About a year ago, I sifted through all of my belongings and kept only what fits into my car, then drove from Brooklyn, NY to Atlanta, GA. It took a lot of planning because not only was I transporting my cat, who hates riding in the car, but I also had a bearded dragon. Most beardies do not like change, and she was no exception. I knew she was going to hate making the 15 hour drive just as much, if not more, than Simon. With Simon, I could at least supply him with copious amounts of CBD (don’t worry, it’s very safe), but I actually have no clue if I could do that with a beardie.
Nevertheless, she was already stressed out seeing changes around our old apartment, and she was also about 8 years old. The average lifespan of bearded dragons is 10 years. I had a whole plan on how to travel with these two nervous babies, which included a crate and Peach’s tank, and still manage to fit my essentials in the car. I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive that long straight through, so I planned to break it up between two days with a night in a hotel along the way.
I pictured myself sneaking Peach in a travel carrier into the hotel, and cuddling with both of my babies until it was time to wake up and drive another 7 hours to our new home. The reality is that Simon probably would have wanted to play with Peach by bopping her on the head, and then she would get upset and puff out her chin. He may even think her tail is a toy. I had seen it play out this way between them for years. Peach loved interacting with Simon if I held her or if she was safe in her tank. They had some really cute moments together; my favorite memories include moments when Simon wasn’t paying attention and Peach would lick him. Bearded dragons use their Jacobson’s organ to familiarize themselves with their surroundings or new objects by way of licking.
Something that brought the two together was their fondness for dog friends. I had my own dog walking service at the time, and sometimes the small dogs would stay with me while their parents were out of town. Simon loved playing with the dogs! Peach enjoyed watching from her tank or my shoulder, but the moment she was on my bed or on the floor, she went straight for the dogs. Some even let her perch on their backs.
Over the years, Peach and I built a really great relationship. Not many people know that about me because I work primarily with cats and dogs, but Peach came into my life in 2012 when someone I knew couldn’t keep her. She was so tiny and unsure if she could trust me. It took some time, but I learned very quickly she had a big personality. If she did not like something she made it perfectly clear. I used to make her little salads (the smallest food prep, ever) with a mix of different fruits and veggies. Her two favorite foods were blue hornworms and raspberries. She would munch on the berries and get red juice all over her face, but the look on her face of pure happiness was the best thing to watch. Then, Peach would rub her face all over her furniture. She also enjoyed watching tv and dancing to music. Turn on Ciara and that girl would go wild!
Part of my plan for moving was to set up a whole new bioactive tank for Peach. With the proper bugs, plants, substrate, and lights, this system would be self cleaning and ideal living for Peach. Unfortunately, Peach did not make it to Atlanta with me and Simon. Two days before the big move, she became very stressed and her behavior changed dramatically. I was running errands when my sister called, very nervous. Mind you, she does not do well with lizards and hardly ever paid attention to Peach, so for her to call about my beardie was a big concern. She was very lethargic, and wouldn’t eat her blue hornworms. I rushed home to see if I could help.
We tried everything to make her comfortable, but ultimately I wrapped her in a t-shirt and used my body heat to help keep her warm. She went downhill so quickly that there wasn’t much more to do, I could tell she was leaving us. Simon and I laid in bed with her so she knew she wasn’t alone. It was a very difficult moment for me, and while I had helped so many people over the years with the passing of their four legged babies, it’s always the worst experience to say goodbye to one of my own.
The next morning, my sister woke me up with a plan to give Peach a proper burial ceremony. She made a little coffin for Peach with a shoebox and we drove out to the Rockaways. The ideal scenario would have been a viking burial, but the waters were very choppy that morning, not to mention I might get in trouble for lighting anything on fire and sending it into the ocean. Plus, I didn’t own a bow and arrow, so that was out of the question. We found an area on the way to the beach, away from where people congregate, to lay her to rest. Disclaimer: I know this is not the best way to dispose of my lizard, but I wasn’t exactly thinking about that at the time. Nearby, it appeared that a religious or cultural ceremony had taken place, with decorative flags and statues left behind. Left behind just for us, obviously. We honored her by reusing some of the materials we found to celebrate Peach. Sure, I could be sad about Peach’s passing, and I could always think about what if I did something differently, but this is how it played out and I have to acknowledge that.
I choose to celebrate Peach’s life, just like everyone else I know who has passed away,
humans and animals alike. I encourage you all to do the same, but we all have our own way of dealing with a loss so please do what is necessary for you.
Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day is August 28. It is a day assigned to give us the space to remember, mourn, and celebrate our four legged babies who have moved on from this life. It was created by a woman named Deborah Barnes to honor her cat, Mr. Jazz. Death is something that makes many people uncomfortable, but it is an essential part of life. Instead of fearing or avoiding the topic, I prefer to give our babies the best life possible while they are still here with us. Give your fur babies all the raspberries and blue hornworms they want! Better yet, to help improve the lives of those still with us, you can have their hair tested by us to find what food and environmental intolerances they may have. This could improve their health and overall quality of life. Here at 5Strands Affordable Testing, we help people and pets everyday overcome symptoms they experience daily. https://www.affordableallergytest.com/shop/
Cuddle your babies, and give them all your love while you can. More importantly, appreciate the love they have for you! Sometimes we owe our pets the recognition for the amount of support they give us, and how much they’ve improved our lives. Create the best memories with them, so when we have to say goodbye, we can remember the happiest moments. This makes it easier to celebrate them.
There is no exact way to observe Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day. Only you can understand your relationship with your pets, so it’s up to you to honor them in your own way. Some people find fulfillment in volunteering at a local shelter to pass along the love we’ve received from passed pups. This gives dogs who don’t have homes or families to create memories. It’s therapeutic for both you and the dog. You could also journal about the pet you’ve lost. Write down memories, or tell their story. Social media has brought us closer to people all over the world, so sharing your story about your pets can also bring you some solace. This week, there will be thousands (probably more like millions) of people using social media to create a communal space to express their feelings during this time. By using the hashtag #rainbowbridgeremembranceday you will be part of a community sharing their memories. I hope by sharing my story with you all, that you can find the space to feel comfortable to share yours.