Memoir Excerpt: For The Love of Lizards

AVA

The plumber stood in the middle bay of our barn, talking to my husband. Upstairs, Ava climbed down her ladder and started walking, kathump-kathump-kathump, down the hall and the plumber stopped talking and looked up. “I sure hope that’s a dog,” he said.

My rhinoceros iguana Ava is four feet long and weighs twenty pounds. She climbs down from her sleeping box and walks her dinosaur walk, tail swishing side-to-side, from the north end of the barn to the southeast-facing deck.

She crosses the door jam, claws clicking on metal, and she comes to rest on the sun-warmed oak boards. I spread a towel and sit down beside her. She tilts her head and peers into my eyes and my throat aches with love welling up.

Ava senses the emotional shift and boosts herself like a cat, nose and tail raised, eyes shut, while I run my hand down her dry-silky flank and spikey dorsal crest. I put my cheek against hers and breathe in her sea mineral scent and I tell her what pretty nose horns she has.

When I lie down she climbs onto my stomach, scaly feet and claws not quite breaking my skin. She rests her chin on my chest, her belly on mine, and her tail drapes over my leg. She tucks an arm back at her side the way iguanas do when they are content, like it is the most natural thing for her to have a human basking buddy.

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