Parrie Henderson-O'Keefe's son Peirman has a surprise waiting for him for his 16th birthday: an iguana named after a rare Pokemon character that he met at an animal shelter in Washington, D.C.
He took to the 2-year-old iguana, Charizard, as soon as he saw her at the Washington Humane Society-Washington Animal Rescue League on Thursday, scratching her neck as she shed an old layer of skin. She crawled onto his shoulder when he picked her up.
The shelter was one of more than 680 shelters participating on Saturday in Clear the Shelters, a nationwide pet adoption drive sponsored by NBC Owned Television Stations and Telemundo. Shelters offered no-cost or reduced-fee adoptions or waived spaying and neutering fees.
Among the other more unusual animals adopted Saturday were chickens, a pigeon, two fire-bellied toads, ferrets, rabbits, parakeets, guinea pigs and mice.
There was also an American Alligator at a shelter in Pasadena, California. Tina, who stretches nearly 7 feet long and weighs more than 100 pounds, isn't up for adoption. She was born in captivity but ended up at the shelter when a wildlife exhibit closed and large zoos didn't take her.
Henderson-O'Keefe, who lives in Washington, D.C., learned about Clear the Shelters in an email from the shelter. She went early to look around with Peirman and his sister, 12-year-old Eldie. When they left, Peirman told Henderson-O'Keefe he wanted Charizard the iguana for his upcoming birthday.
Peirman, who hope to study amphibians and reptiles, then left for a camp in Ohio, and Henderson-O’Keefe and Eldie decided to adopt Charizard as a surprise.
"He's going to be thrilled. Ecstatic," said Henderson-O'Keefe, who planned to call her son to give him the news. "That’s all we've been talking about since he saw her."
"He's probably going to make us FaceTime the reptile," she added.
Charizard was at the animal shelter for three months before being adopted, Henderson-O'Keefe said. The iguana's previous owners trained her to be walked on a leash. The shelter did not know why she was given up, according to Henderson-O'Keefe.
Henderson-O'Keefe said she will keep Charizard in a cage on the balcony with her tortoises and feed the iguana food from her rooftop garden. Right now, she said, Charizard is calm and not moving much as she gets used to her new home. She will become more active as she gets settled, Henderson-O'Keefe said.
"She'll probably be very happy up there," Henderson-O'Keefe said, who played with the iguana outside and said Charizard seemed to like being around people.