The Nile Monitor, or, What's Wrong with this Picture?

The Nile monitor. A lovely little lizard, whose slim lines indicate great speed. Whose sharp, sharp teeth hint of pain to come, when that lovely little lizard hits seven feet long and everyone in the household is too terrified to try to save the family Pomeranian from its fate as the pup du jour....

Most of us aren't the Crocodile Hunter. We're not likely to yell "Crikey, mate, it's chewing my arm off! Isn't this fun?" when something bites the hell out of us. That's why I can't quite figure out why so many people want things like a Nile monitor.

This isn't a pet, man.

Think "velociraptor with an attitude." Think "parent of three-year-old triplets who all want a Barney for Christmas, and someone else is about to pick up the last one." Think "Madonna and David Letterman, trying for a third time to get through an interview."

Getting a clue?

Think "highly aggressive." Okay, here's a classic moment, from real life. My real life. Not hearsay, not "yeah, well, I saw this on the net." (Although I guess you can now say you saw this on the net....)

Some smart-ass employee let loose three juvenile Nile monitors in our store. The longest was, oh, about two feet, tip of the pointed little nose to the tip of the pointed little whip-tail. We trapped one back in the dog food, it got cold and we were able trick one of the new people into putting on the welding gloves and picking the sucker up. The littlest one, well, we scooped that sucker up in a pond net, and sort of shoveled it back into the cage. But the big one.... Oh, man.

A couple of weeks went by, no sign of The Big One. Then, I'm walking down this aisle, pine shavings and stuff on one side, hamster roll-about balls and wheels on the other, and I'm trying to explain to some peabrained customer why red cedar killed his previous two rabbits. Minding my own beeswax, right, and suddenly something dark shoots out of the shelf of packaged bedding. Slams into my right thigh. Hard. I heard the noise before I looked down.

The Big One.

Hanging off the side of my leg, gnawing at my jeans, claws digging right through the denim into my skin as it tries to scale the mountain. Its own personal Everest, or whatever.

My options were limited. I could stick my bare hands down there, and lose a reasonable amount of blood and tissue. I could pretend nothing was happening. Or, I could hope that someone would help me. Red Cedar Boy was backing up, gibbering hysterically, so I knew there was no help from that quarter. Finally, one of the other grunts brought a few towels from grooming, and pried The Big One off me.

Yes, my jeans were a bit frayed. So was my skin. And my nerves. And, not surprisingly, my temper.

What's wrong with this picture?, I asked myself. What kind of fucking idiot would insist on selling this kind of animal to the general -- and I'm going to say it, cuz you know it's true -- and butt-ignorant public?

The kind of person who runs the company that owns the store where I work, that's what kind of fucking idiot would insist on selling dangerous animals to other fucking idiots.

Now, I'm going to take one minute here and say, in all honesty, not all people who own monitors are fucking idiots. I would never for one millisecond think my friend Paul is a fucking idiot. But then, Paul knows what he's doing. He's read up on this. He's comfortable with the level of danger posed, and he's acted to minimize it.

He's also one in a thousand, when it comes to monitors.

Most of these animals are purchased from pet stores like ours. By fucking idiots like ours, who come into the store, say, "Goddamn, Mary Lou, ain't that thang kewl? We'd be the talk of the trailer park, if'n we had us one of them thangs!" To which the idiot's wife/cousin/half-sister replies, "Hay-ul yes! Let's get one! We kin keep it in that old fish tank we got! It'll stay reeeeeel tiny in that old ten-gallon!"

There are some animals that simply should not be kept as pets. And certainly some people who should not be allowed to keep pets.... We'll discuss the entire issue of Ethics in the Pet Trade another time, shall we?

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Last updated: 3 January 2001. Page copyright 2000-2009.