I'm holding Sydney and Rachael is holding her other bearded dragon, Adelaide, December 2008.
This story may not be for everyone and before I go any further, I want to say that I am not in favor of keeping exotic or wild animals as pets. I have been to reptile shows and seen all the cute little snake babies that kids and grownups get attracted to and bring home as pets, failing to do their research. And then they get surprised when they realize the snake can live for over 20 years and be 20 feet long. Many of these animals are released in backyards, the Everglades, and other inappropriate places, when they become too large to handle. There has been a 75% increase in the acquisition of exotic animals for pets since the 1990s. Since many people can't even take proper care of their dogs and cats, I feel these critters are better left in the wild where they belong.That said, once they are here, many need to be rescued and people need to be educated. And this is where my friend Rachael is providing such a great service. She has rescued several abandoned exotic animals and her mission in life is to educate people about pets in general and what you need to commit to before bringing any living animal into your home.
Rachael has named her educational program Sydney's Legacy. A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Sydney. He's a Bearded Dragon, native to Australia and, I know, it may be hard to explain this to someone who's never been totally charmed by a lizard, but I fell hard for him. Sydney is one of the most charming animals I have ever encountered and he has, in the past, inspired me to write a couple of stories about him. I want to introduce him to you here, because in the future, I'll be writing more about Sydney's Legacy. Here is the story of how it all began.
SYDNEY AND RACHAEL
A True Story of the Love of a Bearded Dragon
When Rachael met Sydney, the bearded dragon, he was mad, all puffed up, and displaying his black beard. He sat in his carrier and wouldn’t come out, threatening to bite anyone who ventured close. Rachael, who had been given Sydney by a lady who could no longer take care of him, sat patiently by, waiting for him to calm down. But he wouldn’t have any of it. The trip had been long and scary, even for a bearded dragon. And who was this red-headed person anyway? Why did she take him so far away from all that he was used to? And what kind of place was this? Who lived here? Sydney thought he he'd seen a snake. What a snake, I have to live with a snake? The whole afternoon went by. Rachael sat next to the carrier, talking in a soothing voice, and trying to make Sydney come out. “Sydney,” she said, “come out and I will show you your nice new home. It’s a fine aquarium, with sand and branches for you to sit on. And your dinner is there all ready for you.” Finally, Sydney realized he was hungry and decided to come out and get some food.
After that first day, Rachael explained to Sydney and all the animals that they would never, ever, be sold or given away. Instead, they would all be educational animals, teaching children how to take care of their pets. An educational animal is a fine thing to be, thought Sydney. When she was done taking care of the other animals, Rachael would pick Sydney up. She would pet his scaly back and coo into his ear, telling him how much she loved him, how he was her number one pet. Then she would take him for a walk. Sydney treasured his walks with Rachael and he wasn’t scared of any animals they met, but he always kept a weary eye on the sky. He was a little concerned about the very big hawks that would sometimes fly above. But Rachael would calm him down, speaking softly, telling him that she was protecting him and that she would never ever let anything bad happen to him. Sydney, the bearded dragon, finally realized that he had arrived at a very good home, where he had found his person and true love in a red-head named Rachael.
That was the story I wrote a few years ago. And Rachael has been true to her word and her promise to Sydney and the other animals in her care.
Here are a few of Rachael's animals:
Cleopatra, the Ball Python.
Shackleton, the Savannah Monitor lizard.
Adelaide, the Bearded Dragon lizard.
Gulliver, the California Desert Tortoise, 70 plus years old.
I tried to rotate this photo but it didn't work. Also, please note that Gulliver is at an event here. At home he has a large, beautiful, garden to roam all summer long and a snug place to hibernate for the winter.
Note that Rachael names her animals after important historical or fictional characters, and in the case of the Bearded Dragons, after cities in their native Australia. She then never misses an opportunity to tell the kids about, for example, queen Cleopatra, who legend has it, carried a Ball Python around her wrist as a bracelet.
Rachael's animals are all rescues that will always be cared for and loved. She will take them to meet many kids and adults as well. They will all have a wonderful purpose in life: To help Rachael teach children and adults about compassion for all living things and the five things ALL pets need: A home, food, water, medical care, and LOVE! And a commitment from the owner to provide these things for the life of the animal. And there is no one I know of, or have seen on TV, or any lecturer at any zoo, who is better at this than Rachael. So I wish her all the best and I'll definitely write more about Sydney's Legacy in the future.