Editor’s Note: On Lizards and Love

Editor-in-chief Liz Vaccariello recalls a chilling medical drama involving her kids, a pet lizard, and the tiniest abdominal massage ever.

liz vaccariello
Steve Vaccariello for Reader’s Digest

It would be hard to overstate my fear of reptiles. Early in our marriage, for several weeks after watching a Nat Geo special about the Amazon, I made Steve do a nightly sweep of our Cleveland Heights apartment, including a check under the bed for snakes.

Someone upstairs chuckled when my two daughters, Sophia and Olivia, turned out to have not only a deep love for animals but a passion for cold-blooded ones. (“Mommy! Can I have snake sheets for my bed?”) My girls produce live animal shows for our annual block party, write storybooks about turtles, and design information sheets for their bedroom frog museums. I can nurture their passion without touching the creatures, right?

One recent evening, I was met at the door by a concerned husband and two wide-eyed daughters. Sleepy, Sophia’s two-month-old bearded dragon, was especially lethargic and hadn’t eaten in days. They had just returned from the vet. (The vet. For a four-inch lizard.)

The diagnosis: constipation. Yes, this was happening. (How does a lizard become constipated, I asked. Is a diet of crickets not adequately fibrous?) The recommended treatment was to immerse the tiny creature in a cup of warm water while massaging its abdomen.

Words of comfort eluded me. I did not intend to play a role in lizard massaging. “C’mon, Mommy! Let’s go!” “That’s OK, sweetheart. Daddy can do the massage.” They trotted off to prepare the patient for treatment.

One look at the three of them gathering rags, running the water, and blending cricket and banana, and I knew what was going to happen: I was going to put on my big-girl pants, and we were going to save Sleepy together.

—Liz, @LizVacc, [email protected]

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