Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Update on the past few years...

So many things have changed since I started this blog a few years ago.  When I first started this I was a house wife and mother of two kids living in CO.  I worked for a reptile rescue and kept a few species of lizards as pets.  My pets at the time were my Painted turtle, a pair of White lined geckos, a pair of Cuban Knight anoles, a Crested gecko, a Tokay gecko and a pair of Green tree monitors.

At one point I had around 50 reptiles and amphibians in my house...chameleons, geckos, anoles, snakes, skinks, turtles, monitors, alligators, salamanders and frogs.  When I worked for the rescue I took in a lot of animals and was able to save most of them.  I also did educational programs at schools, libraries, public functions, etc.  I did this for almost 2 years until one day the rescue I worked for was shut down.  

The demise of this reptile rescue was a horrific shock, not just to me but to the whole community.  Turns out the couple who ran it were animal horders.  Around 40 reptiles were found dead at their house and around another 50 were sick and dying, living in horrible conditions.  I got called in to help at my vet's office and the local Humane society.  The animals I saw there were in such bad shape I couldn't believe it.  I cried about the whole thing for weeks and still do now on occasion.  I can't believe how anyone could call themselves a rescue, portray themselves as my friend and knowingly let rescued animals slowly die like that.  Many had no food or water...no heat or UV lighting..emaciated, dehydrated, dying slowly unable to cry out for help.  I am not going to go into all the horrid details of what was found at that house but if you use your worst imagination, you get the idea.

During my time working for the rescue there were signs that things were not right.  Firstly, when I met them I had offered to come over to their house and help clean cages, etc.  They always said they didn't need help because the "husband" didn't work and was home all day caring for them.  At the time my kids were too young to leave home so I would've had to bring my son with me and they used this as an excuse as well.   My son is allergic to dogs and they had four of them, so I never thought much about them never wanting me to come over due to this.  I never thought they were hiding anything from me because they were a rescue.

Secondly, I had made arrangements with my vet, who by the way is a wonderful woman.  She agreed to see and practice on the reptiles for free, I only had to pay for the cost of medications, supplies used and x-rays.  She extended the same courtesy to the couple whole owned the rescue but they never took any animals to her.  Instead, they kept giving me more and more animals because they knew I would take them.  They knew I couldn't refuse to help reptiles because I loved them so much.  I knew I was being used but at the time I let it go for the animal's sake.  I knew I could help them, I had the time, the money and the love needed to heal them.

Thirdly, I started to become suspicious about the care they provided and their intentions as a rescue when some of the education animals brought to programs started to look sicker.  I would ask about the reptiles in question and the "husband" would say to me "Oh yeah he isn't doing good, that's why I brought him out here.  I was going to give him to you to rehab."  I never questioned him about it, I always took them home.  The whole time I would think to myself, well maybe they aren't that great in caring for this type of species or maybe they just don't have the time or money to take it to a vet.  I never wanted to think that they were deliberately using the animals to make money....but that's what they were doing.  Every education program was done for donation money.  They never took animals to the vet.  Animals were not being fed or cared for, so where did the money go?  This really, really upsets me.  I can not even put into words how appalled I am, how sick this makes me.

The worst part is the fact that some of the animals I rehabbed, I gave back to them to be adopted out.  The truth is, they didn't adopt any out and the reptiles I gave back to them died instead of being adopted.  Those reptiles I had brought back from the brink of death or whatever had survived only to be put back into a horrible situation resulting in their death.  How terribly awful is this?!  Even though it's not my fault I feel guilty.  If I had known I would've never sent them back.  This tears me up inside and I still cry about those reptiles.  I don't know if any of you reading this have ever rescued an animal, but when you do, you form a bond with that animal.  Thank goodness I did keep some of the rescue reptiles with me and after the rescue got shut down I kept them indefinitely.

