Acquired: Wild caught / rehabilitation animal,
Missouri, United States
Posted Oct 05, 2015
When I turned 13 years old, I got a tiny lizard for my Birthday. He was so small, he could wrap his arms and legs around my pinky finger, and rest his chin on the pad of the finger.
I named him after my favorite cartoon character of the time, Gir. I learned the Lizard species was called a "Bearded Dragon". Admittedly I wanted a dog for my birthday, but I had no idea this little lizard would become my best friend.
As he grew larger, I began handling him slowly and gently over time. Gir took to being handled very well, and was surprisingly docile and and friendly. He wasn't scared of me, he would love perching on my knee or shoulder. He was so tame, I didn't even think about him leaping off me or something as a kid. As time went on, I found myself going everywhere, and doing everything with Gir. If I was on a walk in the park, he was on my shoulder or head. If I was on my computer, he was perched on my printer. I quickly grew very fond of this little dragon. And every month he doubled in size!
He started off eating small "Ant Crickets", but slowly moved to larger prey as he got older. Soon I was feeding him a large diversity of insects: Dragon Fly Larvae, adult Crickets, Dubia Roaches, and Wax and Superworms. I remember as a little girl, at first I thought the insects were disgusting, but quickly I grew interested in the process of feeding the insects to the Dragon. I watched how Gir would hunt the insects, it was a very gruesome, yet educational process. it was like I had National Geographic in my living room.
I also started feeding him these beautiful, colorful salads made up of fruit and leafy greens. Having the ingredients to make these daily salads around the house, also inspired me to start eating fruits and vegetables more often, to be closer to my Dragon companion. I even got into gardening, so I could grow organic food for him. It was a very satisfying experience to grow food and watch my lizard happily eat it, and grow healthy and strong.
After around a year, Gir grew to a little over a foot long. He was enormous compared to when I had first got him. He was a brilliant orange/red, and was surprisingly active for a reptile. I remember I loved watching him jump from branch to branch in his terrarium. Sometimes I would take him out, and put him on the living room couch, he used to love running from one end of the couch to the other.
I somehow managed to potty-train the little guy as well. I know that sounds strange, but over time, he realized that at a certain time of day, he would go outside his terrarium, and come to the back yard, or park with me. He started to wait to go until he was outside, sitting in the grass with me while I would do my homework. Sometimes he would even let me know that he wanted to go outside, by "Window Dancing", pawing vigorously at the glass!
I couldn't believe how much personality this little creature had. He grew up with me, and passed away of old age when I turned 21. I had no idea how close I became to him. He was my best friend, and we watched each other grow up.
Bearded Dragons make wonderful pets for children of all ages. The educational properties of owning this animal are boundless. They help children learn about responsibility and nature. Now, I can't promise that every child will have the same reaction I did, but in my experience, having a Bearded Dragon taught me to stop eating junk food, to take up gardening.
Bearded Dragons are very easy to care for! They're temperament makes them really easy to handle. They seem to actually really enjoy human company, and are known to fall asleep in your lap like a cat or dog. They rarely get alarmed and most are never aggressive. They are however small, so children should be careful not to hurt or drop them.
Bearded Dragon husbandry is a moderately simple. They're great for people just getting into owning exotic pets. The smallest tank you can get for an adult Dragon is a Breeder Tank. They're around 40 Gallons and cost around $75. They need 3 lights, a UVB light, and a UVA light. The UVB helps them digest their food better, and the UVA keeps them warm. You can even by lights that are a combination of these two, but be careful if you go that route, as some are badly made and could give your Dragon conjunctivitis, or "Eye Burn". However, If that happens it's reversible ,just replace the light. At night they will need a Ceramic Heat Emitter, A bulb that screws into the same lamp that the UVA goes into. they cost around $20-$30, but assuming you don't drop it or something, they never need replacement. As for substrate, I would recommend NEVER using anything ground up, as these little guys eat like pigs, and will get bits of the substrate in their mouth as they eat. Dragons die from impaction due to this. Always use paper, a towel with short fibers, or Astroturf, which they sell at pet shops in appropriately cut sizes. You will also need a Digital thermometer to keep track of the temperature, which is pretty standard for reptile keeping. Dragons need very little to keep entertained in their environment. A few logs cut in half, and maybe some form of stone structure will keep any Dragon completely satisfied.
Bearded Dragons have a very slow metabolism and don't need to eat much after they turn 2 years old. When they're juveniles they will eat daily both insect matter and plant matter, however when they hit adulthood (as mentioned that will probably be 2 years), they slow down and don't eat much. At that point, you should offer salad, made up of fruit and vegetables every day. Give insects maybe 2-3 times a week, but don't be surprised, or alarmed if they don't always eat the insects at this age.
Bearded Dragons are very clean animals! They'res never been a recorded case of a Bearded Dragon caring Salmonella, however it's still a good idea to always wash your hands before and after handling any animal.
Bearded Dragons are awake during the day, making them active when people are awake! This is an interesting trait in a reptile, and makes owners of these interesting reptiles very satisfied, in that they get to see and observe the exotic behaviors of their pet very frequently! Bearded Dragons are typically vibrant colors, which change depending on mood or temperature. A common behavior of these lizards is showing off their "Beard", by filling it with air and turning it different colors. Some will also display their body language for they're owners, like "Waving" or "head bobbing". It makes for a wonderful experience to be able to observe these beautiful animals in the comfort of your own home.
Bearded Dragons are very durable, healthy, hardy animals. They rarely get sick, and the biggest Bearded Dragon health problems are easily avoided. If your Bearded Dragon does get sick however, it 99% of the time indicates there's something wrong with its husbandry, and simple adjustments of it's environment will fix the problem.
Bearded Dragons also don't go to the bathroom very often, and when they do, it's fairly easy to clean up. They're desert animals, and they evolved to conserve as much water as possible, so the urine comes out in a solid pellet connected to the stool. There's virtually no mess.
Pretty much the only con to Bearded Dragon ownership in my opinion, is insect keeping. Crickets are the worst part, they are noisy and gross. The Cricket container will need cleaning every 2 days, and I would recommend keeping them in container in a room that's shut off from being heard by the rest of the house. Also be careful not to let them escape when you're feeding the dragon.
Bearded Dragons are very flexible, and pretty much okay with anything. You can put them on a dogs head and they'll stay completely calm. So they're very okay with other pets. I would always supervise your Bearded Dragon with other animals however, to make sure the lizard wont get hurt. You can travel with them easily, and they seem to really enjoy being pet.
You can also give Bearded Dragons a bath. They love water and it really benefits their health.
Ultimately, the Bearded Dragon is a fantastic pet. They're friendly, tame, and love human contact. They're relatively active, and absolutely gorgeous animals. They're educational for children, and a joy to have. Treat them well, and be a responsible owner, and they will reward you with years and years of unique antics, and loving companionship.