Phoebe is a very interesting animal!
|June 2nd, 2009
I don’t really know where to start. I’ve never done a journal, or diary before…to be honest I wouldn’t be doing one now, but I wanted a record of the things that have happened and are happening right now. So, this is it.
I guess I should start by introducing myself. Well, that how I’m going to start anyways.
My name is Jaycee. I’m 20 years old, and I work at a pet store in a small town in Alberta, Canada. I live in the condo that me and my boyfriend, Mark, rent. We have one other roommate, my best friend Maya. I have 2 cats, 2 toads, 2 spiney mice, and a bearded dragon. I usually have at least one extra cat, I rescue, but the last one just got adopted a few weeks ago, and I haven’t found another stray yet.
As you can see I love animals of all shapes and sizes. That’s part of what got me in this situation.
Well, now that I’ve got that out it’s time to go back to the beginning. Everything started about two weeks ago.
We live in a condo complex. It’s not a very nice place, to be honest. There are a lot of parties, loud arguments, kids that have no rules, that sort of thing. There are worse places to live, and we’re pretty good about keeping our place out of trouble. One of the side effects of living here is the cats. It happens all the time, someone moves out so they leave their cat behind. Usually the cat is under a year old, and the type of people who dump their pets aren’t the type of people who get them fixed. So there get to be more and more cats.
That’s why I started rescuing them. I couldn’t just leave them out there, they were getting sick, getting bullied, and starving. So I started feeding them. I got dad to make me a shelter for them, and they all started coming around to me. They stayed safer with a shelter and a place where no one would throw things at them. I’ve gotten about half the cats here fixed, but I still have to catch the rest of them. Some are pretty wild.
That’s what I was doing when I found her.
I knew one of the females I hadn’t gotten fixed was pregnant, she had gone missing for a few days, then I saw her that morning thinner. Usually that means she’s had the kittens, they need fulltime care for the first few days, she’ll only leave them if to eat quickly. So I went to go find her nest. The easiest way to keep the population down is to take the kittens when they are between six and ten weeks old, tame them, and find them homes.
I was looking under everything; doorsteps, junk piles, in my shelter. I couldn’t find them. So I started checking under cars to see if I could find the mother, sometimes they’ll lead me to the babies.
Well, I looked under one of the cars and there she was. I didn’t know what it was, I couldn’t tell if it was male or female…but then again I had no idea how you would go about checking that. She was curled up as tight as she could curl right behind the left front tire. I wouldn’t even have seen her if she hadn’t looked right at me.
Her eyes were what got me. I knew I couldn’t leave her there, but I had no idea if I could get her, let alone what I could do with her if I did catch her. After I got over my surprise I looked closer. She was hurt.
She shifted positions so she could lick her back leg and I could see tire marks on her side, her front leg was cocked oddly too. Possibly dislocated…or maybe that’s just how they were? She looked at me again, those eyes! They were black, totally black. Now I know that that was her pupils expanding because of the shock, but her pupils are much more mobile than any other animal I’ve ever seen.
She was panting, probably from shock, so I decided to chance it. I went around the car to her side, and spoke very calmly as I knelt a few feet away from her tire. I heard a low hiss, but it was very short, and she lay her head on the cement after. She must have been so cold. I moved my hand towards her very slowly, and she didn’t seem to notice. I kept talking in that low calming voice that seems to help, and I tried to seem uninterested. “Hey there, you’re alright. You’re alright. Let me just get a little closer. Hey there, that’s right. No worries.”
She let me stroke her flank, but the tip of her tail twitched nervously. I tried to coax her to move for a few minutes, but she wasn’t going to, or couldn’t. I removed my sweater and inched closer on my hands and knees. She looked up at me again, and chirped. It seemed like she had given up. She didn’t make any other noises as I smoothed out my sweater next to her.
I took a while, very carefully running my hand up her body. I was ready to back off if she wanted space, but she was calm, too calm. She was bigger than I first thought, more muscular. I could see the muscles rippling when I stroked her. She wasn’t used to being touched. She was about the size of a large tomcat; but very slim, I would guess twelve or fifteen pounds. I got a surprise when I lifted her up. She was light! Probably closer to nine or ten pounds. I wrapped her carefully in the sweater, making sure I placed a sleeve over her eyes, and I picked her up gingerly.
Mark met me on the way home, he knew I’d been nest hunting, and I’d been gone a while so he had come to check on me. His eyes widened at the sight of the long tail hanging down out of the sweater. I widened my eyes, and tilted my head slightly to the right, a snoopy neighbor was watching us. He came to stand on my right side, blocking her view of the tail.
“What’s going on Jace? What is that?!”
“I have no idea, but it’s hurt and it let me touch it and pick it up…wait till you see what’s under the blanket.” I was walking quicker now, hoping to avoid that neighbor as she walked down her front steps towards us.
