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BY TOM MITSOFF
The world's most recognizable chain of "fast food" restaurants has as its primary spokespersons a circus clown, a six-foot-tall purple blob, a hamburger-headed jailbird and a piano player with a head shaped like the moon. You can now add a green, scaly and very hungry reptile to the McDonald's menagerie.
Ferguson Junior High School is the home of "Iggy" the Iguana, a pet of seventh-grade science teacher Georgie Rosier and her class. Iggy is much like any other domestic iguana, except that he is hooked on McDonald's salads. The Side Salads and Garden Salads have become Iggy's favorite food by far, according to Rosier, since she first fed one of the pre-packaged meals to her pet.
"He will come out of his tank for a McDonald's salad," Rosier said. Indeed, when Rosier lowered a McDonald's salad into Iggy's tank last Friday afternoon, the ravenous reptile pounced upon the salad and the teacher's hand which was carrying it. No damage was done to the hand, but short work was made of the salad.
Iggy has been a pet of Rosier's for about a year, ever since she purchased him from a Dayton pet store. She said that vegetation is a preferred food for most iguanas, and that she had until recently been feeding Iggy lettuce purchased from the grocery store. Iggy, while eating the lettuce, showed none of the ravenous behavior that he has shown toward the McDonald's salads.
Rosier said that one McDonald's salad per week would be adequate to meet Iggy's need for vegetation intake. However, Iggy finishes one salad per day with no problem, Rosier said.
What is it about McDonald's salads that has ignited Iggy's taste buds? Rosier said she is not certain, but suspects that it might be the chemical additives used by many restaurants to keep their pre-packaged salads fresh.
"He also likes the cheese" on the salads, Rosier said. "There's an iguana out west who likes hot cheese soufflés, so you just never know."
One thing Rosier does know about Iggy is that he recognizes when he is about to be fed a McDonald's salad, and reacts accordingly.
"He gets real aggressive," Rosier said. "There was one time when I was up on a footstool ready to feed Iggy his salad. (Rosier, at 5-foot-4, needs the extra height to reach down into Iggy's aquarium.) As I was ready to put the salad in, he jumped at me, and there we were eyeball-to-eyeball. I know he isn't harmful, but I was so startled that I lost my balance, threw the salad in the air, and we had salad all over the place (in her classroom)." She said she wasn't injured. "I was more embarrassed than anything."
After his daily meal, Iggy moves to a "hot rock" in his aquarium, places his body prone over the rock, and goes to sleep. The heat from the rock aids in digestion, Rosier said.
The only other food Iggy gets aggressive over is his weekly ration of baby mice, Rosier said. Iggy gets one baby mouse per week, and sometimes confuses Rosier's fingertips with a baby mouse. That can be painful at times, due to the long claws which iguanas have, Rosier said.
Iguanas are most plentiful in the Galapagos Islands, Rosier said. They can grow to six feet in length, and come in marine and terrestrial varieties. While they are not common as house pets, Rosier said she has heard of people who had iguanas in their homes and allowed them to roam freely.
"They will find a place that they like to sleep, and always sleep in that place," she said. "They also always go to the bathroom in the same place, so if you lay newspapers down there, there's no problem. They're fairly easy to maintain."
That is, if you don't mind an occasional surprise attack.
"They like warmth," Rosier said. "They'll jump on you because they like to feel the warmth of your body."
When McDonald's officials heard about Iggy's craving for their salads, they wasted little time in investigating. Officials from McDonald's corporate offices visited Ferguson to take photos of Iggy, which will presumably be used in some sort of promotional materials. (Rosier did not know what McDonald's specific plans are for the Iggy photos.) In return, the restaurant chain is helping to defray the cost of keeping Iggy well fed, Rosier said.
How does Rosier know that Iggy's nutritional needs are being met?
"Iguanas store body fat in the base of their tails," she said. "Iggy's tail is very big."
Rosier has taught science classes at Ferguson Junior High for 14 years. She and her husband, Bill, reside in Beavercreek.
This story appeared in the February 15, 1989 edition of the Beavercreek (Ohio) Current.
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