Here Be Dragons


During the summer of 2014, our son’s best friend moved two states away. Speedy, his beloved box turtle of the past three years, was unable to go with him. When he asked if we could foster Speedy until he returned home “or whenever” of course we said yes. It was a turtle. How difficult could it be?

This is Speedy. Yes, we saw a vet about his overbite.

Keeping a box turtle turned out to be incredibly easy. I joined a Facebook group for reptile owners and learned a lot about our new four-legged, tough-shelled friend. He ate his turtle food. We spritzed him with water. He climbed on the turtle-friendly playground we created in his newer, bigger habitat. Everything was going really well.

And Then There Were Two… And Then Three…

Everything was going so well that when the Facebook group presented the opportunity to add a gecko to our menagerie, I jumped at the chance. The next month, we added a second gecko to our growing menagerie.

Geronimo is a female Giant Day Gecko. She’s bigger than this now and kind of looks like the GEICO gecko. His previous owner was going overseas and had to give him up.
This is Captain Jack. He is a Crested Gecko. Most reptiles like to shed in private but Jack seems to be the exception. He really loves showing off for me. His previous owner went to college and unfortunately the dorm has a no-reptile policy.

This put our number of pets at seven – four dogs and three reptiles. All the humans in the house agreed – we were done. Our home is one step up from a tiny house, and it was full. No matter what animal became available or its circumstances, the answer would be, “Sorry! We’re unable to take in anything at this time.”

Famous Last Words…

So we agreed to take this pair of bearded dragons temporarily. They were in bad shape – as in, I was afraid they wouldn’t make it through the night. Their prior owner left them in the hands of someone who, it turns out, disliked reptiles. In my head I was already calling them Lenny and Squiggy.

Lenny and Squiggy are 2-year-old bearded dragons. Their previous owner was unable to take care of them due to extenuating circumstances.

Their habitat (which came with them) was filled with lettuce and what looked like old cat food. The person had kittens who urinated on the screen – and the poor dragons – and the habitat was flea infested.

We added a heat lamp and did some quick research on the best foods to supplement their diet of gut loaded crickets. (Gut loading is a process of enriching the food eaten by live food, like crickets, worms, or mice, so the nutrients get passed on to the bigger animal.)

My husband began making the dragons a medley of diced squash, apples, greens, and other reptile-friendly foods. Within a couple of days they showed signs of improvement.

Because the primary living space in our home has an open floor plan, Where we put their habitat is visible from practically any seat in the living and dining areas. While under our near-constant supervision, we grew rather fond of these new creatures.

Then my husband began referring to them as his dragons. His boys. His buddies. He and our sons gave them nicknames like Cheech and Chong, Beavis and Butthead, Spongebob and Patrick.

Life as Foster Failures

When I mentioned finding them a new home, my husband scoffed. They were already settled in here. A routine had developed. We wouldn’t want to stress them out by moving them again, would we?

And that’s how we ended up with nine pets. We are foster failures – people who agree to provide temporary care for an animal but then end up adopting the animal ourselves.

Now I have to figure out how to work Lenny and Squiggy into my book. Fortunately it’s a cozy mystery, so they’ll fit right in with Harvey Wallbanger the Golden Retriever and Calico the cat.

Do you have pets? Do you work them into your writing projects? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


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