turned another year, I wondered how old he really was in human years. At 2 years old, he was estimated to be around 24 human years. Depending on some calculators, now he is 29 or 30 years. Once June 2nd comes around this year, Hermes and I will be the same age. It was laughable and yet reassuring knowing that my cat and I are battling our late twenties together at the same time. Maybe we will go through our mid-life crisis together?

As I find myself not keen on the idea of another year older, I wondered if Hermes was also feeling the same way. I decided to give him a pick-me-up with some strong catnip on his new scratching post. He is still a kid at heart. For his birthday presents, I gave him new toys to play with--as always, some were a hit, some were a bust. I should just buy a years supply of mylar balls. Those 50 cent wrapping paper looking type balls never lose their novelty with him.

As Hermes went from college graduate to stable career man this past year, I noticed some changes in him. He became a lap cat and desired more of our attention and affection. He is finally matured enough to realize the important things in life: family. and food.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

About Carlie

Spencer and I decided to take on another foster gecko. She was surrendered already knowing she had a pre-existing condition, metabolic bone disease. I just didn't know how bad. First, she was surrendered as "Carl - 2 years old." We found out that Carl was really Carlie just a day or two later. When I first met Carlie, she couldn't even see. The shed of her skin was stuck to her entire face and parts of her legs. I immediately soaked her in warm water for a long time. After the next couple of days, we are able to peel of the skin on her face so she could see. We then slowly peeled off the rest. What was also blatantly obvious is that her spine was crooked and humpback.

Needless to say, she was in worse shape than the others, but Spencer and I were up for the challenge. We brought her to Dr. Mertz at the New England Wildlife Center Odd Pet Vet. He told us that her deformity was pretty much for life (also her minor leg paralysis), but we could help her with shedding. We started her on 0.1 cc of antibiotics per day. She was close to losing her tail and very underweight. We did our best to fatten her up, socialize her, and help her with shedding. After a couple of weeks, she started to prolapse a little under the stress of holding her. She was always able to kick it back in fairly quickly. However, one Sunday night, she prolapsed so much that her lower intestines were out. We put her in a shallow pool of water with a paper towel in it to keep her moist. Unfortunately, she needed serious repair or she would die. We contacted our vet, and he told us that she lost muscle control in her back end due to the calcium deficiency. She will continue to do this most of, if not, her entire life. That's when I realized she would not be adoptable. We made the difficult decision to rush her to my work, Animal Rescue League of Boston, to put her down. Spencer and I miss her so much. She had a wonderful temperament. She was calcium deficient during infancy and childhood which resulted to her demise. I couldn't help wondering what other reptiles like her are suffering the same things due to poor nutrition. When we came back home, I spent a long time watching Helix, our own gecko. I felt so fortunate that he was a healthy boy. Not every gecko is so lucky...

In memory of Carlie who is no longer with us. April 22, 2013

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Picture credit on the right belongs to Elizabeth Dobrska

And look what happened yesterday: Olive was adopted by a wonderful family! This is pictures of me, her, and the father of a 13 year old son who will be taking wonderful care of Olive from now on. It is a surprise gift for the reptile enthusiast! It was a perfect match from the geck-ko! haha. This is my first successful foster "child" to make it to adoption and what a wonderful feeling. We will miss our little gecko girl, but I couldn't be more happy for her. She finally has her forever home.

This is our foster gecko Olive when she first came into our care. She certainly needed our help!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hermes watches the snow

Hermes on his bed


It was just another day where I took a picture of my cat. We all joke about how the internet is pretty much about pictures of cats. And why shouldn't it be? It got me thinking about all these websites and blogs about cute animals. Well, my animals are cute! I decided to create this blog to just basically post pictures with occasional anecdotes about what is going on with them. (Because there is always something going on with them). Oh hi, I'm Lex by the way. The animals featured in this blog will be:

Hermes - Domestic Shorthair Tabby Mackerel Grey Polydactyl Male Cat, age (nearing) 3 years old

Franklin - Eastern Painted Male Turtle, age 17

Little Foot - Eastern Painted Female Turtle, age unknown but probably around Franklin's

(JD) Salinger - Yellow Foot Tortoise Female, age unknown but probably in the 20's

Helix - (Normal) Leopard Gecko Male, age unknown but estimated to be a year and couple of months

So these are the pookas. What is a pooka, you ask? I have no idea. The word came to me when I adopted Hermes years ago. I started to call him Pooka Bear. And then just Pooka or Pook. Then all the animals became Pookas. And then myself and my fiance also became pookas. Basically, to be a Pooka means "our family." When we fostered Helix, the last member of our family (so far), we knew pretty quickly that he was a "Pooka" so we adopted him. We have also had "foster pookas" in the past and may continue to do so since I work with animals. They may be on here every once in awhile. Anyway, enjoy cute pictures of animals. :)