Acquired: Pet store
Granger, Indiana, United States
Posted Jul 17, 2014
I got a really cool birthday present when I turned 15. I had been asking my parents to get me a lizard or a snake for years. Birthdays, Christmas time, whenever we passed the pet store at the mall, I asked and asked and asked until I wore them down. Finally, I got my mom to cave in and actually allow a lizard into our house. Well, it was sort of a lizard. It was a small, leathery little guy with big eyes and long tale. He was a newt, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It might as well have been a Komodo Dragon with the way I showed him off to my friends. He ate cubes that were made up of flies and bugs. He had a tank called a terrarium, rocks to climb, and a diver guy holding a treasure chest at the bottom of the water area. I was in heaven.
For two weeks.
You see, that cool food full of flies and bugs, well, it goes through him eventually and settles in the bottom of the tank. Those rocks? They were covered with slime and grime, and they fell over a lot when he walked on top of them outside of the water level. And that cool terrarium? After two weeks of being filled with slime, excrement and sludge, it started to stink like the bottom of the dumpster behind the elementary school in June. Needless to say my mother made me clean every inch of that set-up, every week, until there was absolutely no smell coming from it whatsoever.
In addition to the weekly cleanings, the novelty of the bug-eyed little guy soon wore off with my friends. He moved around a lot, but after a few weeks he was just a small lizard in a box. I loved the little rascal, regardless of all of that, and I kept cleaning the tank and feeding him flies. It was an insane amount of work, but I was determined to prove to my parents that I hadn't made a mistake by taking on that responsibility. For two years, I fed him, cleaned his tank, and kept him safe.
One day, I was teasing him out loud about standing at attention on top of his rocks as I was leaving for school. He seemed so stiff, it was like he was getting ready to salute the members of the Newt army corps. When I came home, he hadn't moved. He looked pale, almost translucent. His eyes were sunken in, and his little fingers were dry and brittle. Slick had passed away.
As I look back on my time with him, I remember the good times. I had a lot of fun talking to him and imagining what he might have been saying back. But the overwhelming emotions of those years are centered around the horrible look of his eyes and skin when he died, the smell that was always present at some level, and the unbelievable amount of work that was required to maintain the tank. As a pet, I don't recommend bringing a newt into the family, unless you really, really need a quiet and accepting friend...
...and you really, really love cleaning his tank.