As many of you already know, I have an iguana named Perry. Five years ago, when he was a baby, I had a dream in which I discovered how to interpret his positions, coloration, and movements as a primitive language. I wrote a story, "Perry". Actually, it was Perry's own story; I just translated it (with a little artistic license on my part).

As the years went by, I didn't feel particularly compelled to write more of Perry's story because, to be blunt about it, his conversation is a little dull. It mostly revolves around food ("Damn, my food is dry."), basking ("I'm cold. There, that's better."), and tolerating the attention that my Son and I pay to him ("Here come those monsters again. I'll pretend I'm dead and they'll go away.").

However, last weekend Perry started doing a movement that I hadn't seen before. His head was a very light blue-green, almost turquoise, which usually indicates agitation or emotional distress. His movement was a very rapid nodding of the head, almost a vibration. I had seen both in isolation before - I had always translated the vibrating head as, "I'm one bad dude" - but I wasn't sure what to make of the combination. For lack of a better idea, I interpreted the color to be a simple emotional intensifier , "I'm one HELL of a bad dude!"

This made for the start of an interesting afternoon.

So, here (in approximately his own words) is Perry's story.

"I'm one HELL of a bad dude! Damn! Get out of my way! I'm one HELL of a bad dude!"

[Perry is pacing rapidly at the door to his cage, which is now a floor-to-ceiling affair with several shelves at different heights. I decide to open the door to see if he wants to get out.]

"Yo! What the Hell does the monster want? I'm one HELL of a bad dude! Come on over here monster. ... Well, I'm waiting."

[Perry made no motion to leave the cage, so I decide to pet him. That usually calms him.]

"That's better. A little closer. Uh huh. That's good enough. Now hold still."

[Perry approaches me with his mouth open. Now, Perry has bitten me a few times in the past. Not counting when he was a baby, the only times he has done so have been when he as been in a full predator-prey panic. I.e. he interpreted my actions as a HUNGERY monster. His bite consisted of a sudden lunge, a quick strike, and an equally quick retreat. But the behavior he was showing now was brand new to me. He was moving moderately slow but very deliberately toward my hand, his mouth wide open. I retreated.]

"What the Hell? What's wrong with you? Are you blind or just stupid? I'm one HELL of a bad dude! Get back over here!"

[I conclude that this is just a major case of Perry trying to assert dominance over me. As most iguana owners will tell you, it is essential for the owner to assert his dominance over the iguana. In essence, you become the "alpha lizard" and the pet submits to you. There are a number of different methods of asserting your dominance. I decide to employ one of them, standing very tall over Perry, looking down at him, and speaking firmly.]

"Oh, so that's the way you want to play it, eh? Hey, I'm game if you are. Now, hold still, dammit."

[Perry starts to climb straight up my shirt. About half-way up, he opens his mouth again. I must admit that having a 4-foot lizard striding purposefully up to my face with his mouth open is a little disconcerting. I quickly grabbed him and pulled him off, plopping him back in his cage. Iguana owners already know that my shirt ended up very snagged and my arms were rather scratched up.]


[Time for the heavy artillery. I reach in and firmly pinch the back of Perry's neck, gently pushing his head down. At first, Perry submits, but then he opens his mouth again and twists his head, trying to bite my hand. Once again, I retreat.]

"Urg. Big dude. I'll play dead. Wait! This isn't right! NO, NO, NO! Come on, I'll show you. Get over HERE! Come on, I won't eat you! Hey, come back! GODDAMIT, YOU MORON! I'M ONE HELL OF A BAD DUDE! GET OVER HERE!!!"

[Ok, I'm out of good ideas. Maybe the only way to re-assert my rightful place as alpha lizard is to just have it out with him. I get out a pair of heavy leather gloves and put them on. I then make a fist and stick it in the cage. He can bite all he wants without hurting me. Then he'll see that I'm not afraid of him.]

"Wha... What the Hell is this? Some kind of joke? Hmm ... not exactly what I expected. But I'm not picky. I'm one HELL of a bad dude! Now, for the last time, hold still."

[Once again, Perry deliberately marches up to my hand, his mouth open. When he gets near, he doesn't lunge. Instead, he looks back and forth, as though looking for the tenderest spot. He takes a trial bite or two, failing to get a good hold on the glove, and then manages to get a bit of a glove finger in his mouth. He then climbs on top of my arm and ... uh ... and ... ... uh ... ... ...

Oh. I've been mis-reading his new move. A better translation of the vibrating head thing is obviously, "Hey, baby, what's your sign?"

I slip my hand out of the glove, but Perry hardly notices. He picks up the glove and carries it like a dog would carry a bone. He takes the glove to a corner of the cage and tries to mount it. Unfortunately, his body is significantly longer than the glove is, so the effort leads to some hilarious contortions. Perry doesn't seem to mind though. For the next hour, he carries the glove around the cage, periodically whispering sweet nothings into it's ear. Finally, exhausted and satisfied, he lays down under the basking light with his new girlfriend resting by his side.

I can safely say that this is the first time I have EVER seen Perry look positively dreamy.]

P.S. - I've left the glove in Perry's cage and he has enjoyed it's company on quite a few occasions. He has also stopped challenging my alpha status and rarely asks me what my sign is. (I obviously played too hard to get.) I should also mention that all the other signs were present of his being in his "season". A male's legs will actually turn rather orange during this time, and he will become a bit more ill-tempered. After about a month, things will settle back to normal. In fact, even now his orange legs are fading back to green. But after living through three earlier seasons, I thought I had it all figured out. This is the first time Perry has taken matters into his own hands ... or something like that.