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WHO'S GOT THE IGUANA?; An iguana, a rat and a Bichon Freze dog...weird pets, weird owners? Decide for yourself by pairing the animals with their masters... CAROLINE REID and AMANDA GOFF report PICTURES: ROB RATHBONE.

LOUISE GLYSEN, 25, a veterinary nurse, and her husband Robert, 26, a press operator, are from Basildon, Essex. Their rather unusual pet is called Hercules.

Louise says: "I bought Hercules two years ago, when he was four months old.

"He was such a sweet little thing. But he had a very narrow escape when a big cat tried to eat him.

"He likes to spend his days curled up by our boiler."

STEVE NUTTALL, 49, a site welder, and his wife Stella, 44, who's a marketing assistant, are from Anglesey, North Wales. Their pet is Sophie.

Steve says: "I wanted to call her Tyson. She likes to sit on the passenger seat of my car. If I brake suddenly I have to catch her as she flies through the air.

"She's taken to sleeping in our bed, between me and Stella. You wouldn't believe how much room one small animal can take up."

LISA FIRBANK, 28, a helicopter pilot, is single and lives in Addlington, Cheshire - with Boo-Boo.

Lisa says: "Boo-Boo was four weeks when I bought her. She was so cute.

"She loves fruit mixed with dog biscuits. She's now eight and still wreaks havoc around the house. Calling her playful is being kind!"

PAULINE HAYWARD, 38, a personnel manager, is single and lives in Stockport, Cheshire. Her pet is called Michael.

Pauline says: "He spends hours grooming himself then cuddles me.

"He's like my own child. I even asked my boyfriend to sleep in the spare room so Michael could sleep with me."

JAMES HODGKISON, 27, lives with girlfriend Rachael Baines, 27, a GP liaison officer, in Derby. Their pet is called Daisy.

James says: "At first, Daisy was timid and very wary around humans. But she's certainly not scared of us now. She can be very affectionate, but only when it suits her.

"I love it when Daisy comes and nuzzles up to me." LOUISE SAYS:

"HERCULES IS A SPINY IGUANA.

"I've always loved unusual pets. When I was little, a neighbour had a snake and I used to go round every night to help him bathe it. I desperately wanted one of my own but Mum and Dad wouldn't let me, so I settled for a rabbit instead.

"Nowadays, as well as Hercules, Robert and I share our home with six cats and a ferret called Connor.

"I was introduced to my first iguana five years ago when I worked at a vet's in Essex. They specialised in exotic pets and it was love at first sight. When I told Robert he thought I was mad. It took a month of nagging before he finally gave in.

"I bought Hercules from a specialist pet shop near my home. He fitted into the palm of my hand and I had to feed him baby food through a syringe twice a day.

"I kept him in a small glass tank with a lid until he was a year old.

"Then one night while the family was asleep I went for a glass of water. I passed our cat Tiffany heading for her cat-flap to go outside. There was something familiar about the object sticking out of her mouth. It had four stumpy paws...and a long scaly tail. I prised her jaws open and a rather dazed iguana plopped to the floor.

"Two years on, Hercules is more than two feet long and boasts a razor sharp tail. Fully-grown he'll probably be around five feet and will live 15 to 20 years. I feed him mainly fruit and vegetables. His favourites are broccoli and strawberries.

"In the summer, Robert and I take it in turns to walk him around the garden. Hercules has outgrown several tanks and now lives in our spare room. As I said, that's where the boiler is.

"Recently a man from the gas board came to fit a new meter and asked to check the boiler. Hercules started swishing his tail. I've never seen a boiler tested so quickly."

STEVE SAYS:

"SOPHIE IS OUR GORGEOUS, THREE-YEAR-OLD BICHON FREZE FLUFFY DOG.

"I originally bought Sophie for my wife but she seems to have adopted me instead.

"When we collected her, she was just an eight-inch ball of fluff with two black eyes in the middle. We couldn't agree on a name for her so we made two lists. I wanted to call her Tyson or Zeus, but Stella got her own way. At first I was a bit embarrassed to be seen out with Sophie, but I don't mind now.

"We have two other dogs, spaniels called Gemma and Kim, and when I take them out, Sophie comes too. She's really excitable and dashes about like a motorised mop-head.

"She likes chicken fillets with dog biscuits. And her sleeping in bed with Stella and me has gone beyond a joke. I wouldn't mind, but she likes to stretch out and often I'll wake up clinging on to just two inches of mattress.

"Recently, she's become a bit broody. She's made a bed in her favourite cushion and transformed a squeaky ball into a pretend puppy. Sophie lies on the ball as if she's given birth to it.

