Lost lizard returns home after daring escape

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SAN DIEGO — This is one monitor that needs to be more closely monitored.

“Bubbles,” a 5 1/2-foot exotic lizard that serves as a popular mascot of sorts at an East County pet shop, is back where he belongs Friday, five days after he apparently got an irresistible yen to roam.

The disappearance of the roughly 5-year-old black-throated monitor — the reptile made his escape by pushing his way past a cage blocking a back door — led to a modest flurry of publicity, and one of those news accounts directly led to his return, said Jim Kmet, manager of Bubbles’ home, Mike’s Pets in Spring Valley.

It seems a Los Angeles man in the San Diego area on business heard a radio report about the errant reptile on Thursday and, finding himself in the neighborhood, stopped by the Paradise Valley Road store to help track down the creature.

On a hillside about 75 yards behind the store, the out-of-towner came across the footloose lizard sunning himself on top of a patch of hillside foliage, Kmet said. The area had been repeatedly searched since Sunday, but Bubbles had managed to remain undetected.

“Obviously, he found a good hiding spot,” the store manager said.

The cold-blooded quarry initially was not keen on giving up his freedom.

“He didn’t event recognize us (at first) … . He got a wild instinct just from four days,” Kmet said. “It took him a long time to calm down.”

Once back at the strip-mall business where he has lived for several years, Bubbles, notably hungry and thirsty, seemed content to be out of the elements again.

Bubbles’ worrisome breakout will lead to added precautions — possibly including a rear screen door at the pet shop — to keep him from going on the lam again, according to Kmet.

“It was unfortunate, but we learned our lesson,” he said.

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