One of my most beloved early pets was a very special bearded dragon.
He was part of a clutch of eggs that were being incubated by the pet store where Byrd worked, until a power failure knocked out the incubator for several hours. Over time, one by one, the eggs buckled and darkened, which meant the baby lizard inside had died. Only three eggs survived, resulting in three lizards.
Byrd took the three lizards home to grow, because they couldn't be sold at the pet store until they were older.
But right away, I noticed something was obviously wrong with one of the lizards. He flapped and flopped around crazily, and his head lolled like a bobblehead doll when he was trying to watch something. He couldn't catch crickets by himself and had to be hand-fed.
So Byrd gave this physically challenged bearded dragon to me to take care of. The vet said the baby lizard would probably die in a few days.
I named the lizard "Stupid," fondly. He had spirit and determination to survive despite the odds against him. At first, I had to force-feed him by jamming baby crickets and soggy lizard pellets into his tiny mouth.
But after a precarious first two weeks, Stupid gained enough strength to start taking the food from my fingers (he had to try over and over to get the food, apparently because he had no coordination, or poor vision, or brain damage).
After seven months, Stupid somehow managed to develop just enough motor function and coordination to catch tiny crickets by himself, as long as he was sitting in a bucket full of them (so even if he missed his mark, there was another cricket underneath). I often took him down to the pet store and let him loose in the baby cricket container so he could get a workout. But I always hand-fed him several times a day to be sure he got the nutrition he needed.
I knew Stupid wouldn't live very long, because he never grew any bigger than a month-old beardy. While his siblings grew to cover the palm of my hand, Stupid still perched on my index finger.
Toward the end of his first year, Stupid started backsliding. He lost the little bit of coordination he had had, and after a while he had trouble with hand-feeding as well. At the very end, I had to force-feed him again. Eventually, his tiny body gave out, and almost exactly a year after he was hatched, Stupid passed away.
To this day, he remains very close to my heart.