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Geckos Galore

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It's a predicament: To tell, or not to tell. We then hesitantly alert our overnight guests, since they are the only ones who really need to know. They tend to respond with either a look of horror, wishing they were not spending the night, or of excitement. Sightings are rare, and the occasional night cries are even rarer, but wouldn't we be in more trouble if we didn't warn our visitors?

You see, we own a gecko. Well, it used to be ``a'' gecko. It all started so innocently. Living on five Southern acres and having our expected share of cockroaches, we wanted an environmentally sound way to deal with them. No chemical sprays for us, and with three children, forget the approach of having the house so spotlessly clean that roaches wouldn't be interested. So our unorthodox answer was to invest in a gecko.

The tokay (Gekko gecko is its scientific name), a lizard that grows to about a foot in length, is found throughout Southeast Asia, and has been known to eat mice, snakes, lizards, and ... this is the part we wanted ... ``a generous supply of insects.''

Asian homeowners appreciate the gecko, glad that it's there to eat uninvited and unwelcome smaller visitors. There are even myths about the gecko, and some homeowners eagerly await the gecko's arrival, hoping it will bring good fortune to a new home.

And what a bargain we got on our first gecko. The owner of the pet store was delighted to wheel and deal, so he could stop getting bitten by a particularly feisty gecko. ``Art'' (short for ``Art-Deco gecko'') made himself right at home in our place. The first person up in the morning occasionally spotted him on the bathroom wall or in his favorite hiding place, behind the world map on the wall near our kitchen table.

Our daughter Bronwyn's early-morning scream had us leaping out of bed, only to find that she was scared of the gecko she had faced on the wall after her shower. I tried to be supportive, sympathetic, but Dad was much more matter-of-fact: ``If you're learning to deal with 2,000-pound horses, you'd better not be scared of a little old gecko!'' That was the end of that. No more requests for showers in our bathroom. After all, she had to show Dad she wasn't scared and was ready for that horse she was dreaming of.

Besides, we needed her to model fearless behavior when her friends came for the night.

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