Chapter II: Raising a Dragon
Congratulations! You’ve adopted your first dragon baby! Or maybe this isn’t your first, but maybe it’s a more troublesome child and guidance would be appreciated. Of course, we are always here if you have a question or want assistance, but hopefully this guide will help you a little with what is to come (or solve a current problem/answer a question about behavior and raising your little darling).
First, it depends on what age and subspecies you have adopted as to what you are looking for. We will start with the Eastern variant of dragon. With humans, they say the youngest age is the most troublesome. That generally isn’t the case for Eastern dragon hatchlings. The freshly hatched babies are completely dependent on their parent, much like humans. In the wild, a baby will bite onto the soft part of their parent’s scale and stay there while it grows, sleeping a majority of the time. This does not harm the parent dragon, other than that one scale eventually must be replaced. Babies tend to stay on the same scale if possible. However, this doesn’t work so well with their adoptive human parent. Let me tell you, it hurts, a lot. So, in light of this, I train all of my hatchlings to a key ring before they are sent to their new parent! This allows us to keep said hatchling close and bond with it, without getting nibbled on (mostly). You can leave them alone in a well-known environment like your room, but this is not suggested for a long period of time. They’re a baby, after all. The hatchlings come well-fed and like many snakes, they don’t eat often. Unlike most reptiles though, they aren’t picky eaters, so you may find that there’s a bite out of your sandwich or that chip you dropped just vanished. This is normal for the youngest of dragons, and human food is generally high in calories and fairly good for their growth at this age. Don’t fret, but do try to limit their caffeine intake. They get a little crazy on too much coffee or chocolate.
As for their next age up, the Whelp, is characterized by a slight change in head shape (pointed to more rounded nose), increase of scale growth and overall length (5-10in roughly), and the sprouting of their primary wings. At this age, they are old enough to stay on the parent most of the time without biting or a ring, or are able to be left home alone, though I do not suggest this if you have valuables or pets. They are slightly destructive at this age, mostly as a curiosity of the world around them and plain clumsiness, though some are like a cat and just enjoy pushing things off of shelves. Each is an individual, so don’t take it to heart if it takes a while to learn why they do what they do. It takes me a good while sometimes still with the little ones. At this age, they begin to hunt small things like insects, so feeding will become less of your troubles, though they may still steal a bite from time to time. Remember, each dragon is different, so who knows what they’ll end up liking? One of mine adores shakes and their little shake mustache is the most adorable thing! Sugar doesn’t affect dragons very much, but again, try to limit the caffeine if you like your house in order.
The Fledglings can be described well as the “terrible two’s & three’s” of the human equivalent, though are more like teenagers in the dragon realm. They are characterized by another change in head shape (length increase and rounding of the nose), increase of horn and scale size and overall body length (10-20in roughly), and the natural separation from the parent scale or key ring. Keep an eye on them or get an experienced babysitter! While they are self-sufficient at this stage, they are also often times troublemakers and tricksters, and will need their parent to bail them out of whatever trouble they get into. They have been known to start fights with cats, make nests in potted plants, tease dogs and fish, eat the entire pantry in one go (while leaving the empty boxes and cans in a way that they look untouched, so you don’t realize until later on), eat half a rat and leave the rest on your bed or on the toilet seat, and anything else they can dream to do. Think of every common trouble a pet or human child can get into, and these fellas have done it, most likely in my house. Be warned that this age is better with an experienced parent or one who has raised their dragon to this point. In some cases, you can substitute an older dragon for a babysitter. Also remember though that they’re still children, and don’t mean to cause you distress. Their world is fairly small at this point, but they have a lot to learn, and this stage here is where they learn the most. Be patient, and never give them caffeine. It’s easier if they haven’t had it up until this point, because they will beg, steal, and barter to get it. Trust me, I speak from experience. But all that aside, they generally are still very sweet and loving, and if you can get a very long leash or lunge line, trips outside to let them spread their wings for short periods of time will do wonders on their activity levels. Many of them will pick up their old ring or a substitute and want to be carried around like when they first hatch. Many like to wrap around your wrist like a hand flower. They enjoy the motion of hands, which is similar to the motion of their wild dragon parent. Make no mistake, most dragons are a one-person creature, and they’d do anything for their person. Take these moments to heart. They won’t last forever.
