Yesterday afternoon I lost my bearded dragon, Gimpy. I had had her since I was nineteen years old and she was about six or seven years old. I’m grieving similar to those who have lost a family member or close friend, because I have. For many of you, you may not know what a bearded dragon is or say, “big deal? It’s just a lizard. It’s not like it was a dog or something.” Gimpy was more than “just a lizard,” and this is why.
I got Gimpy for my nineteenth birthday from my now-ex boyfriend’s parents. We drove to a pet store in Shawnee, OK and I picked out the adorable five inch bearded dragon. I loved her instantly, with her inquisitive eyes. On the car ride home, I noticed she was very still in her too-small box. So I opened it and let her sit in my hand. She was calm and seemed to enjoy both being out of the box and looking at me. I noticed she was missing her back foot and part of her tail. It was an old wound, with no bleeding or sores. The pet store owner had said she wasn’t taken out of the cage with her mother in time and they tend to nip babies. I had a rough childhood too and could commiserate with her. I was asked if I wanted to take her back and exchange her and I felt that would have been like taking a baby back to the hospital after giving birth. Yeah, I was that attached and protective from just the car ride home.
At the time, I lived with the now-ex boyfriend, sharing his bedroom at his parents’ house. I held her and played with her every single day at multiple times. She loved to run on the bed and climb the blanket mountains I’d make her. Eventually, she became part of how I coped with stress and bad times. I’d simply pick her up and carry her around, which always made me feel better.
Another thing that hit me when I lost her was how much I’ve gone through since I was nineteen and that she was with me for all of it. I’m not saying I didn’t have family and friends to lean on, but I often don’t vocalize my feelings, and she was right there in every bedroom I lived in from then on. She was the one I held, snuggled with, and cried with. She saw me at some high points and some of the lowest in my life. She never talked back or told me how stupid I was being but she did sometimes give me the stank eye.
She saw me through three college degrees, often running around on the bed while I did homework. She’d then tire herself out and sleep in the bend of my elbow when she was small or against my neck as she grew. She saw me through five moves and always viewed new surroundings not with fear but curiosity. She saw me through the departure of my now-ex, planning a doomed marriage, and the long and torturous process of abandonment and divorce. She saw me pick myself up and move on my own. She saw me to the happier time in which I now reside. And now she’s gone.
In a lot of ways she served as the last bridge between now and my nineteen year old self. She reminded me of how much I had survived through, in a good way. So full of personality, I always loved how she never wanted me to put her down. How she tolerated other people in my life (despite always giving them the stank eye) but always loved me most, unconditionally. I will always remember her strong character and the wonderful memories. But the best people, and bearded dragons, leave the biggest voids when they leave us. Goodbye, Gimpy.