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Many of you know that we’re not just an iguana family, though admittedly, Dorian does rule the roost. As with many reptile parents I’ve met over the years, there’s a weird “collecting” nature to these special pets. I’ve honestly never met a snake owner with just one snake. Maybe it’s because reptiles are contained, fashioned away in glass tanks and mesh screens, they’re just more collectible in a way. A collection of two corn snakes, a ball python, and a blood python morph, could easily fit in one room and three mid-sized tanks. I’m not sure a Samoyed, a bulldog, and two calicoes could say the same.

As such, our little guys and gals all know each other. Dorian makes sure he does his rounds and let’s them all know he’s in charge. He’ll walk into someone’s room, say the beardie room, and headbob at everyone to show he’s the top dog. For the most part, they get along with him, despite a healthy dose of fear/respect that keeps everyone in check. Being that he’s a pretty placid and easy-going guy,  we’ve never once worried that Dorian would hurt the beardies, frilly, or our female iguana Cali.

We recently lost two of our beardies, Irwin, our nine year old dragon who lived with Amber, and Johan, one of two baby dragons I acquired in October. While Dorian barely knew Johan existed, he was well acquainted with Irwin. They were quite chummy in fact, cuddle buddies and banana sharers. Well not at the same time. No one should get between Dorian and his bananas without risking bodily harm!

When my first beardie died of liver cancer, Dorian let me know he was unhappy about me presumably causing her absence. He used to walk back into her room, look at her empty tank, and then headbob at me as if I were the guilty party. Each time it happened, it was like tearing open a freshly healed wound.

Worse yet, was my inability to answer why she was gone. All Dorian sees is an empty tank, so it must be my fault. Though I often tend to overpersonify him, the truth is his little reptilian brain can only process so much, and certainly not something as abstract as death. I wish it could, it would prove cathartic to me and empathetic for Dorian.

It’s a sad reminder as a vet once told me that we invite these special animals into our lives for a short time, and we know our time with them is short. We either accept this and accept the pain that comes with it, or we don’t bring them into our lives to begin with. 

As much as I hate to say it, I gladly choose the pain. The joy and memories of the short time we have together will always be greater than the loss.