The final stage is the Adolescent phase. This age is characterized by a continuation of the head shape change, though more drastically so, where they get a nice wide nose. Again, body length increases and now their secondary wings will start to grow in much like the primary did, as well as their final new growth (i.e. any new patterning) should now be visible, if only slightly. It is here that they are old enough to be released, though I suggest keeping them for a few more months at least, just to let them grow in a bit more. Their temperament generally calms down greatly at this stage and they become much more affectionate, spending much of their time wrapped around your neck or wrist. They can be entirely self-sufficient on themselves now for meals, rest, and generally don’t need a sitter anymore. There isn’t much to say, other than heed my previous warnings and enjoy the time you have with your baby before they’re off to their new world. Do try and help them find a safe place to spend their early adult years if possible. This will help them when they realize it is time to move on, and will make it possible for you to visit them for a few more years too. Be cautious when doing so. Some dragons will reject their caretaker once they’ve moved out, usually with fire, but some will also still accept you for the rest of their lives even after they move on to their next home, if you can find them again. Gotta let your baby spread their wings and create their own life, no matter how much you’ll miss them. Just make sure, even if you’re accepted, you don’t bring another baby you’ve adopted after they left to your empty nester. Many are territorial and will see even a baby as a betrayal. Remember, even after they move out, you are still a part of their territory!
Now, there are some special case things to remember as well. For example, the subclass of Metals dragons are characterized by mirrored scales, normally in silver or gold but sometimes in bronze as well. The first mirrored scale marks the Whelp phase, and a covering of approximately 40% in the Adolescent phase marks when they are old enough to be released. They can be kept up to about 60% before they begin their exponential growth and need to be released. Keeping them any longer than this could mean the destruction of your entire property or the impossibility to remove them from the house. At some point, they just don’t fit through the door anymore. Metallics are one of the largest species and live almost exclusively in hollowed out mountains due to their size. Do NOT keep them past 60% mirror scale coverage! You will regret it! My baby boy was at about 55% when he was released. I really should check in on him one of these days, see how he’s handling adulthood, if I can find him that is. Most dragons will show themselves to their human parent though if they reach the Dragon’s new territory, which makes house calls a little easier, assuming you can locate the general territory (we can help with that). By the Adolescent stage, they understand the difference between humans and Dragons naturally, so no awkward adoption talk for you!
Another common subspecies is the burrowing dragons. They actually won’t get much larger than a large dog or small pony in girth, though they’ll get much longer and sometimes do grow cute little digging feet! Of course, you don’t keep them past the adolescent phase so most people will never witness their final size. I have encountered very few burrowing dragons in my travels that openly appear to me, even the ones we helped raise. While they are the least likely to come out to greet you, they can be some of the sweetest if they do take a liking to you. Do try and keep a pot of plain soil for the babies, and a couple different soil types as they grow older. Give them a place to experiment and play, or else they may bring their own experiments into your home, and that may have less desirable consequences. Try to avoid sand when they are young. It takes time to figure out how to deal with the shifting of sand, but do include rocks of varying size and at least one small boulder to play on. This will teach them important skills. Include some worms to help them learn to hunt on their own. As long as they are occupied, these are a very happy and calm subspecies, and can be suggested for new owners.
I will add more subspecies as I encounter each of them and add an official subspecies section, though there are also some other strange genetic changes I have witnessed that are worth mentioning, just in case you wonder what’s happening to yours. Some Fledglings and Adolescent dragons will grow a second set of horns. Some dragons of all ages get spikes on their tails or along their wings or are “earless” (don’t have the scales that protectively cover the ears). Sometimes a Hatchling or Whelp will have wing buds very early on. The list goes on. Like I have said before, each dragon is an individual, and we can’t expect every dragon to follow rules. That’s why it’s merely a guide, though I hope it is most helpful!
As for the Western dragons, this is a much different story. They come as young adults, and tend to stay about the size they are fed to, unlike the Easterns that will grow no matter what. I raise them up from hatching very carefully to keep them at a healthy but small stature. If they are allowed to grow too large, they become dangerous as most are extremely territorial. An Eastern dragon will generally leave if a human encroaches on their turf, but a Western will fight, ending in much bloodshed. The species as a whole is nearly extinct because of ancient wars on the Western dragons. This is why I keep them at pet size, and once they grow permanently into this size, I adopt them out. They are aloof creatures generally, but are more of a guardian than a pet. Your room or house becomes their hoard, though you should offer them shinies once in a while as thanks. They are adults and can hunt on their own, entertain themselves, etc., but most are willing to interact with you as well. Each is an individual though, so figure out what your dragon likes and dislikes!
