A passion for the cold-blooded: NNU student shares his passion with reptiles

Austin, a junior at NNU, poses with his beloved Mr. T--an Argentinian Tegu. Austin loves and takes care of multiple reptiles at NNU. (Lauren Clark, KBOI). 

For many, the thought of working with reptiles seems unappealing. But for Austin Reich, a junior at Northwest Nazarene University, there's no place he'd rather be.

"With reptiles they come in all shapes and sizes," said Reich. "And i guess mammals do too, but they just seem like dinosaurs. And dinosaurs are cool."

Reich spends hours each week taking care of the dozens of reptiles at NNU. He oversees lizards, frogs, snakes and one very special friend: Mr. T.

Mr. T is an Argentinian Tegu, overflowing with a big personality. He smiles for fans, winks in your direction, and is always up for a cuddle.

"Mr. T can be sassy, he can be flirty sometimes, he can be really loving and cuddly. And really curious," Reich said.

Reich and Mr. T are always side-by-side, particularly since Austin walks him around in a kitten collar all across campus. Of course, Mr. T milks it for his fans: taking pictures, allowing people to come up and stroke his scaly body, and rubbing his cheeks. When it comes to the ladies, Mr. T is quite the ham.

"He does like the girls more than the guys," said Reich.

Soon--Mr. T will get big, just like his namesake.

"He's going to get around four feet when he's full grown.," said Reich. "He'll be really big, I'll need two arms to carry him around. He'll probably have to have a dog collar by then!"

As he grows, Mr. T enjoys his little home in the boiler room. Reich feeds him a steady diet of gizzards, chicken hearts and egg shells, and takes him for multiple walks to keep his active mind stimulated.

Reich explains that Mr. T is a rescue animal, sent to NNU from Florida. He now uses that backstory to share the importance of conservation, and uses Mr. T's fun personality as an education tool.

"We want the students of NNU to be able to experience Mr. T just like everybody should," said Reich.

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