So I think I have a new show to pitch to Animal Planet. It’s going to be called LIZARD RESCUE! with Kristie Cunningham. Because I’m doing it about twice a week these days.
I live in the desert, you see. And in the desert, there are lizards and geckos galore, from teeny-tiny baby translucent pink ones to rough, and ruffed, big ones that like to do pushups on the back wall. They are small, and they are 4-legged, and they move quickly, attracting the predatory attention of all local (very local) canine personnel. Cats do it, too, but we don’t have cats, so fuck ’em.
When dogs of any kind see things smaller than they are running very quickly, something is triggered in their little doggie brains that says, “CHASE THAT! MUST EAT IT! NOW! NOW! NOW!” and then great scrambling ensues as my three dogs, great hunters that they are, proceed to harass the lizard/victim du jour by running it back and forth along the wall until it gets away.
Or at least, that’s how it used to go. All of our dogs have chased lizards. Every last one of them. It wasn’t until this year that we had a dog fast enough to actually CATCH them. That would be this kid here, (as if you didn’t know who it’d be before you clicked the link).
Generally, Daisy likes to lope slowly through the yard, and when she does, she looks kind of gangly and uncoordinated. But when she decides to step on the gas, she is like a streak of lightning in her quickness. She studies things, too. She’s the first dog we’ve ever had that paid any attention to anything above her head that wasn’t a treat within smelling distance, like birds in the trees or the skies, or falling leaves. For awhile, we thought she’d be like all the rest of the dogs—chasing lizards with no lasting harm to either them or her. But we didn’t put these two propensities together until we found the one in the yard that was mostly dead and now sans four legs.
Because Daisy likes to play with things, and paw at them like a cat, if a cat’s paw was the size of a 6-year-old child’s and had 55 pounds of pure muscle behind it. I have been batted at with that paw, and it pretty much always requires Bactine and a week to heal. Unlike Monte, who was so OCD that if you started playing ball with him, you would have to quit your job and tell your family goodbye, because he was never, ever going to let you out of that game of fetch, with Daisy, you throw the ball once, and she can entertain herself with it for the next half hour, batting it around like a soccer player and pouncing on it and killing us with her extreme cuteness until she gets tired and walks away from it.
What is less cute is when she substitutes “lizard happily minding his own lizardy business” for “ball.” I understand that my dog is a predator, and lizards are prey, and there is pretty much nothing we can do, short of locking her in the house, to stop her from chasing lizards. And while it’s a pretty shitty and prolonged ordeal for the lizards that Daisy is more interested in batting them around endlessly than eating them whole, it is also the only reason I have managed to rescue three of them. I suspect they will not be the last three.
I now recognize the stance of Daisy playing with what, given the opportunity, might become her food, and I holler out the window at her “LEEEEEAAAAAVE IIIIIT!” as I hotfoot it out the back door to do triage. She will look at me, look at her lizard, look at me, and I look her in the eye and say “LEAVE. IT.” and that’s usually enough to get her to mosey off so I can see if there is anything worth saving. So far, the ones I’ve found looked a little slobbery, a lot dazed and terrified, and their little hearts were beating so hard in their chests, I swear they’re going to hyperventilate.
I do not not know if lizards can actually hyperventilate.
So I carefully nudge them into the tray of the pooper scooper with the long handled poop rake, take them over to a shady section of wall, and gently shake the scooper until they come to rest on the wall where they continue to breathe heavily in an attitude of “What the fuck just happened? And then how did I get up here? What next? I should’ve never gotten out of bed this morning.”
Lacking X-ray vision myself, I have no idea if these lizards are going to make it, or if their internal injuries are going to end up being fatal. And I don’t want to know. In each case that I have intervened and airlifted a lizard out of harm’s way, they have, after a spell, walked away under their own power, so I have hope, and pray that their rejuvenatory abilities are enough to see them through. “Tell your friends,” I say as I wish them well. “Your kind aren’t safe in this yard.” I can’t save them all, dammit. I’m just one woman. And Daisy’s a helluva lot faster than I am.