"She can be fierce, though. The other day, she spotted next door's cat through a hole in the fence and gave chase. I was really chuffed and thought, `That's my girl'!"

LISA SAYS:

"BOO-BOO IS A

COATIMUNDI, THE MOST EXOTIC OF ALL MY PETS.

"I've always been animal mad. I have two Alsatians, Rocky and Bess, a cat called Nuff-Nuff, a cockatiel Billy, my horse Benson and Becky the donkey.

"So when I saw the advert for a litter of coatimundies in a pet magazine, curiosity got the better of me. I rang the breeder who explained they were similar to a raccoon. Even before she'd finished talking, I'd made up my mind.

"In the end I came away with two - Boo-Boo and her sister Yogi. They cost pounds 150 each and resembled little bear cubs. For the first month I had to bottle-feed them baby formula every four hours. I even had to wind them over my shoulder! After that, I started them on solids - mainly fruit like apples, grapes and melon mixed with dog biscuits.

"Boo-Boo's eight now and the size of a large cat. Sadly, Yogi died in March from a meningitis-type bug.

"Boo-Boo lives in a pen outside, but when I'm home, I'll let her come into the house. Her front paws are like little hands, so nothing's safe. Once, I turned the house upside down looking for my keys, only to discover them in Boo-Boo's den. She must have pinched them out of my pocket.

"Boo-Boo also considers herself quite a lady. One time she took great exception to a joiner who tickled her on the bum with his screwdriver. She gave an indignant squeak to let him know she wasn't impressed, before stomping off.

"He's been back to do some work on the house since and Boo-Boo refuses to have anything to do with him."

PAULINE SAYS: "MICHAEL IS A CUTE, CUDDLY BROWN RAT.

"Actually, I have two of them, as well as two cats, Bluey and Patch.

"My other rat is called Andrew. He was a Christmas present from my sister the year before last.

"I bought Michael from a pet shop a few months ago. He cost pounds 5 and has the same markings as Andrew - a chocolate brown coat with a cream tummy. He's fairly chunky for a rat, about the size of a small guinea pig. Michael is a little smaller.

"Friends' reactions have been mixed. But usually women go all gooey over Andrew and Michael while the men back against the wall, muttering darkly about vermin.

"I really don't know what their problem is. You'd be hard-pressed to find a cleaner animal. My rats spend at least two hours a day grooming themselves. Then they curl up and go to sleep in the crook of my arm while I watch TV. They eat dried rat food and Andrew especially loves pizza.

"He often sits on my shoulders while I'm doing the housework and likes to run around the inside of my tops. Once, I answered the door to the window cleaner and his eyes nearly popped out of his head.

"He looked nervous as he asked, `Why's your jumper moving'? After I'd explained about Andrew, he mumbled something about paying him the following week before rushing off. And yes, it's true I treat the rats like my babies. Once, when Andrew had a cold, I suggested my boyfriend sleep in the spare room so I could bring Andrew into bed with me. He wasn't impressed."

JAMES SAYS: "DAISY IS A CAT WHO'S CHANGED MY WHOLE LIFE.

"She's gorgeous, a tiny little thing with shiny black hair and huge eyes. She's been with us for almost two years and I couldn't imagine life without her.

"I'm 6ft 3ins and 15 stone, hardly the sort of bloke you'd expect to adore cats. To be honest, I don't know where that came from - my mum and dad were dog lovers.

"But when Rachael and I moved into this house, she started talking about getting a cat. I didn't have any objection, I've always loved animals.

"We popped along to the Cats' Protection Shelter in Derby and picked Daisy out. She was meowing so pitifully, and looking at me as if to say, `Take me home'. How could a man resist?

"The story behind Daisy was really sad. She'd been found abandoned in an empty house. Her owners just moved house and left her there alone to fend for herself.

"We paid pounds 40 as a donation to the shelter, and took her home that day. At first, she was a scared little thing, and kept hiding behind the curtains. But now she's become quite a character.

"She's a hoity-toity madam sometimes and won't come for affection unless it's on her terms.

"She adores tuna and chicken, and has been known to pinch a whole chicken leg off the plate if it's been left unguarded.

"She also has this annoying habit of throwing up in strange places. But I can never be angry with her for too long.

"Having Daisy has made me realise how much I love animals. I was working in a record shop when we first got her. Then six months ago I saw an advertisement from the Cats' Protection League looking for staff. I got the job and now help look after 250 furry felines.

"We have two other cats at home now as well. Tony is three and Tiger is one. But Daisy's still my little lady."
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Reid, Caroline; Goff, Amanda
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 30, 2000
Words:1781
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