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The Choking Iguana

Bobby wanted a pet—more than anything in the world. In fact, it was the only thing on his Christmas list this year. Cindy didn’t know what to do.

“He’s allergic to everything! Dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits. Everything. We tried some fish last year, but he wanted to HOLD them. That got messy real fast.”

Louise chuckled. As an Errand Solutions site manager, she thought she’d heard everything, but her customers always continued to surprise her. Thinking of the chickens and horses in her back yard at home, Louise had an idea. “Have you thought of a more unconventional pet for your son?” she asked.

Cindy laughed. “If you’re talking about one of your chickens, then no way. My husband would kill me!”

Louise laughed along with Cindy. “You can’t have one of my chickens! But I know where you could get one of your own.”

“Can you imagine a chicken running around the house? Oh Bobby would LOVE it. I can just see him chasing it all over the living room. Feathers flying. Eggs everywhere. I’d never hear the end of it!”

“Haha! But think of all the money you’d save on eggs.”

“Oh lord. That would be a great day, until I had to clean up. But if you have another idea, I’m open to suggestions.”

“Ok, so chickens are out. Let me see what else I can come up with. Come see me tomorrow.” Cindy left, still laughing at the thought of her husband’s face as he was greeted with a room full of feathers when he got home from work.

Louise had only been half serious about the chicken, but it had definitely given her some ideas. She hopped on the Internet and started to research. By the next morning, she had a great idea, and couldn’t wait for Cindy to stop into the office. By the time Cindy arrived just after lunch, Louise was about to burst.

“Have you ever thought about an iguana?” she exclaimed, forgetting to even say hello.

“An iguana?” Cindy’s expression moved from surprised to thoughtful. “I hadn’t. Aren’t they really messy?”

Louise was ready, because she had thought the same thing before she clicked on that article. “Actually, no. They’re one of the cleanest reptiles around. I have a stack of articles about what great pets they make for kids who are allergic to everything else. And best of all – they’re fairly easy to care for, so you won’t have to do all the heavy lifting.”

Cindy looked skeptical. “My husband suggested a snake, but I refused to even think about that. There’s no way I could imagine buying mice to feed to another animal. What do iguanas eat anyway?”

Louise had also asked herself the same question the day before, and she was confident that her answer would be just what Cindy was looking for: “Vegetables. They don’t eat meat at all.”


“Really?” Cindy was surprised. “And they’re not hostile or anything?”

“Nope. They’re very gentle. Perfect for kids. I kind of want to get one for my granddaughter now.”

Cindy nodded her head. “All right then. An iguana it is. Now I just have to figure out where to get one.”

Louise smiled and produced a stack of papers. It was already done. She was so sure that Cindy would go for the iguana plan, she’d gone ahead and contacted the local pet stores and even an iguana society to get all the information Cindy would need.

“There are two iguanas waiting to meet you and Bobby at the pet store down on 51. I told them you’d probably be in this weekend.”

Cindy laughed again. “It’s like you can read my mind. Thanks so much for all your hard work.”

“Happy to do it. You be sure and take pictures on Christmas morning. I want to see Bobby’s face when he opens his presents!”

Cindy promised she would and left the office. Louise smiled to herself, happy with another satisfied customer, and turned back to the computer to email her son about the present for her granddaughter.

* *  *  *  *  *

After receiving the emailed photo of Cindy’s son, proudly holding Henry the Iguana on Christmas Day, Louise taped it to the front of the large purple folder of cards and thank you notes from her other customers. His smile would be the first thing she saw whenever she pulled out the folder to file something away—which she did at least twice a week. Her customers were all so wonderful.

Then the phone rang.

Louise had barely lifted the phone when the voice on the other line starting speaking in rapid Spanish.

“I’m sorry, I can’t understand you. Can you speak English?” she asked.

“No! No anglais!” the voice exclaimed.

Louise exhaled. “Ok, hold on. I’ll try to find someone to help,” she said, knowing that the caller probably couldn’t understand her at all.

Luckily, a nurse who had been into Louise’s office many times to buy movie tickets was just down the hall. Louise knew that Marta spoke Spanish, because they’d talked about how important it was to Marta that her children start learning their family’s native language early on.

“Marta! Can you help translate a phone call for me? It sounds like an emergency!”

Marta quickly followed Louise back to the office and picked up the phone. She started speaking to the caller. Louise watched as Marta’s eyes widened.

With a confused look on her face, Marta looked at Louise. “Do you know anything about an iguana?”

Louise looked startled. “Maybe?”

“This woman said she called the number on the fridge for the Iguana Lady. She’s a nanny. The child’s name is Bobby something?”

“Oh my. Yes, I know that iguana. What’s wrong?”

Marta turned back to the phone and continued to speak.

“He’s choking on a Lego?” Marta looked back at Louise, not sure what to do. “She says she tried calling a veterinarian but they said they didn’t do that. I don’t know what that means!”

Thinking fast, Louise sat down at her desk and started flipping through the phonebook.

“Can you tell her not to worry and that we’ll send help right away?”

Marta relayed the message, and hung up the phone. “How on earth are you going to help her?” she asked Louise.

Louise knew from her time on the farm that there were special vets for horses and pigs and cows. She assumed there were also special vets for iguanas. No sooner had Marta asked her the question, did Louise have the answer.

“A reptile vet. We’ll make something happen in a hurry.”

Marta sat down; she now wanted to see what would happen.

Louise pulled up Cindy’s home address from her profile and prepared to give it to the vet. But after speaking with the vet, she had a few more calls to make. They could take care of the animal, but they didn’t do house calls, even in an emergency situation, because of liabilities.

Louise had heard of another situation like this, years ago. She hopped online and googled “pet ambulance”. There was one in the area and she made another call.

After everything was set in motion, Louise called Cindy at her desk to let her know what was going on. “Oh no!” Cindy cried. “What am I going to do?”

“Just go meet them at the vet’s office. He’s already on his way. And please keep me posted. I’m here if you need anything else.”

Marta and Louise sat in the office, still a bit stunned at the quick flurry of activity. “I guess there’s nothing else we can do right now,” Marta said. “I’ll check back later to see what happened.” And she left the office.

Louise couldn’t just sit there, she was too anxious. She pulled up her files from the previous December and called up the pet store and the iguana society to see if there was anything else that needed to be done. Before long, she was compiling a list of resources for Cindy that would help with her pet’s recovery or, god forbid, help her to find a new iguana.

She was putting everything into a folder, when the phone rang. It was Cindy.

“He’s fine. They got the Lego out and he’s expected to make a full recovery.”

Louise breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh I’m so glad! I’ve been thinking about him all afternoon.”

“There’s no way he would have made it without your help. I know I’ve called you a lifesaver before, but now it’s really true. Thanks so much for everything!” Cindy exclaimed.

Louise looked at her photo of Cindy’s son Bobby and Henry the Iguana and smiled. It was time to go find Marta and tell her the good news.

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