July 12, 2008

Tycho: Reptilian Goodwill Amabassador

After yesterday's foray, during which I generated a noteworthy amount of sweat and also slipped and fell into a bog, I came home to take a quick shower and grab a change of clothes. I figured that I'd be polite to the others working in the bio center and not subject them to the combined scent of DEET, perspiration and decayed vegetable matter that accompanied me everywhere I went.

As I prepared to leave, Tycho made it known that he wanted to be let out of his cage with a display of desperate jumping and scratching. I needed to get back to the lab, though, and didn't want to leave Tycho unattended and loose, so I decided to take him with me. Tycho was quite happy with this solution. As soon as we got to the car he settled down, content to climb up to his favorite spot and look out the window as we drove down Main Street.

Arriving back at the dirty lab (the one where we work on culturing and morphology, as opposed to the clean lab used for molecular work), Tycho found a spot from which he could both look out the window and keep an eye on me as I worked. He was perfectly content and relaxed, even comfortable as he laid his head upon the warm transformer of my laptop's power supply.

When fellow grad student CaKh came in and suggested that we have a smoke together, I brought Tycho along. I didn't want to return to a drunken lizard who had eaten my Coleoptera specimens preserved in 200-proof ethanol and thought he'd like to be out in the sunshine. He did; he even managed to catch a large fly, much to the amusement of CaKh who expressed surprise that Tycho's vision is accurate enough for him to have stalked the hapless insect from four feet away. Once he'd eaten, Tycho even gave us a display of his scaly superiority, vigorously and triumphantly bopping his head up and down.

We thereafter returned to the lab and soon labling Andy showed up. Tycho had since fallen asleep, having lodged himself comfortably between my dissection microscope and the wall. I let him sleep there until I was finished with my work and then it was time to go. I couldn't put my equipment away with Tycho in his spot, so I asked Andy if he'd like to see what happens when one startles a bearded dragon (hint: think reflexive erection of many sharp spines), and Andy came in and worked at a bolete he collected. I moved Tycho near to where he was working and Andy began pulling beetle larvae out of the bolete. Tycho got to eat those, too, which made both Andy and Tycho happy, it seemed.

After I'd stowed my stuff, it was time to head home. Tycho rode on my shoulder in the car and on the way we stopped off at the Main and Mill Mobil station. I don't like the idea of leaving Tycho alone in the car, especially since the theft of my MP3 player last April. Gadgets can be replaced; Tycho is unique. He remained on my shoulder as I went inside.

There's nothing quite like large exotic reptile to cause a stir when it shows up in an unexpected place. Everyone wanted to get a closer look. The first question, of course, was whether Tycho would bite. Well, perhaps he'd bite a cupcake, but a human? Humans aren't food. Tycho, I assured everyone, has never bitten anyone in his long life. Before long, a mother and her two young children were petting him. The female clerk, who told me that she's not only scared of reptiles but of dogs and cats as well, wanted me to stay until her sister came into the store to greet the bearded dragon with a scream. The real reaction was more of a gasp, but before I was permitted to leave the store that same clerk was having her picture taken by another clerk, Tycho perched calmly on her extended arm. So much for her fear of reptiles. Tycho wins another convert!

It was 7:00 PM by the time we got home, well past Tycho's usual bedtime. He'd had a big day — a ride in the car, exploring a new place, stalking and eating bugs he'd never tried before, and meeting a number of new humans. He didn't even want to watch television. As soon as he was back in his cage, Tycho wedged his head under his perching stick and passed out.

It's hard work being the goodwill ambassador from Squamata to the humans, but Tycho is again revved up and ready to go this morning. As soon as he awoke, he wanted out again. I'm going to bring him with me this afternoon when I attend the Greater Worcester Humanists summer outing. It's entirely possible that Tycho will get to meet Matthew LaClair. It's going to be a big day for the lizard that everyone loves.

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