As previously mentioned, during my senior year of high school I worked retail at a pet supply store. Towards the end of my time with the company I was promoted to the prestigious position of Reptile Specialist; mostly due to my potentially life threatening lack of fear of most animals (save the demonic anteater, but we won’t get into that). I say ‘life threatening’ because it’s a very good possibility that my cause of death will one day be that I am mauled by a wolf, because I don’t care how dangerous that thing looks . . . I’m still going to try and pet it.
The reptile section consisted of many different types of animals from tarantulas, scorpions, frogs, and iguanas to numerous varieties of snakes and lizards. One of my favorites were the anoles. Anoles are a small all-green lizard that, minus the tail, are only about as long as your index finger and have a triangular shaped head. They’re pretty much your garden variety lizards, but were always one of my favorites to watch. The way that their tiny heads would sharply jet about to keep an eye on me while I cleaned their cage made them seem quizzical in nature and therefore I imagined them having a hidden intelligence that I was unable to fully comprehend. Their disposition was calm and friendly, the type of lizard that you could really kick back and smoke a bowl with.
One morning I came into work and began my daily routine of cleaning cages, filling water bowls, and feeding the animals if necessary, when I noticed that one of the anoles was not looking too well. He was laying in the center of his terrarium, inches from his water dish, not hanging in the artificial branches like the majority of his brethren. His body was almost completely atrophied, as if every ounce of moisture had been drained out of him, and his tiny chest was the only movement I saw as it slowly expanding and contracted grasping for each breathe. Now I’m not a vet, so I don’t know the exact cause of his affliction, but if I had to ponder a guess I’d say it was lizard Lou Gehrig’s disease.
After a few feeble attempts to get some water into him, as if he were one of those grow-your-own dinosaur sponge toys that children play with and all he needed was water to bring him bounding back to life, I realized that the best thing I could do for him was to humanely put him to rest. I figured the best way to accomplish this would be to asphyxiate him. It wasn’t the quickest way to go but it was the most painless, as I imagined him just slowly drifting off to an eternal sleep. I went and grabbed one of the clear plastic bags that we used to package the fish that customers purchased and delicately placed the anole’s frail, shriveled body in it.
I knew how to seal the bag air tight by a technique that we used to bag the fish, but I first needed to get as much air as possible out of the bag because it would take his tiny lungs a long time to use up all the oxygen that remained and I didn’t want him to suffer any longer than he needed to. I knew that the easiest way to get the air out would be to cup the end of the bag over my lips and suck the air out myself, but as dedicated as I was to my goal, I wasn’t willing to suck unknown diseased lizard air into my lungs. We did, however, have a large wet/dry vacuum that we used to remove the used saw chips from animals’ cages when we cleaned them. The wet/dry vac was essentially just a large motorized hose that emptied out into a 5 gallon yellow bucket. Congratulating myself on my ingenuity, I rolled the wet/dry vac over toward me, plugged it in, placed the end of the large hose into the opening of the plastic bag, and then with my left hand created an air-tight seal between hose and bag. I switched the vacuum on and watched as the air, bag, and lizard disappeared in the blink of an eye, having been sucked into the vacuum and with an audible ‘thud,’ violently thrown against the inside wall of the 5 gallon bucket.
I was near tears as I tossed the crumpled remains of the anole in the garbage can. Moments earlier when I had decided to end a life, I was willing to sacrifice a quick end to ensure a painless one but had someone managed to accomplish the exact opposite. I learned a valuable lesson that day. When attempting to euthanize a small animal, do not involve large industrial strength mechanical equipment.
In Memory Of Benjamin J. Lizard III. Though short and seemingly pointless, your existence will always be remembered.