“What are we going to do with it?” He asked as he matched his pace to mine. He smiled politely at the neighbor as we passed her, pretending to miss her hints that she wanted to talk.
We passed two more houses quietly, then we were home. He opened the door and I got in quick. We laid her down in the middle of the living room and uncovered her eyes, leaving her body still wrapped in the sweater. She lifted her head to look around, hissing softly when one of our cats got too close.
“There there, he’s not going to hurt you. He’s just curious.” I crooned, hoping to soothe her. She looked at me and mimicked my croon, then relaxed a bit and put her head back down.
“We’re all curious.” Mark said wryly. “What are we going to do with her? Can we take her to the vet?”
“I don’t think we can.” I replied, thinking quickly. ”I don’t know if they could even help. And anyways they’d probably have to report her or something.”
“Report her to who?” He was puzzled now. “Isn’t it and iguana or something?” She shifted her weight off her injured leg and the sweater slipped, revealing the wings I’d wrapped so carefully. “Oh. My. God.”
“I know…” It finally hit me what we were looking at as she resettled her wings tight to her body.
“She’s a…” He paused, not wanting to say it, as if not saying it would change anything. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then opened his eyes again. “Holy shit. She’s still there.” I grinned at the look on his face, I don’t think the reality had quite hit me yet.
“She’s beautiful.” I murmured, touching the spines that ran from halfway down her neck to the middle of her tail. She was beautiful, even injured, and she’s still beautiful now.
She’s watching me type this, sitting in the basket next to my desk. It’s like she knows that I’m writing about her.
The rest of the day was a blur. We ended up calling my mom, who is a nurse, and we took her over there. My mom checked her over the best she could, bandaged some small cuts, and looked at the leg. It was dislocated, but my mom agreed that we couldn’t take her to the vet. Who knew what they would want to do with her. My mom gave us another surprise too.
“Well, I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure she’s got eggs in there.” She wiped her hand over her eyes as she said it. She rubbed her forehead and looked at us.
“What!” Mark and I exclaimed together.
“I’m pretty sure…I mean, I felt some little things in there that shouldn’t be. If she were a mammal I’d be positive. But we don’t know about anything, I mean…It could just be how her organs are or something,” She was babbling, uncertain. The…lizard...lifted her head and chirped again. She had been uneasy with my mom examining her, but she had held still pretty well. Mom had left the front leg alone, worried of her reaction if it got jarred.
“Oh my god.” Mark said it again, for about the hundredth time. He seemed stuck on it.
“Yeah, no kidding.” I replied. “We should give her a bath. I know reptiles need to be kept warm…and they can absorb liquid through their skin. She might feel better if we did.” I shrugged, it was worth a go.
“Alright. I’ll go run the tub.” Mom got up and headed for the bathroom. We heard water running a moment later, and then a door shutting.
“Jesus. Eggs. What are we going to do? We don’t know what she eats. Hell, we don’t even know IF she eats!” He was freaking out a bit, quietly so he didn’t disturb the lizard, but he was definitely freaking out.
“I know Mark. But we have to help her.” I hugged him close, but he pulled away.
“No, why do we have to help her? Why don’t we just call animal control or something? They can deal with her. Or the zoo, we could give her to the zoo.” His voice was getting louder by the second.
“Mark, relax. We can’t do that. You know what they do to animals. They’d just dissect her or something.” I took a deep breath and he looked at me, knowing what I was going to say. “Look Mark. I love you, but I need to do this. It’s just…I need to.” I held his hand tight, and tried not to plead with my eyes. It didn’t work.
“Oh god Jace. What are we going to do?” He held me close, wrapping his arms around me. And right then she chirped. We looked over to her, resting in a pile of towels on the kitchen table. She cocked her head at us, chirped again, and fluttered her wings. She looked ridiculous. We both grinned. “Alright, she is kind of sweet.” He admitted. I couldn’t believe it, we were going to help her.
I spent the next few days figuring out what she could eat. We kept her in the room we saved for fosters. She didn’t move about much, or at least we didn’t think she did. The leg obviously hurt her, but she did limp about if I sat in the room with her. She was a carnivore, almost exactly like the cats. She preferred the mice I had in the freezer, which was great as I’d bought them for a snake we had fostered for a bit and I couldn’t convince the cats to eat them. She would also eat steaks, hamburger (without enthusiasm) and some types of fruits and veggies.
The bathroom issue had me concerned, but it turned out she would happily use a litter box like a cat. She needed a bigger box, because of her tail, so I just converted a big storage tub and she seemed quite content with it.
I phoned around to the vets, asking if any would be willing to see a sort-of reptilian patient without any information and very secretively and finally we were able to take her in. The vet was amazed at her, he poked, prodded, and mumbled as he examined every inch of her.