Now, for a few of my more personal experiences on how each dragon is unique, starting again with Easterns. My big Metallic boy has always been so calm and relaxed, almost lethargic sometimes. His “terrible” stage mostly consisted of fliting about. At a D&D session I took him to one time, one of my teammates said that every time he looked over, my boy was in a different position. It was funny to watch him look over and try to find my boy, though sometimes, he flitted over to my friend! He is a good boy though. I almost never had an issue with him, other than when he “sneaked” into work with me. Nobody minded though because he was so well behaved, and I knew, he wasn’t all that discreet, but it was a fun game we played. Always have a game you play with your dragon. It will make them happy, even when they’re upset at something or you, and will make them much closer to you.
The first ever full nest that we discovered, the one mentioned in a previous entry about how I became Dragon Mom, is the one that goes out on hunts and adventures with me. The runt of the litter tends to stay around my shoulders, catching my attention discreetly if he spots something I missed in my hunt or during an encounter. Dragon’s senses are much higher than a human’s, and while mine are also heightened due to my lifestyle, theirs still surpass mine by a great deal. The twins generally reside on my bow, often assisting my draw strength and accuracy, though they will also attack close-range if something nasty gets too close. They try to eat me out of house and home though, and chew on everything. I finally got them to stop chewing on my bow at least. They are close to adult age, though they still have some growing to do first, and I think they may be waiting for their little brother to catch up to them. It’s amazing the things a dragon can do. They should have been ready to release some time back, but if they truly are waiting in body as much as they are in spirit, then this is a family that will do anything for each other. Their other brother has also been adopted out to out other PCM partner, Rebekah, and is enjoying his life with his adopted brother, Velijörn. Their sister, however, is another story. Unfortunately, she may not be able to be released, and queens are not good to hunt with due to their heat cycles, but I have a feeling that the boys won’t move too far away when they are released, so she’ll get to see them often. I’m glad I hesitated to release her, because she is more than large enough to release, especially as a queen, but it seems like she stopped growing. While a dragon can survive at this size, if she doesn’t grow to adult size, she’ll be in a lot of trouble real quick. We are beginning to wonder if she has some sort of dwarfism that’s keeping her from reaching her adult size, or if there’s something special a queen needs to grow that we haven’t discovered yet. We certainly have been feeding her plenty to grow and she is a very successful hunter. If this is true though, that means she will forever be in my care. My grandkids will still be raising her, but that’s a bridge to cross another day. In the meantime, we love her with all our might! We are even currently on a trip for her to go see the brother that got adopted out (she’s really been missing him), and Velijörn, so hopefully that perks her up!
I tend to have a bunch of hatchlings at any given time that are being trained on their rings and getting ready for adoption. They can be a rowdy bunch sometimes, as babies are, like a red and black boy up for adoption that bites everything. Not eat it, just bites it and grins at me, and I haven’t the foggiest clue why. Oh, and he utterly adores Grandma. But anyways, in my latest batch, I had one sweetheart that I just fell in love with! Her name is Savethia, and I think she may be my first water dragon. When she was discovered, her nest couldn’t be found. She was on a beach of a large man-made pond, which, if she is a water dragon, would make sense. I imagine more are moving into manmade lakes and such due to the exponential growth of man. We did try to find her nest, but if it was under water, I’m afraid I am not equipped to find it and I didn’t feel right sending her alone back into the water, just in case she wasn’t a water dragon. Some dragons can’t swim, after all. We do try to return dragon babies as often as possible, but in this case, it just wasn’t possible. So I brought her home and she immediately took charge! Of the other five or so in my current care, two are trouble makers from the get go. However, she basically became the undisputed boss somehow. Normally, I would only leave such young ones alone with an elder dragon watching over, but she handled it like she was hatched for it! I was able to take the entire batch to work with me one day and she handled most of their care, so to speak. She kept them in line while still entertaining them. I have a feeling she’s going to become a mother hen like Grandmother, and I may just have to keep her.
Speaking of, you all should meet Grandmother sometime! Thus far, I have been talking mainly about the Eastern dragons, so let’s give the Western a little love! Grandmother is an oddity. She is actually a wild dragon. I did not raise her, and she is by far the eldest. I will forever wonder why she came to me, and how she got the way she is. She is small, about the size of my adopting dragons, and I wonder if she shrunk with age. Somewhere along the way, she’s lost her wings too. Her form is gnarled a bit, and I wonder if she has the dragon version of Arthritis. Like I said, we’ve never had a dragon this old before (she has outlived several generations of human I’m betting), but she’s still going strong! She is the reason why we are able to go to work and adventure here on this side of PCM adoptions. Grandmother stays home and takes care of all the dragons currently at the facility (which is really just my room), though she will get help sometimes from the calmer children like Savethia and my boy (who never did figure out what he wanted to be called). I often wonder how she handles them at home, but that’s a grandmother’s secret~