If you told me 14 years ago that a green iguana I "adopted" from my little brother would grow to be like a daughter to me and end up being one of the biggest inspirations in my life, I would have told you that you were crazy. And yet here I am today mourning the loss of my very best little girlfriend, Neina Sue, on what would have been her 14th birthday. |
Most people wouldn't think you can grow an attachment to a reptile. And before Neina, I probably would have agreed with you. I've had many pets before, but she was different. She was like having a living dinosaur, and I was absolutely fascinated by her every move: every blink, every walk, watching her eat, watching her see a bird in the sky, a new animal at the vet or something scary on TV-yes, she watched TV. I never got tired of watching her experience life every single day.
Anyone who met Neina, was very intrigued by her and adored her too. Vet techs, strangers, family and friends, would always be very cautious around her at first, and rightfully so, she was over 4 feet long, but she quickly melted their hearts. Everyone has at least one funny Neina story that they love sharing with me. I take pride in the many, many times I heard people say, "she's the best/sweetest/most well-behaved iguana I've ever met!" Sure I put hours every day into "socializing" her at a very young age, but it was her truly relaxed temperament and sweet face that won their hearts. She was calm, she was sweet and she loved people. Of course she was still a diva and she needed her space at times, but we had our unspoken agreements and I respected her boundaries (basically she trained me very, very well).
There was a time in her early years that I took her everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I took her to the park, to the beach, on vacation. Anywhere I went, as long as there was sun, Neina went too. She loved the car. She had her own spot where she could catch the best sun in the back window. People would stop and take pictures of her --she really was a mini celebrity everywhere she went :) She took it all in stride though and always trusted me to keep her safe. She grew to be quite large and very confident and curious about everything around her.
As she grew older, she slowed down a bit, spending most of her time on her perch, under her UVB and sun lamp in her large bedroom terrarium enjoying her window views of the pool, trees and wildlife in the back yard-we called this her retirement. In January 2017 Neina was diagnosed with cancer, which had spread from her stomach to her liver and other parts of her body. I was told the cancer was not treatable and there was nothing I could do but enjoy every day I have left with her. I was devastated and felt helpless, but did my best to be strong for her and stay positive.
Turns out, she had no idea she was sick. She lost some mobility and strength so we built her a safety ramp so she could slowly climb up to her modified perch. I surrounded her with love and photos, inspirational quotes and comforting words sent from her friends and family. I got her a cancer ribbon pin that said, "you're my hero". Her pin said, "I will never give up"...and she never did.
I will never forget the determination in her eyes those last few months of her life as she slowly climbed her way up to the top of her perch every morning, just as she always had. Neina renewed my faith in God. She taught me how to be patient and show unconditional love to and compassion for all animals-regardless of form. She taught me so much patience and how to slow down to enjoy quiet and peace. She taught me to be highly observant, and to see the importance of the most subtle of cues.
Less than 4 months after her diagnosis, Neina passed away peacefully in her sleep while I laid beside her. She was, and still is, my hero. I was truly blessed and lucky to have had Neina in my life as long as I did, and feel comfort knowing she is no longer in pain.
I miss my little green tanning buddy. I miss seeing her precious little face every day. I miss the way her face appeared to always be smiling. But most of all, I miss holding her and feeling the irreplaceable peace I felt knowing my little angel was still here with me. The unconditional love and friendship we share is an unbreakable bond. I still feel her presence with me everywhere, and live each day with confidence I will see her again.
I will close with the phrases I repeated to her every day. Mama loves you. You're a good girl. I'm so proud of you. Stay strong. I love you <3
1/15/18: Hello my sweet little angel. I missed you so much this week! I wish I could hug you forever<3 The weather is so cold and we used your heater to keep us warm:) What a blessing you are to us. We love u and are sending all our love to u every day. Relax in the sun my sweet girl. Mama loves you XOXO<3<3
1/8/18: Hello my sweet angel! I miss your precious little face so much! Mama started her 2nd class for grad school this week. I keep your picture in front of my monitor for motivation😊 Mr. Jon repurposed the wood from your climbing perch to make mama a desk for school. Sitting in your "iguana green" painted room at this desk and looking out the same window you did every day makes me feel so connected to you. I'm still so proud of you for fighting cancer every day. You're such a brave little girl and you'll always be my hero! Until I can see you again, please enjoy relaxing in the sun at Rainbow Bridge, mama will be along in good time with lots of kisses and everlasting hugs for you. You're a good girl. I love you sweet pea xoxo<3<3
1/1/18: Happy New Year my sweet little angel! Mama missed you a lot this week. Starting a new year without you is not as special or exciting, but I am still enjoying all the pictures I have of you and cherish the memories. Enjoy resting in the sun at RB my sweet angel😊I love you. You're such a good girl XOXO<3<3
