Ode to Lizards

Grandma's LizardThey don’t really like to cuddle, or gaze longingly into your eyes, and unconditional love is no guarantee. So what is going on with those lizard-loving freaks — like me? First off, I would venture to say that there probably aren’t that many of us out there. Dog and cat people rule the planet. Even smelly hamsters may have more followers — they do kind of look like little teddy bears.

But lizard lovers are extreme. My favorite example is a man I encountered at a cafĂ© in West Hollywood. I was having brunch with my husband, when I looked over to see a Chinese Water Dragon reclining on a miniature, purple lounge chair. It must be fake, I thought, but then the lizard, with one hand propped delicately behind his head in the most relaxed of poses, moved. I just had to go talk to the owner, who turned out to be Henry Lizardlover, a guy who legally changed his name to honor his reptilian passions. Henry lives with dozens of lizards — iguanas seem to be his favorite — and has made several television appearances with his scaly roommates. He also captures entertaining photos of lizards in human-like poses.

I’m personally fascinated by lizards because they are so wildly different from us human beings. They are like little aliens from a sandy, desert planet. It’s fun to think about what lizards would be like if they evolved intelligence, which just might have happened if an asteroid hadn’t killed the dinosaurs. I might be typing away right now with big scaly hands and manicured claws painted pink. And if my tail got caught in the chair, and broke off, I could just grow a new one!

Lizards can regenerate their tails as you may have heard, and some can even do the trick more than once even though cartilage grows back instead of bone. The severed tails are designed to keep wriggling around in the mouth of a predator, fooling them into thinking they’ve still got a hold of their food.

Lizard tails can come in vivid colors too as a way of attracting prey to replaceable parts, and away from the out-of-stock heads. Flatworms may be able to make a new head, but lizards, unfortunately, cannot. Humans can’t even regenerate a finger (except in some cases), but we can regrow a liver. Check out the striking colors and tails of the Agama lizard family.

As different as lizards are from us, it’s still fun to imbue them with human traits. Henry Lizardlover says his friendly iguanas return to his car after a stroll in the park, ready to go home. I used to have a Bearded Dragon, and I swear he liked to cuddle with me on the couch. Okay, so maybe he just liked the heat. But there’s something oddly satisfying about something so different from us also being so similar.