Today I had one of those situations that seems increasingly hopeless, right up to the end. I’m glad I stuck around long enough to get to the good part.
A friend knows I like geckos, and she alerted me to a local garage sale that advertised “live animals” — geckos, as it turns out, were the majority of that category. I wasn’t sure what species they’d be, though I figured cresteds or leopards were the most likely. When I got there, I was greeted by a goldfish in a bowl; two hatchling crested geckos in deli cups with some paper towel and leaves; and an incredibly gloomy-looking ten-gallon aquarium that presumably held one or both of the parents. Things were already looking grim, and it got worse.
The woman taking payments told an interested family, “Oh yeah, they can live in there [the deli cups] until they’re about….” I didn’t hear the age she offered, because I was too busy formulating the torrent of corrections I was going to offer that family as soon as her back was turned. Who keeps any vertebrate in a deli cup full of crumpled paper *as its home*? I wound up scaring some potential buyers away, I think, by offering supplemental information that made the critters seem a lot less low-maintenance than the “leave them in a corner with some slop in a dish, they’ll take care of themselves” attitude they were being sold with. So be it; if you unable to give it optimum or even very good care, don’t buy it.
The adult in the tank was the saddest. The hatchlings would be getting a brand-new setup, and perhaps someone along the way would explain to their new keepers how to take care of this very common pet. The adult, however, was being sold for $100 along with his dirty, cramped tank and a bag of food. He could easily wind up moldering in a corner as-is, without anyone so much as glancing at a caresheet. I couldn’t afford $100 or provide a permanent home for him, but if necessary I had to at least foster him until I could find someone who’d care for him.
The ad said everything was free after 3PM. I didn’t quite trust that, but I waited around till 2:40 anyhow and meandered over to stake out the area around the tank. Heaven forbid a college student or child find a free gecko and no one to ask if he/she would take care of it. The owner himself was there this time, it seemed. He noted my interest in the gecko and sauntered (the only proper word for it) up to see if I was going to buy it. I explained that it seemed a shame to have to buy a tank I wouldn’t be using; this obviously wasn’t a great way to keep a crestie. He retorted that he was a herpetologist, SO. WELL. YEAH. Tempting as it was to ask, “then why don’t you know anything about this animal?,” I just explained that I was pretty concerned about the gecko — students in this college town can buy and discard pets on a whim, and the lady earlier had been telling people to keep them in deli cups. He tried to deny this last part but I gave him what I’d heard more or less verbatim, and he uncomfortably conceded and changed the subject to how this gecko would be going onto Craigslist if it wasn’t sold here.
I really didn’t want to argue with such an unpleasant person, and I didn’t have much cash on me even if I could haggle him out of the vivarium part (and then I’d still need to rehome the critter) … but I couldn’t just leave that gecko in a mildewing tank on a table in the 90-degree sun either. The owner had stalked off to find an easier sale, so I was left dithering in front of the animal table. Suddenly, a couple of young guys wandered up, and they just looked like they knew reptiles. You get to know the look — or maybe it’s as much to do with how they look at the animals as how they appear themselves. Anyhow, one of them went up to the tank and said right off, “This shouldn’t be outside.” And then I knew for sure. Next thing, and for the second time in a handful of minutes, the owner was getting told off about the tank — it’s too small, it’s too short, this isn’t a good cage for cresties. Again he tried, “I’m a herpetologist!” Again, nobody gave a flying frog about that. He glanced between the guy and me, and found not an ounce of sympathy for his plight between us.
That was enough, and money was money; he agreed to sell crestie-sans-cage to the new guy for $30. I tried not to look overly smug and triumphant, though I felt at least a little smug triumph was warranted in this situation. The gecko was beautiful and tough and deserved so much better than being unloaded like a piece of furniture when his captors decided they wanted to travel the world. I can guarantee his new person knows an arboreal tank from a terrestrial, and even if that guy didn’t know anything else at all about cresties he obviously cares enough to find out. That’s where I was years ago with my rescue leopard gecko, and now I’ve learned immeasurably more about reptiles than I knew at the start. Godspeed, little crestie, and good fortune to his daring rescuer. Today was your lucky day, after all.