Monday, November 24, 2014

Blaze, rescue number 71

I had two open tanks this weekend which, in the rescue business, invites new critters. 

Blaze was brought to me last night. He is a now retired breeder with LOTS of aggression issues. 

I am letting him settle in today since he went to sleep in a familiar environment and woke up in my strange house. Then we'll start working on calming him down. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Baby steps or "Why my iguana still hates me but isn't plotting to kill me."

Ramses, after today's bath: 

He still hates me, but he's not actively plotting to kill me in my sleep any more. ;)

Sweet Andy

This little guy fought hard to keep living, but it just wasn't enough. :( He died some time this morning. Poor buddy. 

He will be buried under our apple tree next to our beloved Lizzie. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Okay to Go

One of my favorite parts on the movie "Contact" is when Jodie Foster's character tells mission control that she is "Okay to go."

I have been telling Andy that he is okay to go, that it's okay for him to stop his fight for life and go to beardie heaven. :(

It's not been a good day for him. His breathing is really slow and he is no longer responding to me. I can flip him on to his back and he won't move at all. 

I tell him, tearfully, that it is "Okay to go" and that he is a very loved boy. I don't think he'll be around much longer. :( 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Andy is still with me

I started Andy on Critical care yesterday. I wasn't sure how his body would respond, but he seemed to do ok. Sometime during the middle of the night, he pooped and passed an old urate stone and some sand. 

When I checked him this morning, he was fairly unresponsive but breathing. 

As I posted that info on one of my Facebook groups, Andy raised his body and looked at me as if to say "I'm awake!" 

He got more two more doses of Critical care today and is still breathing. He is super lethargic, but not dead. 

Baby steps forward! Keep on going, Andy!!

This was him this afternoon after his feeding. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Andy made it to the Vet!

At the vet. See all that dirt on the towel? My vet spent 10 mins digging it out of Andy's ear. His ear membrane was very infected underneath all the junk. Treating that now too. 

Andy is sufficiently hydrated so now I'll start Critical Care today and we'll see how he does. The vet says Andy is in bad shape, but he's not ready to count him out yet. 

Baby steps forward.....

Monday, November 17, 2014


Sadly, I seem to be an expert on bearded dragons dying. I know the process, the look, the death gasping, and what to do with their bodies immediately after death and then later.

I am often asked how I deal with the grief. This year has been TOUGH. There has been a lot. My great uncle, my husband's grandma, my dog of 10 years, at least a half dozen beardies, my bird, my fish, and several other reptiles. I've coached a half dozen people on how to handle their own dying dragons (including one today). I helped a dear friend in rescue with the loss of her two beloved dogs. I've helped people in my neighborhood and church who were in the process of dying.

Death has been rampant this year.

How do I handle it?

Some days I don't handle it so well. I'm not always graceful and in control.

But I think I realized what makes the difference for me. When I feel grief, I let it out immediately. I don't stuff or bury; I don't distract or dismiss; I don't ignore it and hope it will go away. When I feel sadness, I allow myself a moment to grieve and I let my tears fall.

On Saturday, I took my family to see Disney's "Big Hero 6." And, when in a moment of sadness in the movie, I applied the same principle. I cried. My tears fell hard and fast and I tried hard to moderate my breathing so I took in enough oxygen.

I cried over a fictional story filled with fictional characters. I let my grief out.

The funny thing about grief is that it tends to come and go at random times, but when I let it out, it goes away. When I bottle it up, it multiples quickly and becomes unbearable.

Yes, there have been some awkward moments when I bawled my eyes out over a small sick lizard. I have stroked the head of a dying beardie at the vet's office while I waited for the medicine to stop his heart and I wet his head & face with my tears. I had had that beardie for only a day when it was obviously time to put him down. I still allowed myself to grieve and feel the loss of his gentle spirit.

Sometimes, like with Xena, I cried a few days before her death. When it was time to let her go, my tears were spent. My heart was sad, but also happy that she was free. Sometimes I cry in anger at the stupid people who cause such suffering for animals/reptiles and I think mean thoughts like "I hope they never have children" or "I hope someone does this to them." But I let those thoughts out too and they go away.

I am sad for Andy tonight. I haven't cried yet. My tears are there, prickling just below the surface, and I may find myself bawling at a random time for his loss. But -- and this is KEY-- HE DIED BEING LOVED!! It may seem trite to say that to some, but I believe it. Andy knows he is safe & warm & loved; on some level of his little reptile brain, his defenses are down and he's letting go of the fight so that I can fight for him.

Love isn't enough to save bearded dragons. It takes saline injections and Betadyne and a LOT of syringes and Critical Care and my awesome vet & vet's office and Q-tips and toothpicks and a ton of laundry and paper towels and antibiotics frozen in my freezer. And it takes the ability to love and to let go.

So when my tears come-- and they *always* do-- I let them flow freely and let my heart grow a little bigger to hold the memory of the beardie (or reptile) I lost.

That, with the grace of God, is how I do what I do. Just in case you wondered.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Good News for JoJo

Little miss JoJo ate two roaches today all by herself! Hooray for progress!! 

Andy, rescue number 70

This poor beardie was brought to me tonight by a friend. Apparently his owners were tired of him and didn't want him. So they decided to starve him to death, but he wouldn't die and they got tired of waiting. 

Luckily for him, they gave him away (something they should have done weeks ago!!!!) and he ended up here with me. I immediately gave him a saline injection to rehydrate him. I'll do at least two more days of injections before I start him on baby food. 

At this point, it's hard to say if he'll survive. It all depends on if his kidneys and liver have shut down. If they shut down due to lack of food & water, all I can do is keep him comfortable until he dies. If his organs still work, then I believe I can slowly bring him back from the brink of death. 

Baby steps. It's all about baby steps.,

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Gamble of Rescue

Miss JoJo took a turn for the worse this morning. Her lungs are filled with fluid and she started to vomit (always a bad sign). 

I'm brought back to the harsh reality of rescue: when is it "enough" or when are you doing more harm than good? 

The words of a Kenny Rogers' song is in my head right now: 

   you gotta know when to hold 'em, 
   know when to fold 'em, 
   know when to walk away, 
   know when to run.

This is always the hardest part of rescue- deciding when is it ok to quit. It's possible to spend massive amounts of time and money trying to keep one beardie alive, but are you just prolonging their agony? When is it ok to let the beardie go and stop the injections, the force-feedings, the stressful interventions? 

Sometimes a sick beardie takes that choice away from you and simply dies, but more often than not, it's up to you to decide to fight for a life that may or may not be possible or to graciously allow a sick body to die. 

My goal with JoJo today is to keep her warm and comfortable and to limit her stress. I am not sure if she will make it through the day or not, but she, at the very least, will be safe & warm & loved. 

And I, like always, will second guess myself and wonder if I could have, should have, would have done more . . . . 

UPDATE: JoJo is alive and doing well. :) she ate on her own today (Nov 16, 2014) and may be on the upswing.