There may be some pet reptiles that simply hang out and don’t really interact with their humans, but Fred, the Bearded Dragon, is not one of them. Fred has PERSONALITY.
Fred is the pet of Waynesville’s Patty Taylor. She had wanted a bearded dragon of her own ever since childhood, when she had a friend who had one she really liked. But, somehow, with children, grandchildren, work, volunteering at Sarge’s Animal Rescue, five dogs of her own and frequent foster pets in the home, she just never got around to getting her own bearded dragon. Then one day it happened. While visiting the Haywood County Animal Shelter on an errand for Sarge’s, she met Fred, the bearded dragon. And it was love at first sight. As the ’60s hit song goes:
Cause you got personality
Walk (with personality)
Talk (with personality)
Smile (with personality)
Charm (with personality)
Love (with personality)
And plus you’ve got
A great big heart
So over and over
Oh, I’ll be a fool for you
Now over and over
What more can I do
Fred had been found in an abandoned house and turned in to the shelter. The poor guy was in bad shape, having had to suffer cold for which his species isn’t equipped. Bearded dragons are basically desert animals accustomed to warmth, not cold. But with some TLC from the shelter staff, Fred started on the road to recovery and was in good enough health for Taylor to adopt him. He immediately became a permanent part of the Taylor household thanks to his personality.
Fred hangs out in his own 80-gallon vivarium. It’s big enough for him to comfortably move around in, or to simply stretch out and relax, at which Taylor says he excels. A heat lamp on a timer keeps Fred’s place as warm as it should be for an animal native to the Australian desert that didn’t even come to the US until the 1990s. Fred’s diet consists primarily of kale, supplemented with occasional crickets, bloodworms, or stink bugs. “Fred loves stink bugs,” Taylor says.
When not in his own space, Fred loves to sit on the back of the family sofa and scope out the yard and the neighborhood while being supervised. (The house has too many crevices Fred could get lost in if he weren’t watched.) He has very good hearing and responds to his name being called. Fred also jumps up in excitement when he hears the Taylor grandchildren arriving. They seem to love him almost as much as Taylor does, and Fred clearly enjoys being loved up. “He’s very sweet and affectionate,” Taylor says.
Bearded dragons got their name from rows of spiked scales under their head. While they normally lie flat, the scales become puffed up and resemble a beard when the dragon is excited. The “beard” can also change color and turn darker when the dragon is breeding. Ordinarily, according to Taylor, Fred’s overall skin is like Velcro and, unlike that of furry pets, doesn’t attract fleas or other insects. That’s a characteristic she clearly appreciates.
Fred is about 14 inches nose to tail, with his tail roughly half the length of his body – within normal measurements for his species, Pogona vitticeps. No one knows his exact age, but bearded dragons generally live eight to twelve years. Taylor, especially, wants him to live a long time. “He’s cool,” she says. “Really cool.”