Editor’s Note: Joe Bardi — writer, editor, musician, husband, father — has always been a busy man. But until recently it had been up to his wife, freelance writer/photographer and frequent dRTB contributor Heidi Kurpiela, to handle the bulk of weekday parenting chores, because she could work from home and he had an office job. Then the pandemic hit. The following post is the fifth installment in “The Quarantine Diaries,” a series about the double whammy of suddenly being both unemployed and a 24-hour stay-at-home dad. Read the first four installments starting here.
Quarantine Diaries, Part Five: Enter the Drogon
For the duration of our quarantine my family has had a houseguest: Drogon, the bearded dragon. My son’s third grade class pet at Perkins Elementary, Drogon came home with Henry on what we thought at the time was the first day of spring break. That was almost six weeks ago, and Drogon is still in my living room, encased in a see-through glass box.
There he sits on his fake log, staring off into the house. I have no idea how much he can see. I know that he reacts to loud noises, like children fighting and my yelling at them to stop. He likes to sun himself under a heat lamp. On rare occasions he does battle with his reflection in the glass. Those are the busy days.
Drogon exists on a steady diet of crickets and worms that I have been picking up from St. Pete’s Animal House Naturals, which is walking distance from my home. The ladies behind the counter have started to recognize me and throw a little “you again?” vibe each time I re-up the lizard edibles. Weren’t you supposed to give that little guy back?
Good question. The answer is yes … eventually. Drogon is slated to spend the summer at another classmate’s house, though his departure date keeps slipping a week into the future.
The truth is we’re not all that into giving him up. And by “we” I mean everyone but me, of course.
Heidi adores the tiny Godzilla, as do the kids. They pull him out of his aquarium and put him on the floor, just to see what he does. On rare occasions, Drogon gets to ignore social distancing and mingle with Buzzy the dog and Gloria the guinea pig. He usually stands there petrified as the dog sniffs him and the pig looks for something to hide under.
I, on the other hand, have never been much of a reptile guy. They’re not cuddly, and have quasi-sharp claws that could probably scratch you up real good if you held them — which I never do. Aren’t I taking care of enough wild animals as it is? And what are we spending here? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t at least momentarily reevaluate my life choices every time I plunk down $12 for more crickets and worms.
And I haven’t even mentioned the pooping.
Some time after he arrived, Heidi realized that Drogon had not relieved himself in at least a week. This became a concern. Could the lizard be impacted? Could he die? Were we really talking about this? Dr. Google was consulted, and the prescribed treatment involved a tub of hot water and a relaxing dragon massage. There my wife stood, basin of warm water before her, as she gently soaked Drogon and used her fingertips to apply pressure to his back and abdomen. Drogon seemed unmoved at first, but then flashed his patented bearded dragon smile and unleashed hell.
Screaming and panic soon followed. Look, I was in the delivery room for the birth of my two children, and have now raised those children — both boys, mind you — to the ages of 8 and 4. You can be sure I have seen my share of stomach-turners. Drogon’s turds are in a whole other league. Somehow both solid and liquid at the same time, and carrying what can only be described as the smell of death, Drogon’s excrement has been known to cause retching from 10 feet away. The only time my wife has worn a mask during the corona crisis was to clean the cage. I can’t look directly at his poop out of earnest fear that I might puke. I’ve also been the one to run the brown-water-filled basin out to the alley for dumping. It splashed on my hands! I considered amputation.
Why is this lizard in my house again?
Drogon’s saving grace — which more than balances out the once-a-week shitshow — is that he’s ridiculously easy to care for. He spends his time doing nothing. Occasionally, Drogon goes on a hunger strike and refuses to eat his live prey. I assume this is his way of protesting captivity, though I have yet to spot a mini MAGA hat in the tank. The insects scurry around looking for a hiding spot, with the worms trying to tuck themselves under the thick, absorbent paper that now lines the bottom of the cage. The survival instinct is strong in these critters.
So for now Drogon stays. The kids enjoy the diversion. My wife loves the little guy so much I can tell she’s working out how she’s going to pitch me on getting one. And I like having a little reminder that quarantine could be much worse. Instead of cooking dinner and watching that awesome Michael Jordan doc, I could be an impacted lizard, living in a glass box, being pawed by two kids and sniffed by a dog.
Though I hear the spa services are wonderful.