Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Repeat Post: Lizard Love or How Sydney Met Rachael

This is my first repeat post. I have been absent from reading your blogs for way too long and I want to catch up. I also want to work on a couple of future posts. Plus the house is a mess and the outside is calling with the promise of another gorgeous day. I chose this post because it is about Rachael and her animal educational program, Sydney's Legacy. This is how it all began:

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.

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.
Cleopatra again.
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.


  1. Oh, what a wonderful woman with a fantastic heart and purpose. Long live her beautiful creatures in safety and happiness.

  2. Ohhh I enjoyed this so much. I keep wanting a bearded dragon. I love reptiles. Rachel does great things...that's wonderful.

    I'm behind on reading blogs too. Hasn't the weather been beautiful the last few days. We will be close to 90's today and believe me, I'll be out and about...

  3. You can't go wrong with a post titled Lizard Love. She's got quite the menagerie!

  4. Oh my well Racheal is a special person that is obvious!

    The Lizards are very neat but I agree about making them pets...

    I can honestly say I would never ever be tempted to get a snake as a pet! :O)... but I realize they need a good home and care just like any other animal when they have been made a pet...Its good there are people who can do that for them!

  5. Being a new follower of your blog, this post was new to me. It takes a very special person to do what Rachael is doing. How lucky those critters are! Loved your story!! When you write your book--and you must--have you considered a children's story about animals? Enjoy your day----Fran

  6. You chose a great post to repeat. I enjoyed reading it again very much.

  7. I don't always have a chance to go back through blogs, so I'm glad you did a repeat! Great post! Can't wait to show my girls all the great pics. They will love this!

  8. What a neat lady Ms. Rachel is! A heart of gold. And I wish I could touch a bearded dragon as you did, but not a snake. I am afraid of them.

    Love ya!

  9. Your friend Rachel is a special person indeed.

    I agree with you, as I take care of abandoned/abused/confiscated Fur People - I'm totally against the keeping of wild creatures as 'pets' ...

    ... besides the fact that, as you pointed out, people are ignorant about the animals before they get them, in many cases the parents of the animals are destroyed to get at the young ...

  10. Hello Inger!! This post was not a 'rerun' for me, at least not that I remember...But I've enjoyed reading it and I totally agree with your thoughts and give you kudos for handling anything that doesn't have fur...I'm just not brave...

  11. Rachael has the biggest heart and that's why I wanted to rerun this blog. She took on all these critters after a rescue no longer wanted them. Can you imagine? And she wasn't initially a reptile person, rather someone who loves big cats and wanted to work with them. My stories are inspired by Rachael, so yes, animals. Trisha, I never thought of how much kids would enjoy these pictures. That makes me feel really good.

  12. ohh thank you so much for sharing your story (again) It sounded wonderful and you BOTH are great women!


  13. So glad you re-posted. What wonderful creatures -- especially the bearded dragons!

  14. I agree that people should not be able to buy excotic animals so easily. Rachel is one very special lady! Lovely post thanks!

  15. Hi Inger - Thanks for the repost and helping to get out the word for Sydney's Legacy!!!! I'm so lucky to count you as one of my dearest friends. As you know, Syd is now a senior in beardie years. He's about 11.5 years old, and, generally, beardies only live 8-10 years in captivity. So, he is enjoying his golden years:) He still goes to programs with me, though. I just feel that he loves his job of making a difference in people's opinions of reptiles. My favorite part of every program is when I tell the audience that he loves kisses on his ears and then I demonstrate. I put my mouth next to his ear and make kissing noises and he closes his eyes and turns his ear up to my lips. He is a true heart-stealer and anyone that has every met him falls madly in love, as you know. Thanks again for your continued support of my mission! Syd sends a big kiss to you:)

  16. What a wonderful story and a wonderful thing Rachel is doing. I just never have been able to warm up to snakes and lizards.

    I agree with you, most people don't take care of their dogs and cats and have no business getting exotics.

  17. a truly wonderful story. i met a bearded dragon twice, he came with a petting zoo and i was enchanted with him from first sight, had never even heard of one. God bless sydney.

  18. What a terrific story, Inger. Thanks so much for letting me know about it. It's pretty neat seeing you with those critters. (Even snakes need some loving, right?)


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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