The difficulty in having Knobbins, my bearded dragon, put down.

Knobbins, my bearded dragon, has been my companion in life for nearly 10 years. We’d watch TV, work, listen to music and more together. I remember many years back when she was in her teenage years, she curled up on my chest in a little circle and took a nap with me. When I got laid off from a startup, a week after my girlfriend had broken up with me and 2 days before Thanksgiving, I got her out and set her on my chest. She reached her arms out as wide as she could and nestled her head down right there with me.

The connection I forged with something who was only slightly below my own emotional abilities is what made it so hard to have my baby euthanized.

Lately, she had been pretty lazy and not eating much. I assumed it was due to brumation and getting older. However, about a week or so ago I noticed she wasn’t even interested in treats, including horn worms. If there’s something wriggling around that’s not me, she’s going to eat it.

Still, I just kept an eye on her. Later, she started black bearding, which is exceptionally rare for her unless she sees another beardie.

Then, just 2 days ago, Jess ran into my office and told me I needed to come look at Knobbins.

What at first looked like glass surfing and climbing around awkwardly turned out to be her in absolute agony. Gaping her mouth, I noticed she lost control of her bowels (normally she’s VERY good at going to the bathroom in the tub, and almost never poops in her tank). I picked her up and noticed her black beard, and her general weakness. I set her back down on the warm side of the tank, clocked out from work, and started calling vets.

Not a single vet I could reach had any reptile specialists around.

Now, this wasn’t always the case. Before I moved here I checked to make sure there were vets who could take care of her should she get sick.

I was worried. I sat with her, monitoring her, talking to her, trying to soothe her, but there was nothing that could be done by me. She had zero interest in food, water, or anything else.. She was just consumed by her pain and suffering, not even aware of me being there.

For three hours I sat with her, watched her, and tried to provide comfort. I researched if there was anything I could do at home, but the closest thing to humane I could do was something I wanted to avoid if at all possible.

I called back one of the vets and asked if they could at least euthanize her; it became clear to me that this was due to a bad UVB bulb in her tank based on her symptoms, and just finally came to a head that day. She was just laying there, occasionally gasping for breath, unable to even more anymore. They checked with a tech and said yes, they could, so I called a ride and got there as fast as possible.

When I picked up Knobbins to wrap her up in her towel and my t-shirt and place her in a box, she had no strength at all. She was almost completely limp. She was still breathing, though. I got her to the vet, and we got everything set up. They took her and gave her some sleeping gas, and then gave her an injection to humanely end her suffering.

They brought her back to me so I could be with her when she passed. I talked to her, stroked her back, and played a song for her that she would always react to when I was learning to play it: House of the Rising Sun. About 10 minutes after they brought her back I noticed she stopped breathing completely. The vet assistant came back shortly after that and asked if I needed more time. I told her no. She said she’d take her back, have the tech check her heart, and if she hadn’t fully passed she would hold her until she did, but I knew she had. There was literally no life left in her.

I paid the bill, and am now waiting for her remains to be returned to me post-cremation.

The hardest part for me was the fact that she couldn’t communicate anything until it was too late. I could provide her no real comfort like she had for me.

It was at that point that I realized.. I can’t handle having a pet. My own emotions are typically very subdued, and understanding people is hard enough. The connection I forged with Knobbins was too much when it was severed, and the fact that I couldn’t communicate on a meaningful level with her either just sealed that for me.

I love animals. More than humans, in fact. They tend to be much simpler relationships than those with people, which is easier for me, but just knowing that they will eventually die, and could be suffering like Knobbins at that point.. Well, I am not equipped to handle that again.

Knobbins, originally named “Knob” before I discovered she was female, is named after Knob Creek bourbon. Last night I picked up a bottle and had a drink in her memory; aged 9 years for the 9 years of her beautiful life. She came into my life on June 3, and so every June 3 I will have a drink in her memory from that same bottle.

Now, I find it so hard to accept the change in routine. I’m no longer turning on her lights in the morning and talking to her as she wakes up. I’m not longer checking on her throughout the day to see what she’s up to. I’m no longer giving her baths, watching TV with her, or playing her some music. I won’t be bringing her to Blues in the District when COVID-19 is no longer a threat to me. I won’t be saying goodnight to her every night as she settles in to bed when I turn off her lights.

My heart is shattered, and I will never be the same, just like I was never the same after she came into my life.

She is gone, and so is a part of me.