Date: Mon, 7 Aug 1995 22:06:57 -0400
From: Myles Callum <MCALLUM@DELPHI.COM>
Subject: Totally Petty
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <WORDS-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>

As The Case of Ms. Fluffy Paws shows, it is mandatory to report all new or potential housemates to the list. Therefore ...

I went back to the pet show yesterday but still couldn't decide on a parrot. I wanted some sort of live diversion in the house, though -- preferably one that will never require alimony -- and had been intrigued by the chameleons the day before, so I came home with one of those. A male panther chameleon, domestically bred but native to Madagascar.

Chomsky is only six weeks old, about six inches long (half of that is tail) and entertaining to watch if you don't mind mostly slow motion. He has an almost cartoonish look, with a prehensile tail, movable eyeballs, deliberate gait, and delicate, twig-thin limbs, each of which ends in two opposable digits, ideal for climbing. He now resides in a small terrarium, but will need a bigger one.

I can amuse myself for hours watching him, which was the point. Put a cricket in the terrarium and he follows it alertly with those big eyes, one on each side of his head. They protrude like little gun turrets and rotate independently; he doesn't miss much. Moving along the branches, he stalks the cricket in an odd bobbing movement, perhaps meant to simulate foliage moving in the wind. When he gets within three or four inches of his target, the slow-motion part ceases and whap! -- a long sticky tongue darts out, and the cricket is gone. He hasn't missed yet. The astounding tongue is two or three inches long, nearly as long as the lizard's own body, and the crickets scurry around. I find this display of predatory precision thrilling and want to applaud, but Chomsky, a graduate of the Chuck Norris School of Drama, never changes his expression.

There are books to read, husbandry tips to learn. Chomsky needs a temperature of 85-90 degrees F. during the day, which is achieved by putting a reptile heat-light over the terrarium, or setting the cage in the sun on the deck. He also needs crickets, which themselves have needs -- oatmeal, and a small chunk of apple for moisture. The terrarium must be sprayed with water droplets a few times a day; if you put water in a dish, a chameleon will ignore it and can die of thirst. I never said he was Mensa material, just entertaining.