Nim’s Island had been out a year. The movie starring Abigail Breslin, Jody Foster and Fred the bearded dragon spiked a marked increase in lizard fever and our household was not immune. Fred was so cool; sitting on Abigail’s shoulder, giving high fives and doing long division. In the 2009 fog of grief and temporary insanity, we gladly accepted the “gift” of a bearded dragon from a “friend.” Jack loved him. Freddy looked like a dinosaur and was fun to watch hunt crickets. For a solid 13 minutes. That was 6 years ago.
My cousin Bill gave into his kid’s bearded dragon request. In the pet store check out line he casually asked the cashier what the typical lifespan was. When the Petco worker mentioned 15 YEARS, Bill dropped the 50 gallon tank and basking lamp quicker than you can say Little Miss Sunshine. He got all the brains in the family. He intuitively knew that a pet which lives three times as long as the average marriage in our country is a bad call.
I blame it on pet stores. They should really offer reptile counseling to protect people like me from myself. Or at the very least have a Match.com kiosk to see if this is actually a good fit. But they don’t. Not at all. They manipulate consumer demand: advertising eye-catching propaganda like “BEARDED DRAGONS COMING SOON” on empty tanks with fake jungle backdrops for effect. In reality there is an overabundance of bearded dragons, they just hold them like diamonds and release them intermittently. DeBearded Dragon style.
Most of our collective poor parental judgement is nothing but exhaustion. We are just too tired to fight sometimes. Between work, permission slips, laundry and travel soccer something’s gotta give. And it is usually our sanity. Parents are only as happy as their least happy child and kids are cranky these days. That’s why we give our nine-year-olds iPhones and impulse pets like bearded dragons. At least the iPhones are breakable. I still have a creepy micro-dinosaur upstairs scratching off his days on a calendar with his pointy nail like he’s in San Quentin.
To be fair, life with Freddy has not been all bad. We’ve had some fun. He’s hung in there like a champ unlike the 2 hens which turned out to be roosters and the fire toad to whom I literally administered mouth-to-mouth breathing in 2009. Don’t judge me; there had been just too much loss. I’ve taken the little prehistoric guy on field trips. Jack wanted Freddy to meet his fifth grade class. So I wore him like a broach into the First Baptist Church School building where unfortunately the preschoolers had already lined up for carpool. About 10% of the toddlers were stoked while the other 90 screamed bloody murder.
The truly beautiful circle of pet life continues. When our “friend’s” wife wanted my opinion on getting a chihuahua for their 10-year-old daughter, I gave her my honest opinion that every pre-teen girl needs the unconditional love and unlimited clothing opportunities of a chihuahua. Olive the precious puppy was adopted on Tuesday and already has a Spring Wardrobe. Her life is totally made and as soon as Spring Training is over and our “friend” returns home he will have an awesome surprise waiting for him! No worries, Don, they only live about 15 years.