12/25/17: Merry Christmas my sweet little angel puff! Mama missed you more than ever today. Christmas wasn't the same without you, but I am very happy you're at peace. Mama is sending all her love to you today and wrapping my arms around you in an everlasting hug😊 Relax in the sun my sweet baby girl. Mama loves you. You're a good girl. We all miss you sweet pea. You're my best little girl friend xoxo<3<3
12/18/17: Hello my sweet little angel. Mama missed you this week! Christmas is around the corner & it doesn't feel the same without you but I'm happy you're at peace and not in pain. I still decorated your room & door with your stocking, mini fire place and wreath...now all I need is you in your little Santa costume😊 Mama is sending extra special love to you at Rainbow Bridge. You were the best little gift I ever had-what a precious blessing?! You're a good girl. Mama loves you<3<3
12/11/17: Hello my sweet angel. I missed you this week! I finally downloaded pics from all my old cell phones & now am enjoying thousands of pics I took of you. I could never have enough memories of your sweet face😊 I hope you're relaxing in the sun & know how much you are loved. You're a good girl. Mama loves you.<3<3<3
12/4/17: Hello my sweet little angel! Mama has been busy with school, but I keep your picture in front of my monitor so I can see your adorable face staring back at me:)I miss you more than words could ever say, but am happy you're at peace in a wonderful place. You're a good girl. Mama loves you.Stay strong<3<3
11/27/17: Hello my sweet little angel. Mama sure missed you a lot this week! Thanksgiving wasn't the same without you but don't worry, I ate enough sweet potatoes for both of us 😊 I hope you're enjoying your time at Rainbow Bridge & basking in the warm sun rays. I am always thinking about you and smiling remembering your sweet face until I can see you again. Mama loves you. You're a good girl <3<3
11/20/17: Hello my precious little angel. Mama missed you this week! It was G-Matty's birthday on Saturday. We both talk about you a lot & miss you so much<3 I hope you & Sophie Lynn are relaxing together in the sun & waiting for us to join you at Rainbow Bridge😊 xoxo Mama loves you! You're a good girl <3<3
11/13/17: Hello my sweet little green angel! Your blankets still smell like you. I don't even know how that's possible, but I love it. Yesterday I was outside in the back yard & kept looking up at your window expecting to see you staring back & watching my every move 😊 it still makes me smile. I sure missed you a lot this week & hope you're relaxing at Rainbow Bridge in the sun & waiting for mama. You're a good girl. Mama loves you <3<3
11/6/17: Hello my sweet little angel! It's Monday again, and it's time to send you some extra love <3 I missed you a lot this week. Mama's been busy with work & school, but I'm always thinking of you & smiling, just remembering all the wonderful times we had & joy you brought into our lives. I hope you received the sweet message G-Matty sent to you. We all miss seeing you in your adorable Halloween costumes (My little green Wonder Woman) :>~ You're such a good girl! Rest peacefully and relax in the sun until I see you again. XOXO Mama loves you<3<3
10/30/17: Hello my sweet angel! I sure missed you a lot this week! I went through some old pics from when you were a tiny ig-baby. They made me smile, especially the ones of you in the newspaper on the front page-you were always such a ham for the camera:>~ I just posted some pics of you dressed up for Halloween. I know you didn't like wearing all the costumes, but thank you for humoring me. You were my favorite Halloween witch, pumpkin, bumblebee and Wonder Woman :-D You are loved and missed a lot. Thank you for leaving us with so many great memories to keep us smiling. Enjoy basking in the sun my good little girl, mama loves you always<3<3
10/23/17: Hello my sweet little green angel:) I sure missed you again this week! I can't believe it's been over 5 months since you passed & entered Rainbow Bridge. I hope you're enjoying the sun & feeling comforted knowing how much you are loved. Thank you for bringing so much joy & peace into our lives. I'm always thinking of you xoxo Mama loves you <3<3
10/16/17: I have really enjoyed posting to the Monday night candle ceremony each week, but wanted to post some messages to you here as well. This week sure has been busy! I'm getting settled into your room now that I started grad school. We painted it iguana green, so I'm sure you'd be pleased with it :>~ My desk is set up right in front of the window so I can enjoy the same views you did while I'm working. I have definitely felt your presence a lot this week, and it always warms my heart. I love seeing little things everywhere that remind me of you-they give me so much peace and comfort. I had the most lovely dream a few nights ago. You were in your room, alive like nothing happened. It brought indescribable joy to see you in good health, it's exactly how I imagine you at Rainbow Bridge-basking in the beautiful sun rays, getting a little green tan, throwing your arms back to your sides for comfort, and then flicking your tongue a few times to show you're happy, confident and curious. Thank you for being such a good little angel to me while you were on earth, and continuing to be with me in spirit each day. I love you and miss you more than words could ever describe. I'm eagerly awaiting the day we can be reunited at Rainbow Bridge-never to be separated again. In the meantime, mama has a lot of work to do, and I want you to be happy and relax in the sun my sweet princess :) Mama loves you <3<3
10/9/17: Hello my little angel puff. I sure did miss u this week! I went to Ocean City & it reminded me of when we used to go to get away, relax on the beach, & catch some sun. I found a feather in my hair & knew you were there in spirit this time. You're a good girl. Stay strong sweet pea. Mama loves you<3<3