leopard gecko

Warm and… Scaly

People love their pets. I do not think that is a hard point to prove here in South Dakota. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 46% of the state’s population lives with an animal companion. In a world where so many families now include these critters, it is no surprise that some would put them to work. In 2019, an estimated 200,000 Emotional Support Animals were accounted for, and I am honored to say I had the pleasure of interviewing one such hard worker here on Campus, Gobi, and his human translator Tris.

Introducing themself “Gobert Hunnybunn III”, Gobi is a leopard gecko accompanying his human companion here at DSU. Gobi is a unique individual both in pattern and personality. When asked about his special scaleless skin, the gentle gecko had this to say.

“I am a leopard gecko! I am an albino morph, but all that means is that I’m more orange than yellow, and my eyes are sensitive to light!”

Gobi’s personality is not just skin deep, as he is a hard-working companion pursuing a career of his own. I asked him for a peek into his brain, what is his favorite foods, hobbies, and what was his major?

“Ooh, a fun one! I have a lovely hammock in my tank that sits right above my tank, which allows for a nice tan! I also have a ceramic rock that is right above my under-tank heater, so I lie on that to warm my belly on cold nights! Do naps count as a hobby? I’m going to say they do! And I am a bit of a picky eater, but I LOVE super worms! They’re so big, and crunch! Dubia roaches are a close second! Hmm, well considering opposable thumbs are needed for most computer science degrees, I decided on game design! Also, it’s because my owner is in game design as well, so I can just peek off of her papers!”

Despite the blatant admittance of academic shenaniganry, the gecko is also balancing a full-time job acting as a superhero for his partner, Tris. We asked him to give us a glimpse into the day of their busy life!

“My day usually starts whenever the caregiver turns on the big overhead light, which is usually around 10 am, and then I spend a few minutes adjusting to the light (and totally not falling back asleep.) and then as soon as I’m certain that the caregiver is out of the room, I swiftly sneak out of the tank, and begin my daily chores of saving the world of course! I provide comfort and love to anyone who needs it! I have super strength, supervision, and super hearing that allows me to know when my caregiver is upset and lets me deploy my extra strength love! I always get head scratches and yummy worms in return! After a full day of fun, and love, around 2-3 am, the caregiver shuts off the overhead lights, and I decide it’s time to reward myself with a nice night of lying on my warm rock and having awesome dreams of what’s to come tomorrow!”

We asked Gobi’s human companion to introduce herself and speak about her life with Gobi.

“Hey! You can call me Tris! My major is Video game Design, and DAD – Audio Production! Just as Gobi said above, he is always there to hold and chill out with. Considering geckos don’t make noises unless they’re upset, it makes him a great listener! It’s also something to make sure you get out of bed in the morning for, as you are everything they need! You are the reason they’re able to flourish and survive!”

Living with an animal can give support to people in several ways. Having an animal to hold and to love gives a treasured companionship that can give both an emotional bond.  While as stated above, the responsibility of taking care of the companion critter can give purpose, a reason to get out of bed. Commenting on the importance and responsibility of caring for a support animal, Tris had this to say.

“Accountability is the most important thing in my mind when it comes to support animals. They are completely helpless without your help and thus, give you a sense of purpose. They are also relaxing, and consistent. You always know you’re going to have something that loves you when you come back to the dorms! I think people should know that there is no reason to stigmatize ESAs! It’s no different than having a pet back at home you return back to!”

To close out the interview, I asked each party one final question. For Tris, I asked if she had any final statements for the readers, in which she had this to say.

“Reptiles, especially leopard geckos, do show emotion, love, and compassion. Just in a different way than cats and dogs. You just have to dig a little deeper for their love!”

Finally, for Gobi, we asked him to describe himself in two words.

“The Best.”