Journey of a Shelter Iguana named Angel

Over two years passed after I lost my 21 year-old iguana and best friend, Babe. My sorrow was great. I had accepted there would her never be another Babe and had chosen to embrace my lonely freedom.


One day in August, I went to the shelter and saw an iguana. It was in bad shape, and looked like it had been uncared for or in the wild for some time. A month passed and when I saw her again, sitting in her reptile tank, her color had improved and she was looking much better I began to visit her and whispering outside the tank. Helping her seemed to help me. I noticed her heat lamp was placed over her pan of water and she was struggling to get close.

1st picture in shelter angel_2065

Finally I asked to meet her and showed them that she was cold and couldn’t get under her lamp. They allowed me to rearrange the tank and I moved her basking branch under the lamp. When I attempted to take her from the tank and she darted out, leaping onto the floor, scurrying as fast as she could on the newly waxed floors. Her sharp claws gave her now tractions and she just ran as fast as she could and went no where.

I gently lifted her and she gave me no choice but to return her to her tank. She sank in the corner, tail pulled back, mouth open, hissing and fussing in absolute fear. This was definitely not the iguana for me, but I decided I would volunteer to help tame this little girl.

The first few months “Morgan” looked good, yet geared to attack. Not many had the courage to call her bluff so no one was interested in adopting her. Months in the shelter took it’s toll on as she scarred herself in doing anything to escape. She began to lose her green color, her spikes dropped due to lack of moisture to shed and tail surgery gone wrong gave me no choice to take a chance and rescue her.

Her name at the time was Morgan, but her nick-name was Little Whipper, and there was a reason for that. She was a completely wild, a tail whipping, and mouth gaping, hissing, running, alligator rolling, unmanageable lizard. They didn’t get much more wild than this, but behind her display of fierceness was sweetness within. Her signs or aggression were fear driven and I understood that.

Her rehab became a passion for me and it filled the empty spot Babe had left in my heart. On the first day of my volunteer work, I was walking thru the shelter with her sitting on my shoulder. The staff was amazed and happy that she had a friend.

Volunteering in November
Volunteering in November

The shelter didn’t know much about iguanas, only what to feed them and to keep the environment clean. Her lights were turned on in the morning by someone and many times they never got turned on. I found the ceramic heater was being turned off as well so it was quite chilly and drafty at night. I brought in light timers so she could have regulated day and night time and a heat lamp to give her sunny warmth.

Then I noticed her tail tip was dead. Just a small inch of it. In hindsight I wish I would have never said anything . When I told the staff. They took her right away to a vet to remove it and it became the thing I regretted the most.

Because of a tail fracture a few inches up on her tail, they amputated 6 inches of it off. I was devastated and to make it worse, the vet kept her for 15 days in a small Plexiglas box with very little stimulation.

It was during the Thanksgiving holiday and I was so looking forward to fostering her over the long holiday at my house. I sank in to depression and my anxiety was immense. To think of her there in that little box, with little attention, it was just too much for me.

She returned in December. She was cold as ice and her color had changed to a dark muddy blackish brown. She had lost all her green except on her belly. To make matters worse, the surgery was not done right. Her tail was bent, and there was a gash on the side of it which was bleeding. I couldn’t believe they had given her back that way.

I adopted her on impulse that day, but rethought my decision when I realized the timing was wrong. I was to fly to Reno in a few days and the only way to bring her with me was to ship her in cargo on my flight.

She was a monster at home and refused any kindness I gave her. Bedtime was the a big issue, she wouldn’t settle in anywhere I placed her. My parents were not receptive to the idea of having her in thier house.

So I did the unimaginable, I returned her with a heavy heart and left her there for 3 more weeks while I was in Reno. I kept calling and emailing about her. The ones who were to look in after her had taken vacation weeks and one had family emergencies. This meant she was there without any special care. Still I was unsure if I should take on such a challenge.

When I returned she had fallen into a dismal and forgotten state. Light timers were gone and her color was even worse, as was her tail. When I took her out, all her bad behavior had returned and the taming I had done was long forgotten. She was so frightened, angry and scared, it broke my heart to see her there. She had a look of distance that shouted out that she had lost hope. Yes, the shelter had taken its toll on her.

An inch of spikes were gone from her back. I wondered what had happened, if she had gotten caught somewhere, but it looked bad. In addition to that, her tail amputation had been done wrong. It was permanently crooked and bent and a good 3 inches of it was black and dead. The gash was still bleeding. She was in need of more surgery and the thought of her going back to the same vet was not an option.

So I adopted her on Thursday, January 8th, 2015, with all her broken toes, missing spikes, scars, unknown history and a tail that needed more another surgery, She was not exactly what I had envisioned my next iguana to be but I had to realize that God was giving me what I needed, not what my ego wanted. At least she had a pretty face, curiosity and a special energy. I could work with that, I just prayed her health would allow her a long life.

It felt so good to free her from the shelter and bring her into my home permenantly. Still, I wasn’t prepared with housing, I had a front room with a sunny window, lights and that was it.

My wise friend, Eda, helped me accept within myself, that the month ahead would be very hard, and to succeed I would have to look at the big picture. By accepting that my commitment wouldn’t be easy I was able to make it through the next few weeks, though they were trial and tribulations. I guess my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to tame her. They I might fail.That she was one of “those” iguanas that I hear exist that cannot be tamed. But me, being a Whisperer, know deep in my heart that there is good in all creatures of God. That no animal should be given up on. That if you give a creature love, in time, he will give it back to you.

So with a kind heart and positive attitude, I took on the challenge to tame, train and socialize this forgotten iguana.

The first thing I did was rename her, Angel.

It was an overwhelming situation, but I had no choice, I had to save her. I documented my taming of her and you will find her journey in my posts.

Follow Angel’s journey. Read my journals of how she was taken from the shelter and into my home. Read how our relationship improves as she turns from wild to tame. Learn just what it’s like to have have an iguana as a pet.


January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

July 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

2017 –  Angel Starts to Cuddle

2018 – My Girl

2018 – Angel turns five

2019 – Angel on TV

Look on the bottom left of the home page to see more highlights of her life! I love you Angel!!!