Laverne the iguana had lived at my place with all my other rescue iguanas, turtles, cats, and dogs for quite a while. She and her friend Lenny had belonged to John Wright, a Vietnam veteran. He had first acquired Lenny and had contacted me for help when his health started to deteriorate due to the aftereffects of Agent Orange. Lenny was his beloved pet, but he had the unfortunate habit of attacking (or wanting to mate with) John's oxygen tubing, and John's caregivers were demanding that he get rid of him. Seeing how much Lenny meant to him, I offered home visits instead. To divert Lenny's inappropriate attentions, we placed another rescue iguana, Laverne, with Lenny. And sure enough, Lenny and Laverne became friends, and John was able to enjoy his remaining time with his now much more docile pet. Knowing that his time was short, John arranged for Lenny and Laverne to come home with me when he passed, and one day he was found by his family laying just outside their cage. Lenny had almost torn his face off trying to get through his cage trying to perhaps be with him one final time.
Lenny and Laverne adjusted well to their new home, and spent their next years living both in Maine and at my rescue and education center in Florida. We had just arrived back in Maine when Laverne suddenly became bloated and started gasping for breath. Our regular reptile specialist had just moved from Tufts University in Boston (where he had been a reasonable 6 hour drive away) to UGA in Athens, Georgia, and no other reptile veterinarians were available closer than New York. I immediately tried to find a way to get Laverne to him. Driving her was out of the question since she would have never survived the trip. I found out that I would be able to fly Laverne on Delta to Atlanta, but that looked like a dead end. The 70 or so miles from Atlanta to Athens seemed insurmountable. In desperation I posted to the ride board on PilotsNPaws. Pilot Eric Schaffer responded and offered to pick Laverne up in Atlanta and fly her to Athens. I only found out much later that the Athens airport was closed that day, and Eric actually ended up driving Laverne all the way!! When Laverne arrived at the UGA Veterinary ER, she was barely alive. A 2kg iguana, she had accumulated 300cc of fluid in her bladder, which had extended so much that it was compressing her lungs. Fortunately they managed to drain the fluid off just in time! Eventually they diagnosed Laverne with a thyroid insufficiency, and once she was placed on medication she once again became the happy iguana she had been before. The question arose how to get her home though. A local shuttle company offered to drive her to Atlanta, but once there she had to get from the passenger terminal to the cargo terminal for her flight home. Once again PilotsNPaws came through. Andrew Guba offered his services, drove to the airport to pick her up, took her home over night, and checked her into her cargo flight in the morning!!! She arrived safely back home in Maine that afternoon. The veterinarians at UGA are certain that had it not been for PilotsNPaws Laverne would not have survived. Thanks to Eric and Andrew, she is now again perfectly healthy and expected to live a long life, as John wished for her.