Farewell, Henry Flagler (maybe?)

Well, we seem to have lost our bearded dragon, named Henry Flagler after the brilliant industrialist who developed most of Florida.

It may seem crazy to some folks to get worked up about a reptile, but Henry is an extraordinary creature. We allowed him to have free range of our house for years, as the climate here in South Florida is ideal for lizards.

He would often follow me from room to room like a small dog. He responded when I called for him, unless he was entertained by deliberately hiding from me. It was something of a game to try to locate Henry when we would leave to go shopping or to dinner. We’d search everywhere, only to find him tucked under the curtains laughing at us.

One of his favorite things to do was sit on the big table where Elise and I do homeschooling. He would happily listen for hours to lectures, us reading books out loud, and alternated looking at whomever was talking in some passionate debate. I would jokingly wake him up on weekdays by asking him if he was ready for “lizard school.”

Henry would sit with you while you binge-watched a television show. He loved to watch television. One morning, while I was giving him his weekly bath, I put a documentary on pollinators on the television for him to watch while he soaked. He was over the moon watching insects buzzing around in front of him.

Alas, after we came back from our camping trip in Nantahala, Henry had a different demeanor. He would run wildly around the house all day, looking in one room and then skidding out the door to the next. He’d walk up to the sliding-glass doors and start clawing at the glass.

I assumed he was caught up in lizard mating season, like all of the reptiles here. During this time of year, reptiles go insane trying to find love – especially the alligators, who will truck down the road and even climb fences. It’s pretty much the only time they crawl out of the ponds, except to occasionally sun themselves. Perhaps Henry Flagler was caught up in the swirl of reptile pheromones as well.

We don’t know what happened to him. We noticed he was missing one evening and tore our house apart trying to find him. Then we tore it apart again the next morning. It seemed unlikely that he would have escaped, and even if he had, it seemed unlikely that he’d make it very far in our fenced in backyard. But we have checked everywhere. I even poked through every plant in my gardens trying to find him (which was exceedingly difficult because I broke my foot a couple weeks ago and it’s healing slowly). He’s nowhere to be found.

I have prayed and prayed and prayed that my little pal would be returned to me. The house feels emptier without him for sure. He was so much of my routine, as was looking for him. My muscle memory keeps tricking me into thinking I have spotted him, and in my mind I hear the pitter-patter of his long claws on the stone floor. I’m a sad kid.

I do have the considerable consolation that if he happened to make it out into the world, he has found himself in lizard paradise. It doesn’t freeze here. He could easily make it through the winters. And the Florida jungles are so full of escaped exotic animals from around the world that there’s a non-zero chance he might find the lucky lady dragon he was looking for.

I’m sure if he did get out, he’s living his best lizard life somewhere. And maybe that is what he was meant to do. I just hope beyond hope that one of the birds of prey that prowl the Gulf did not spot him.

If he does miraculously return to me, you will know it, because folks will hear my screaming for joy over in Texas.

Many happy adventures, Mr. Flagler.

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