Dragons Help the Helper


Breanna Sanford

Sanford enjoys caring for bearded dragons and other types of reptiles.

Rowan Hesford, Writer

Breanna Sanford is a sophomore at Kennedy with a passion for herpetology, a branch of zoology which handles reptiles and amphibians. Sanford saves bearded dragons, and it turns out they saved her too.

“Lizards changed my life, and now I’m interested in doing herpetology more than anything,” Sanford said.

Having four bearded dragons, Sanford has been through thick and thin when it comes to adopting, caring and rescuing. But the obsession hasn’t always been with bearded dragons. 

“I’d always been more interested in snakes, after all … I knew nothing about bearded dragons, so making the impulse decision to adopt my first one was scary,” Sanford said.

Sanford was willing to learn. By saving money for supplies, doing the proper research and meeting bearded dragons in person, she was ready to become an owner of her first bearded dragon named Sage. 

Her love of beardies, as she passionately calls them, turned into a job. Because of Sanford’s desire to learn more, she now works at the Howard H. Cherry Reservations as an Ecology Instructor. She’s shared her love of reptiles with people of all ages.

“I’ve been able to flip the views of both children and adults when it comes to lizards. With the proper education and exposure, they fall in love in a matter of minutes,” said Sanford.

Sanford saw the impact these lizards made on others, just how they did to her. They’ve always been a source of safety, comfort, and a distraction from her daily battle with Ehlers-Danlos syndromes and coping with anxiety. In times of concern, Sanford engulfed herself in the history and science of lizards.

Sanfords parents noticed her dedication. Her dad took her to a Reptile Exotics show in Missouri, to learn more. It was this show where she made her first big step into the world of lizard care. She came across a pair of abused and malnourished bearded dragons, Magnolia and Forest. Sanford decided to adopt them and give them the life they deserved. These beardies were in critical condition, but nothing was too big for Sanford to handle.

“I debated the pros and cons of caring for such injured animals. After all, it’s a big responsibility to take on. But I was ready to give it a try and help them,” Sanford said.

These lizards were skin and bones with broken limbs, missing teeth and missing scales, as well as kinked tails caused by a calcium deficiency. She was determined to do whatever it took to return them to a healthy condition. The process was long, but it was worth it. Nursing a bearded dragon gave Sanford knowledge you cannot read about. 

“Over the course of five months, one has shown significant growth and made a full recovery. Although the other may never walk again, the home they came from had improperly cared for her,” Sanford said.

Sanford has since looked out for other lizards who suffer the same fate. She’s rescued another bearded dragon named Dart from a friend who didn’t quite know how to care for one. 

“I knew my friend needed some help, so I’ve been giving them the proper education on how to raise bearded dragons,” Sanford said.

Sanford took this bearded dragon under her care, using her knowledge and experience to give it the loving home it deserved. While she may know all the tips and tricks to raising lizards, it doesn’t mean they don’t teach her something everyday. 

Regardless, there were challenges, especially since Dart was an older lizard. By bringing this bearded dragon to vet appointments, force-feeding him and weighing him regularly, the results were soon noticeable. With his healthy weight gain, boost in energy and regular shedding, he was back to his old self. Sanford hopes to return Dart back to her friend.

“I hope one day I can use lizards to make a difference in others’ lives, just like they’ve done for me,” Sanford said.