As we know, heart pets come in all shapes and sizes. This hour, my friend Heather Wilson shares how her heart pet Pudgy changed her life and led her to write her very first book celebrating diversity. I love Pudgy and Pals!
A bearded dragon changed my life.
Five years ago had you told me I’d utter those words and mean them so fervently, I’d tell you that you lie like a rug.
I met Pudgy for the first time after walking up a stairwell filled with darkness. Seems so ominous, I know. The conditions were bleak, and fostering a lizard was not on my “to do” list. As I climbed that final stair and walked through the threshold to a small room that held a terrarium, Pudgy looked up at me. Our eyes locked and I was hooked like bait on a fishing line. This two week favor to “watch a lizard” turned into an experience I still can’t find words worthy of describing.
I became one of those people who spoil their pets endlessly. I have purchased countless blankets for a lizard, cuddled with a reptile for hours and created a Facebook page dedicated to my relationship with a scaly creature. I loved an animal in a way I didn’t know love existed.
After a year or so together, I decided to make the move from Florida to California. Pudgy and I packed up and hit the road. Before our departure, I made one simple purchase that became the catalyst for the most exhausting and gratifying adventure of my life. I bought Pudgy a leash. Now there’s something I hadn’t seen before. Apparently, many others hadn’t either. Throughout our cross-country trip, people who met Pudgy were absolutely enthralled. This enthusiasm continued once we arrived in San Diego and grew each time I took Pudgy to what became our favorite hangout…
Balboa Park is visited by people from all over the globe. We couldn’t walk to the fountain, a favorite Pudgy basking spot without being stopped. People lined up to take pictures of this little lizard on a leash. They asked questions and in the rare instances that children were apprehensive, parents encouraged them to explore. The kids learned that sometimes different is a very good thing. I came away with an idea to couple my multi-cultural, military brat upbringing with an expired dream; building a small publishing company with the aim of inspiring children to explore diversity through reading. The world, quite literally, was telling me something and boldly enough for me to consider leaving a ten-year career in medical education to write children’s books. Pudgy and Pals was born. Our first book is in illustration and the second is narrative. A coloring contest is under way and release dates are slated for early next year.
The journey has been a challenge and an inspiration. In July, Pudgy developed lymphoma and I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life to let go. I didn’t know whether I should move forward with the series, but decided to honor the memory of this little lizard by leaving Pudgy with a big legacy. I am very pleased to carry on in Pudgy’s name. Pudgemeister would be pleased too.
Looking back to that stairwell, I wonder if it was the weak heating bulb lighting my way up that staircase into that room, or maybe it was Pudgy.