￼A photo of Mustache before his accident that caused the growth on his face.
Mustache lives a simple life chasing feeder insects and basking under his heat lamp on his favorite rock. Besides his daily diet of greens and feeder insects, he loves dandelion flowers and devours them like candy. As soon as Mustache sees me approaching with those delicious yellow flowers he’ll scurry across the tile, his little feet making furious tapa tapa sounds, till he’s covered the distance between himself and flowery goodness.
When Mustache is not munching treats happily, or basking, he’s cuddling with me on the couch. Usually when he wants out he’ll move to his enclosure’s door and wait for me to lift him up into my arms. His favorite thing is to be rolled up into a blanket like a beardie burrito and then snuggle against me to take a nap. He’ll just nuzzle until he’s comfortable. Admittedly his spines are prickly, but it is a small price to pay for his happiness.
How we met
I actually got Mustache for a specific purpose besides the joy of a pet beardie and it has to do with my past. You see, I’m Autistic and grew up unable to relate to my peers. Classmates shunned me from the first day I started school on wards and most only paid me any attention when they wanted to exploit my disability for their own amusement. One occasion I remember was students spinning me around knowing that my shaky sense of direction would ensure I’d get lost. They’d follow me around to mock me as I tried to find my way. Teachers were often no help as some of them were abusive as well. I’m still plagued by nightmares of their teaching methods and being held down as a child while adults demanded that I stop experiencing painful sensory overload which is a symptom of my autism and not something I can control.
Though I prided myself on being resilient, the ongoing harassment which included that of a criminal nature took it’s toll on me and I have developed mental illness including a worsened anxiety disorder, depression, psychosis, insomnia, reoccurring nightmares, and traumatic flashbacks. At the height of my illness I even contemplated taking my own life. My symptoms are currently being managed with medication but it’s arguably my pets that keep me stable in a way that medication alone never could. They provide me with much needed companionship and something to hold when distressed as human touch is oftentimes more overwhelming than comforting. It’s them that keep me going and encourage me to endure no matter how badly I feel.
Caring for them is also a good distraction from my daily worries, so having multiple pets is ideal for me. Which is why I had decided to adopt a bearded dragon to grow my animal family. After some searching I located someone who was looking to re-home her beardie. Though the trip to meet them would be long, her description of her pet’s temperament sounded exactly like what I was looking for so we made the trip.
When we arrived and his previous owner introduced him to us I immediately felt connected to Mustache due to his disability— his back feet are severely deformed. Being disabled myself I know how often people overlook those of us who they perceive as less than perfect, so I was happy to adopt him. Another thing I noticed was his less than desirable living conditions. He was kept in a tank that was much too small for him. The substrate used was calci-sand which is known to be incredibly dangerous to reptiles, as it can cause impactions. He had a heat rock, also a huge danger because they tend to overheat. Also there was no UVB lighting which is crucial for beardies to have.
I took him home, named him, and then my father and I built him a new 4ft x 2ft x 2ft enclosure. We took away his dangerous furnishings and replaced them with safer alternatives. Finally we gave him proper lighting which included much needed UVB. Mustache then moved into his new home and into our family. He was a happy dragon.
Then the accident happened
One night I was roused from my sleep by a clanging sound. Turning towards the foot of my bed where Mustache’s enclosure lay, I was greeted by a sight I never expected to see— Mustache flying through the air. Now in another situation, a disabled bearded dragon being airborne would be inspiring and at first I was pretty impressed by how much air he got with his feet the way they are. Unfortunately his flight’s destination was his basking lamp. Mustache— having metaphorically flown too close to the sun— ended up colliding face first with his lamp and sustained a small burn on the tip of his lower jaw. I chastised myself for underestimating his capabilities and adjustments were made to his set up so he could no longer hit the lamp . Since he was shedding at the time the burnt layer was shed away and we assumed that would be the end of that.
Overtime Mustache developed a hard, fleshy mass on his lower jaw at the site of his burn. The mass on his face keeps growing and it’s becoming harder and harder for him to eat. He's even begun to lose weight. Soon he won’t be able to chase his food or eat on his own at all. Already he struggles to drink water because the mass gets in the way. The mass is also in danger of becoming infected and septic which could be life threatening. We managed to come up with the money to take him to his initial vet visit and they gave us an estimate on the cost for his surgery to have the mass removed. I immediately began saving for his treatment but it quickly became apparent that even with my family’s support the expense was too great.
I had heard of crowd funding, but I barely considered it at first because of the experiences I’d had with other people. I was terrified of the thought of asking strangers online for help, but all it takes is one look at Mustache to remind me that I need to try and reach out no matter how much it scares me. He is a part of my animal family and they are the only friends I have; he deserves for me to do my best to get him the care he needs.
Donations will be used to pay for his surgery and, if there is any leftovers, any medications or treatments he may need.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read Mustache’s story. I know it was wordy, but he means so much to me. Even if you can’t donate it would really help us out if you shared it with your reptile loving friends.
- Margaret Cook
- Margaret Lenk
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