For my son's 9th birthday, we got him a bearded dragon. We never had a reptile before, there is quite a learning curve when embarking upon a herpetological adventure. Growing up, I had a sister, and neither of us liked bugs or insects or creatures of any kind. Having a son myself, I have constantly amazed myself at my willingness to encourage my son's love of nature. Before we got Spikes, my living room hosted a multitude of wildlife, including millipedes as thick as your index finger, tomato hornworms that hatch into disgusting bird like moths, a Madagascar hissing cockroach (that actually hissed)and various worms and bugs found in the backyard. I was not thrilled, but after a while, I kind of got desensitized to the various flora and fauna I was forced to host.
Bearded dragons are omnivores. I did not know this before we got him. I did not realize that what he ate, would also become our pets. We learned the hard way after a bag of crickets turned died en masse. The guy at petco laughed when we tried to return the plastic bag of cricket carcasses explaining that we needed a special cricket keeper to house them and a jar of gelatinous cricket food.
It was not enough that we were charged with feeding Spikes, we were also responsible for the survival of his meals. My living room sounded like a forest. The chirping was almost deafening at times. Eventually we tuned it out, and even later on, crickets were abandoned in favor of mega worms. The first time I brought home a container of meal worms I cried. I opened the bag and I just sobbed. All I wanted to do was go to an American Girl doll store. That was not in the cards for me.
So, it became a big pain in the ass to feed our beloved creature. No one told me he would eat ten dollars worth of crickets/ worms in a week. No one told me I would be running to Petland discounts twice a week to purchase these items.
That said, Spikes became part of our little family. He does not do a whole lot, but he is a kind little creature. He is quiet. We are thankful that he does not poop that often because bearded dragon poop smells like a swampy roiling sewer on a 99 degree day. I consider myself a lucky gal the times he poops when I am not home and my husband has to clean out the tank. Spikes sits in our tiny living room, plodding along with us, watching us watch TV, listening to us argue and laugh, he is part of us.
Yesterday morning, my son ran upstairs and busted in my room crying that Spikes has a sore on his face. He was very upset about it. I came downstairs and checked, and yes, indeed he had a really bad sore on his face. That was not there the day before, or at least we did not see anything. He is in the middle of a shed though, so it's not uncommon for him to look like a slight fiasco. I googled, and did not really come up with anything. I thought about putting some neosporin on him. I could not let it go though, and I started calling up some vets.
It's not really an easy thing to find a vet that treats reptiles, or at least not in my area. I called at least 11 vets and finally someone was able to give me a number of someone that could see him. We got an afternoon appointment. I dug out an amazon box for him and we got him ready for the ride. Can I just say now that it's not a good idea to put an angry lizard in a box without a top in the care of a germaphobic 11 year old boy in the back seat, while you are driving 60 mph on a highway. No matter how high you think the box is, it's not tall enough to thwart an escape. At one point, spikes was clamped tightly to my son's shirt, he did not want to go back in the box. We finally arrived at the vet. My son ran into the bathroom and washed his hands for a good solid minute and tried to wash the part of his shirt where Spikes climbed on to him.
So, Spikey got an exam by a doctor. She started by pulling off all the shed from him, which kinda sorta made me want to yak. Then she asked me questions. I felt like my mothering skills were being put to the test with her questions. I guess I need to work on my defensiveness. On that exam table, his sore looked even worse and in fact, he had another one. It broke my heart to see that little guy suffering. They look really painful.
She said that he might have something called 'yellow fungus'. Which along with sounding completely gross, is also fatal. We were not prepared for that. It could also just be a skin infection, maybe he tried to scratch off his shed. Who knows, we certainly can't ask the patient. They were able to get a stool sample (lucky them) and I was given instructions on how to give him a syringe of antibiotics. If you think wrestling with a belligerent toddler trying to get them to choke down bubble gum flavored amoxycillin is rough, you have never tried to give an angry bearded dragon antibiotics. It is not an easy task, by any means. It's a ten day supply. It's also a 2 person job. I will do what I have to do, but this morning I dreaded it. I think he realizes that the drops taste like shit. Today, he took one drop, then closed his eyes and tried to pretend I was not there trying to jam a giant syringe into his mouth.
She also gave me a prescription for some cream, which I had to take to CVS. That was almost comical. When I dropped it off, they asked for all my info. I explained that it was not for me, but for my pet. When I went to pick it up however, they would not give it to me because I could not provide them with spike's birthday. I thought the Rx was under my name, it was not, it was under Spike's name. The line was growing long with impatient people while they were trying to figure this out. The whole event was somewhat bizarre and and strangely humorous. It was weird not to use my insurance card at CVS, thankfully the cream was not too pricey. It needs to be mentioned as well that this whole extravaganza cost us a few dollars shy of $200.00. I got a lovely low balance alert on my phone this morning.
So now, we wait. Many times in the two years we have had Spikes, he has looked like he was circling the drain. Every now and again I have poked him with my finger to see if he was still alive. He likes to crawl under things and stay there for a few days not moving. I came downstairs this morning with great trepidation, and thankfully my fears were eased when I saw his slow moving breaths rise in his little lizard body and his eyes opened and shut. Our ultimate hope is that our Spikes makes a full recovery from whatever it is that plagues him. I hope that any treatment we give him now cures him and at the very least helps him not be in pain.