“She’s amazing, simply amazing.” He kept repeating it as he looked her over. “Your mother was right. She’s gravid for sure. I’d say she’ll lay in about a week.” Mark and I looked at each other.
“What do we do? We have to give her something to lay in…and do we need to heat the eggs?” I was hoping he might be able to guess, but he just shrugged.
“I have no idea. I would guess a lay box similar to that of a bearded dragon, only much larger of course. Maybe start with pure sand, and then add water until she’s pleased with it?” He shrugged again; he hadn’t taken his eyes off her yet. “Um..” He coughed, finally looking away, his eyes focused on his boots. “May I have one of the eggs? I would like to try and hatch it.” He rushed through the sentence and just kept going “I wouldn’t hurt it intentionally. I would like to see if they can be tamed, how the eggs hatch, what hatchlings eat…perhaps I could come check on her at your home. She really shouldn’t be taken out; both for the obvious reasons, and to protect the eggs.”
I interrupted him, “Yeah, I guess. But you can’t tell anyone. If I find out you’ve told anyone I won’t give you an egg. We’ll hide her somewhere else!” His shocked expression told me that was the right thing to say, he wanted to examine her again so much that he would keep his mouth shut.
We agreed that he would come every other day, and we all started doing out research on how reptiles laid their eggs. We filled a huge plastic tub with sand and then put it in her room to see how she responded. I had noticed she loved lounging in the light from the window, so I attached a heat lamp pointing in to the sand. She spent the rest of her time alternating between the light from the window and the heat lamp. It was a hit.
The week passed quickly. We decided to call her Phoebe, which means ‘brilliant’ in Greek. We looked it up, and it suited. She was incredibly smart. She learned her name and a few key words almost as fast as we could teach her. She began putting more weight on the leg, it popped back in the day after the vet visit, but she still limped. I took so many pictures of her, she is just so amazing.
Her scales are soft, softer than my bearded dragon’s. A texture closer to a leopard gecko’s, but without any bumps or protrusions; it makes sense if you think about it, any texture would cause drag when she flew. All over she’s a soft golden color, she has speckles of dark and light brown spreading down her shoulders, and her stomach is a lighter shade of gold.
When she’s calm her eyes are a deep gold, the pupils are very similar to a cat’s, but if she’s agitated or concerned her pupils flare out and all you see is that shocking deep black. Her wings are her own. They aren’t like bat wings, or bird wings, they’re all her. I guess they are closest to bat wings, but it’s such a poor comparison. They are thin but very strong, transparent with a light behind her, and you can see where the bones are that give them structure. They are light gold on the bottom the same as her belly, and on top they match her back with deep gold and brown speckles. They join her body just behind her shoulder blades, and she keeps them folded back when she’s calm and resting. She’s very expressive with her wings, flaring them out to express surprise or mantling them forward to show aggression and protection. She cups them around her eggs when she’s feeling protective.
Her body reminds me of a greyhound. Phoebe has a deep, slender chest, and small tight waist (now that it’s not full of eggs) as well as an athletic feel all over. Her legs, especially her rear legs, are very muscled. Her front legs and hands are dainty and they remind me of a monkey’s. She has five fingers on her front legs, four toes, and one similar to a dog’s dewclaw on the rear. Her tail is prehensile to some extent, it can’t hold her body weight, but she does use it to balance and wrap around something to stabilize her. As soon as you look into her eyes you know she’s intelligent to some extent.
She reminds me in some ways of a dog, she’s smart and willing to learn, but she is also independent like a cat. She can be aloof, as most reptiles are, but she seems to enjoy my company, and the occasional scratch. She is extremely fastidious, grooming constantly when she’s awake. She keeps checking her nest, for bugs maybe, and seems pleased when she finds none.
Overall she’s a sweet creature. Still a little hesitant about most people, and she seems to prefer females over males, but she tolerates Mark. I’m not sure if her hesitance is just her nature, or if she’s just uncertain of us, but we seem to have won her over fairly quickly.
As she healed she began flying again. She would lift into the air in her room and hover, and then fly slow circles around the room. We let her out around the house as her and the cats got more accustomed to each other, so she now flies around exploring when Mark or I are home. Phoebe and Maya have a kind of truce. They don’t purposely interact, but from across the room they are fascinated with each other.
Yesterday she laid her eggs. There are fifteen, a smaller clutch for such a large animal, but her accident probably hurt some of them. They are sitting upstairs, under the heat lamp, and we’re all just waiting. Phoebe goes to check on them frequently, the cats are staying out after they got dive-bombed a few times, and she seems content with them.
Now the problem is what to do if we get fifteen little Phoebes! Well, fourteen. Dr. Jacobs has one of the eggs at his home. One down, fourteen to go.