Close shave: A bearded dragon tale

My daughter and I went into a pet store recently and we were thisclose to walking out with a bearded dragon. The 5-inch lizard was recommended by the young saleswoman, who said the reptiles were all the rage with kids around my daughter’s age (7). They are social and docile, I was assured, and youngsters had great fun walking around with the lizards clinging to their chests.

I was skeptical: The lizard clutching a branch behind the glass was frail, with little muscle between its spiky head and long tail. I envisioned six months of affectionate abuse, then a tiny corpse.

Which, if you know anything about bearded dragons, is not what happens.

Just 10 weeks after buying a small bearded dragon for her young son, a friend stood before me with a plump, foot-long lizard clawing her chest. The once-spindly pet that her son used to carry around was now her semi-permanent companion (and by 6 months old it might measure 18 inches long). Not only did he like the social interaction and body warmth, bearded dragons require it. A lonely dragon is a cranky dragon, she said.

All of this was way more than I was looking for when I went into the pet store with my daughter. And let’s just say the saleswoman was not exactly clear on what kind of pet that frail creature behind the glass would quickly grow up to be.

You (me, too) can educate yourself about potential pets of all kinds this weekend at the Reptile & Exotic Animal Expo in Fort Lauderdale. Bearded dragons, turtles, skinks, chameleons and other creatures will be on display, for sale and the subject of instructional seminars.

The expo, also known as Repticon, takes place 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at the War Memorial Auditorium (800 NE 8th St., Fort Lauderdale).Tickets: $5, $10. Info: 954-828-5380, Repticon.com/FTLauderdale.

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