The Pets of Lowell

Photo courtesy of Nathan Chamberlin
Junior Nathan Chamberlin with one of his geckos.

From tiny geckos to a seven-foot-long snake, Junior Nathan Chamberlin adopts and cares for a variety of reptiles. Chamberlin began this unconventional hobby as a freshman and has since amassed a family of cold-blooded creatures that live in his bedroom.

Chamberlin’s first reptile was a Christmas gift from his parents: a chameleon that he named Ziggy. As of now, he cares for two veiled chameleons named Randall and Karma after the song “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club; three crested geckos named Carrie, Carson and Nancy; two tokay geckos named Terry and Theresa; a blue-tongued skink named Slider; and a boa constrictor named Lucy. Other than reptiles, he also has a pet dog named George.

Since adopting his first chameleon, Chamberlin’s interests have evolved. “I didn’t really have a thing that I spent my money and time on until [I started owning reptiles],” Chamberlin said. He plans to get a job at a pet store this summer, and, until then, is slowly filling his home with crawling and slithering creatures.

In making room for his animals, Chamberlin has lost some space of his own. “My room is really thin because all of the walls are lined with enclosures,” Chamberlin said.

Nevertheless, Chamberlin manages his animals with care and enjoys showing them to his friends, who aren’t afraid to carry his favorite pet–-a forty-pound, seven-foot-long boa constrictor–over their shoulders.

Chamberlin’s family of reptiles is always evolving as he buys and sells his pets. Chamberlin has sold geckos and snakes to his friends at school, and he credits himself with “converting” his friends into reptile lovers.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Chamberlin
Junior Nathan Chamberlin with boa constrictor Lucy.

One Lowellite who Chamberlain claims to have “converted” is Dylan Essex, a junior who now has a reptile collection of his own. Essex currently cares for a crested gecko named Smaug after the dragon in the Lord of The Rings, a giant day gecko named Melman after the giraffe in Madagascar, an ocellated skink named Checkers, and a bearded dragon named Annie. Essex’s first gecko was purchased from Chamberlin last May.

Essex keeps his pets as organized as he can. His geckos and lizards live in an enclosure in his bedroom, where he works to keep them presentable. “I want it to be the opposite of Nathan’s house,” he said, referencing Chamberlin’s crowded enclosures.

Although he invests time and money into maintaining his reptiles’ environment, Essex appreciates his pets most when they’re out of their enclosures. “They’re really cool to show off and little kids love them,” Essex said.

The geckos and lizards all have individual personalities, the friendliest of the bunch being Annie the bearded dragon. Essex enjoys handling Annie and Smaug; however, his other reptiles are more shy, including Melman the giant day gecko who tends to bite if handled. This doesn’t bother Essex, who says that this is a unique trait among day geckos.

Essex has been fond of reptiles since he owned some as a child, but the responsibilities of pet-owning were too demanding for a younger Essex. After watching Chamberlin foster cold-blooded pets and doing hours of research of his own, Essex decided it was time for a second try.

To an older Essex, pet ownership is a light task. He now spends 10-20 minutes a day caring for his reptiles. “It’s so straightforward, a monkey could own a reptile,” he said.