Back in November, our daughter emailed my husband and me an original slideshow presentation titled “Bearded Dragon Care.” She’s been obsessed with reptiles since she was a toddler.
When she was 3, she thought she hit the jackpot. She and I were enrolled in a preschool nature class at Catoctin Creek Nature Center. We were supposed to be collecting leaves on the nature walk and placing them into our bag for an activity. Her little eagle eyes spotted a baby wood turtle and she stealthily placed the turtle into her leaf bag. Luckily, I discovered it before we left and convinced her that it wouldn’t be right to take a wild animal out of his environment. To her immense disappointment, the turtle went back into the forest.
Neither of my children is animal-deprived. We’ve always had three or four cats — and, at one time, two tankfuls of fish. Both of them have asked for various animals over the years, and we always answered that we already had enough critters to take care of. However, the slideshow was a new tactic. It was apparent that she had spent a lot of time researching the bearded dragon. The title page displayed a variety of pictures of bearded dragons looking cute and snuggling with a cat. I couldn’t help thinking that no such thing would ever happen with our four cats! Any encounter would surely end in a bloodbath.
Further into the presentation, she listed all the foods he would eat, why she wanted a male instead of a female, exactly what equipment we would need, how sociable they are to humans, and how to identify when he was sick. As we finished reading the presentation, which she sent with no verbal warning, my husband and I looked at each other in quiet resignation. How could we refuse such a request?
With Christmas around the corner and her birthday in January, we decided to drag out the process. Turns out this was what she wanted. Through her research she discovered how much abuse lizards go through at the hands of distributors that sell to pet stores. According to the videos and articles concerning this subject, many of the lizards are dehydrated, starved, abused and sick. She was also concerned that they wouldn’t be able to tell her if the lizard was male or female since she wanted to avoid the females due to the risk of “egg clutch sickness.” She looked around the internet and discovered that Repticon was coming to the Maryland State Fairgrounds on Jan. 12. That date became our lizard preparation deadline.
For Christmas, she received the equipment. For her birthday, her family and friends showered her with gift cards, and on the day after her birthday, we piled five girls in the van to pick out our new addition. We decided on Astro rather quickly, were very impressed with the breeder, and Astro’s temperament. Turns out the cats don’t really care about him. Both of my kids like to hold him, and my daughter has taken total responsibility for his care. His little face and calm demeanor has grown on me so much that I find myself going into her room to check on him in the evenings. Though at first I was nervous about having a lizard in my home, I am glad we said yes. Now we wait to see what the next slideshow has in store for us.
Shannon Green writes from Frederick.