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Saying Goodbye to Geckos

It’s a fair statement to say that I have become more accustomed to routine the older I grow. A typical Saturday starts with driving Stephanie to work around 5 AM (Starbucks opening shift), coming home, and sleeping for a few more hours. I then climb out of bed, brew a cup of coffee, and catch up on all that’s wrong with the world via the news. Then the real fun starts. I turn up Pandora (or iTunes radio) and dive into the weekly gecko cleaning. Weekdays are reserved for feeding and basic maintenance. The weekend is when I dive into my reptile kingdom and sort out all that has happened that week.

The gecko collection we moved with to Massachusetts has grown. What was once a styrofoam cooler of 30 geckos or so has become a collection, at its peak, of around 200. The breeding gods have been good to us with most of the species we’ve kept.

This Saturday is different though. I’m sitting on the living floor and looking at a collection of animals I am proud of, a collection I’ve spent years building, and a part of my life I pour 4-10 hours per week into maintaining. Today I’m packing up the geckos and tearing down the gecko room.

bold stripe leopard gecko
bold stripe leopard gecko

When we moved here we were lucky to find an apartment with three bedrooms. Wow, we thought, two bedrooms and a gecko room! Stephanie wasn’t sold on the idea at first, but I convinced her eventually. The landlord said sure, you can keep a few geckos. I’m happy she didn’t freak when she finally found out a dozen or so geckos really turned out to be a few hundred.

The time in our apartment has come to an end, the landlord has decided to sell the house and we need to find a new place to live. If you’re ever moving, don’t bother mentioning you have reptiles. I learned that the hard way. Saying you breed geckos gets an odd look and quick dismissal. Saying you keep reptiles leads people to assume you have multiple 10 foot slimy snakes that eat children and dogs alike.

smooth knob tail gecko

In our apartment hunt we discovered two things: we couldn’t afford a three bedroom apartment in Cambridge, MA and landlords don’t like the idea of pets. The current rate per bedroom in the areas we were looking to live is $1,000-$1,500 per room. Our three bedroom apartment with a loft was valued around $3,300/month and we were paying a fraction of that. It was time to be realistic. We can’t have reptiles overflowing into the living room and we can’t afford a third room. Some apartments had a small office without much higher rent but they seemed to all be at least a mile away from the subway I took daily.

Which brings me back to my living room, with the radio playing, looking at a collection that will be gone in the next 24 hours.

It was hard.

I’ve poured hours into this, and while the hobby often turned out to be frustrating and time consuming, I overlooked how rewarding it was for me. Dusting crickets, pulling eggs, chasing hatchlings, and raising babies was my outlet from the real world. It was how I escaped my 8 hour days of email and web crawling. It was how I mentally recharged.

leopard gecko hatching

Over the course of the day, late into the evening, I packed up the final part of my collection. I began selling geckos two months previous to this day, largely selling my more rare species online before the upcoming reptile show in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The last bit of the hobby I hold on to is limited to a group of poison dart frogs. The beautiful terrariums and lack of crickets is an easier sell to my girlfriend and landlord. I plan to stay connected to the reptile community, continue plugging away at Gecko Time, and continue visiting local reptile shows (maybe even selling some froglets from time to time).

jpeg

But, for now, I’ve said goodbye to my last gecko. Goodbye to my  fancy incubators. And goodbye to my excess spare terrariums.

Now I say hello to a new chapter. I look forward to watching the hobby evolve, helping Gecko Time grow, and keeping in touch with the friends I’ve made through this strange thing we all love so much.

What do you think?

Written by Matthew

I've been keeping odd pets since I was 14, keeping and breeding a variety of species from viper geckos to poison dart frogs. Now living in Georgia, working in online advertising.

13 Comments

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  1. Matthew, I will always remember the first time we met. It was years ago at the Daytona, FL Show. I think your voice was just beginning to change at that time! We hung out together at the show for about half a day, and became good friends.

    Reading this piece brings tears to my eyes and sadness to my heart – not just because of what you wrote, but I can feel your emotions in the difficult and bittersweet decision you have made. I know you have not taken this lightly. It really hits home for me, as I too will soon be saying goodbye to my geckos and business after nearly 18 years.

    Matthew, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that whatever you embark upon in your life will be outstanding! I wish you nothing but the very best life can bring you, and God’s love and guidance always be with you.

    – Marcia

  2. Matthew,

    Hey boss, I just happened to come across your story going through my Facebook page. I don’t know if it’s just the way I’ve been feeling lately but man your story broke my heart! I have my own collection of snakes, lizards, frogs, and tarantulas. Most of them I obtained by rehoming them off of Craigslist. Just reading your story and the thought of having to say goodbye to my own animals, well lets just say I didn’t even want to think about it!

    I wish you the best in whatever life gives you. I hope you’re able to find an apartment or house within your budget that will allow you to keep more animals. I hope that one day you are able to go back to your geckos.

    Harvey

  3. Just read your poignant tale, Matthew. Perhaps some day in the future you’ll have a home where you’ll have space enough to return to our hobby. Until then enjoy your froglets. 🙂

  4. Hi Matt,

    I’m sorry to hear this. I hope your situation changes so that you can reacquire more geckos. Hopefully someday it won’y be such a “strange” thing that we all love so much. The good news is that we now have Gecko Nation Radio. Your welcome to come on any time you like =)

    Dave

  5. Unless you own , it is best to keep very few herps and by few I mean 1 or 2 enclosures that can be moved with no problem if you have to move.

  6. Thanks so much for the feedback, guys!

    @Marcia – I will always cherish that meeting, I wish you the best as you decide what to do. On one hand, I like the idea of a clean break, removing it completely. On the other hand, if you maintain a single project after, it’s a little easier to continue the connection you’ve held for so long.

    @Harvey – Thank you, sir! It’s a hard thing to do but life sometimes requires hard things. I appreciate the time I had with my animals.

    @Elizabeth – The frogs are fun! Out during the day, beautiful colors, amazing habitats that you can create at the same time.

    @David – I don’t think “strange” is bad at all. I think it’s all what you make it, but I appreciate having a hobby that makes people say ‘what?’. Thanks for the invite!

  7. Thank you for sharing your well written story, and with good photographs.
    I think we all can imagine the challenges and difficult decisions you
    had to make. Best of luck in you’re new pursuits.

  8. That is a very tough decision. I am sorry that this had to happen to you, I can’t even imagine now that I’ve had my first litter, giving up breeding. However, there is a silver lining in every cloud 🙂

    We are lucky and there were a few places that matched our needs when we had reptiles that also didnt care if we had them, assuming they were contained. Many places said that although they didnt have a policy AGAINST tank animals…the actual workers for that complex were terrified and so always told people no.

    Luckily, finally…we have our own house, but it definitely has been a struggle having reptiles and a place to live that accepts them.

    Its very sad that more people have a knee-jerk reaction to renters having reptiles, although with all the irresponsible-owner-caused horror stories lately… X_X

  9. I had a similar experience when I left Virginia. I left my people with a business partner who had a far larger collection than mine; many aquariums with Afrikan rift lake breeders, breeding veiled chameleons, and as far as geckos a trio of Lygodactus williamsi. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten any of it back, but I have started over and am glad to say I have 30+ Lygodactylus williamsi, a few Lygodactylus kimhowelli, a pair of dart frogs and am trying to get up to a dozen breeding veiled chameleons. Best to have an Aunt with a farm who doesn’t mind you setting up a greenhouse if you help out with chores!

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