After everything settled down my friends and people in the community urged me to start my own rescue.  As much as I would've loved too, I had to decline.  During the time the rescue was being investigated, I was dealing with an unfaithful husband.  I had decided to divorce him and move to PA so I could be around my family.  I am not originally from CO.  When I was younger I joined the ARMY straight out of high school.  I met my now ex husband at my first duty station.  After we married and I became pregnant, I got out of the military while he stayed in.  We were only in CO because he was stationed at FT. Carson.

Most people think divorce is a tragic event but for me it meant freedom.  My ex husband was never supportive of me going to college, becoming a herpetologist and opening my own reptile rescue and educational facility.  He was not an animal person or a kid person for that matter.  Our marriage was a very difficult one for me and our children as he was a very selfish man.  I spent many years in my marriage, almost twelve, learning and accepting that people don't change, they are who they are.  This last time that he cheated, was the last straw for me.  I will never forget what our marriage counselor told me at the time, he said "The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior".  SO TRUE!  So, with my new found freedom to live my life how I wanted, I decided that after moving to PA I would start going to college full time to become a herpetologist.

Let me tell you, moving 50 reptiles, two kids and a whole houseful of stuff across the country is not easy!  I was so nervous, I wanted to move without causing the reptiles any more stress than I had to.  I had my mother and sister pick up my kids while I drove a huge 24 ft truck filled with animals.  I didn't want to stop overnight so I drove 32 hours straight.  I was so jacked up on caffeine and nicotine it was crazy.  During the last hour, from lack of sleep I started to hallucinate.  I had my mother drive out to where I was at that time so I could follow her to her house.  I really don't know how I did it.  I just kept thinking that I had to get the animals settled in as little time as possible so they didn't get sick from the stress of moving.  The tree monitors were my biggest concern because they need to be kept warm.  The longer I was on the road, the longer they went with out heat.  Tree monitors also get sick easily from stress.  I wish I could say everyone made it but unfortunately two of my Crested geckos died:(  I had placed them on the floor of the cab and the floor got too hot for them.  Everyone else made it:)

Since my move to PA...

I have sold my pair of Oustalets chameleons to a breeder friend of mine.  Rex the rescued Oustalets chameleon eventually succumbed to the fungal infection he was fighting for so long...I cried like a baby:(  All three rescued Veiled chameleons died one by one from old age.  I sold my pair of Tokay geckos to a breeder.  I sold all my Crested geckos except Tigerlily (she was my first and I could never sell her).  My Cuban Knight anoles have all passed away except Sam (she was the last and youngest of my group).  Blue the rescued Blue tongue skink who had eye lid surgery passed away.  My female Blue tree monitor, the one who was in such horrible shape when I first got her, ended up dying during copulation with Scar.  She was so old, I never thought they would breed, she just couldn't take it.

The reptiles I have currently are Andy the rescue Savannah monitor with no toes, Emeril and Jade my pair of green tree monitors, Harvey a rescue green tree monitor, three yellow tree monitors, a kordo tree monitor, a black tree monitor, Scar the blue tree monitor, Sabrina the Tokay gecko, Mr. and Mrs. Stripe and their daughter Necrid the White lined geckos, Sam the Cuban Knight anole, Tigerlily the Crested gecko, Gambit and Rouge my pair of giant day geckos, Michelangelo the painted turtle (who is now thirteen years old), Thor the red tail boa, Bella the green tree python, Angela the leucistic texas rat snake, a young alligator and a ball python I'm homing temporarily for a friend.

I've been going to college and made Dean's list and the honor society, go me!  I like college but it is very time consuming.  As a result I hardly make YouTube videos or get on reptile forums anymore.  I barely have time to work with my reptiles. Barely have time for my kids, family and friends.  I'm considering cutting back on classes or taking a break.  More and more I keep thinking of starting my own rescue.  Maybe if I take a break from college I can get to work starting one here in PA and go back to school later after my kids are a little older.  I'm gone a lot since I go to college full time and when I'm home I'm doing homework...it's starting to take a toll on my kids:(  They miss me and I miss them too.  I also miss spending time with the reptiles.  What to do...