Gary the Gecko!

Annika Yoder, Reporter

In January, Newton High School business teacher, Amanda Gillespie, decided that she wanted to own her first gecko. Her leopard gecko, Gary Littlefoot, was brought into her classroom soon after and he quickly made an impact on her students.

A gecko is a cold-blooded, small species of lizard that are found all over the world. According to Pet Assure, geckos, specifically leopard geckos like Gary, are one of the most popular reptiles to be kept as pets, especially for beginners. They are docile and are relatively easy animals to care for.

Ann Pomeroy

[For Geckos] as with any pet, there is some time commitment. Geckos are on the lower end of that,” Gillespie said. “They only require checking that they have food and water every day, and clean their cages weekly. Since I want him to be handled, that takes more time and patience. Even when he is at home with me, I handle him at least 3 times a day for 15 minutes.” 

Geckos are also a popular pet choice because they tend to fall on the more inexpensive side of pet ownership. For example, the price of both Gary and his current setup was around $300. However, owning an animal such as a dog can cost anywhere from $500 to $2000 if you choose to adopt from a breeder. 

“The cost to own a gecko varies depending on the type and what setup you want. The current setup I have, and my gecko was around $300,” Gillespie said. “I chose to use newspaper as the substrate instead of sand, which is less expensive. Then there is the ongoing monthly investment of food. Geckos only eat insects, so I could either buy live or dried. I prefer dried, so I don’t have bugs jumping at me when I get the gecko out for his exercise.”

Ann Pomeroy

Gillespie’s students were heavily involved in deciding on Gary’s name. Gillespie said that she chose Gary for his yellow and black skin, which also resembles the colors of NHS. There were numerous names for students to choose from, and of course, Gary Littlefoot was the winner.

“The gecko is named Gary Littlefoot after everyone in my classes had an opportunity to vote. Gary and Martin were tied up until the last person had a chance to vote,” Gillespie said. “Other names that were in the running were Henry, Ron and Jerry.”

For Gillispie, her interest in owning a gecko started about a year ago. She was able to apply for a grant which allowed her to keep Gary in her classroom. She was awarded the grant and earned a discounted price on her gecko. 

“Last year my husband made me a gecko with our 3D printer, which started my interest in them,” Gillespie said. “I found out that there is a grant called Pets in the Classroom, which includes curriculum and a small amount towards acquiring the gecko through Petco. I applied for the grant and was awarded a free terrarium and half price on a gecko.”

According to Reptile Centre, leopard geckos are great pets for families. They are happy to be held by people of all ages and are not aggressive by nature. Gillespie said that Gary also fits this description. Gary is very calm and is usually comfortable being handled by both Gillespie and other students.

“I love Gary’s personality. He is friendly and calm, but when he is tired of being handled he lets you know,” Gillespie said. “I also enjoy that I get the opportunity to include biology in my curriculum.”