Frodo the hobbit had a long, harrowing journey to help save his world. Frodo the bearded dragon may not have dropped a ring into a fiery mountain, but he did go through a tough journey before being dropped into his forever home.
Frodo was found barely clinging to life at the end of a driveway in the summer of 2022. The good Samaritan who found him took him to Live and Let Live Farm, a rescue that cares for and rehabilitates a variety of animals, including exotics like lizards.
Chase Bengato, a volunteer with the rescue, provided initial care for Frodo, along with her mom, Durinda Bengato. She says, “The moment I picked him up, he was just limp in my hands. He had no strength and seemed completely drained of life. Once I checked him over, I saw that he was dehydrated, very malnourished and had several injuries, two of the most severe injuries being his jaw and left eye.”
“I did all that I could to keep him stable for the night, and we didn’t end up going back home until around 10:00 p.m. I believe. We went back the next morning to check up on him and we continued the checkups every day for a few days in a row.”
After a while, the commute back and forth was becoming a bit much, so Bengato called her grandparents and asked if Frodo could temporarily stay with them while he rehabbed and quarantined, to make the drive shorter and keep her other animals safe from possible disease and parasites that Frodo may have. Bengato went to her grandparents’ house every day to provide the care Frodo needed to recover, but she still continued her volunteer work, both her twice weekly shifts at the rescue and at a wildlife center where she does educational talks with animal ambassadors.
With his multi-generational care team, Frodo slowly but surely went on the mend. Over several weeks, he was treated for parasites, got on a care and nutrition plan for debilitated herbivores, and had some treatment to one of his eyes, which still has a few issues.
Bengato says, “His left eye has a bit of scar tissue over it from his injury, so he can’t fully use his left eye, but he has full function in his right eye. Although it’s sad that he can’t completely utilize his left eye, he does these adorable head tilts because of it.”
His health rebound wasn’t the only good news. He also got a forever home for his trouble.
Bengato says, “For my birthday, my family surprised me with his adoption papers and Frodo is now officially mine. He’s happily living in this beautiful 4’x2’x4’ enclosure that he absolutely adores. He has a bunch of space to run around, he loves to climb and jump all over the place, he’s got a full belly all the time and he’s very loved. Unfortunately he’s still being a bit stubborn when it comes to eating more salads, which is common with bearded dragons. But other than that, he’s doing really well now. I’m also going to keep on upgrading his enclosure to make it even better for him and more natural.”
Frodo isn’t the only lizard that has found a home with this dedicated volunteer. She’s also taken in two crested geckos named Echo and Phoenix, as well as Norbert, a uromastyx lizard. They’re among the myriad of animals that come into Live and Let Live Farm, a nonprofit volunteer rehabilitation rescue and sanctuary for abused and unwanted animals. The New Hampshire-based rescue also takes in horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, hedgehogs, chinchillas, exotic birds, and plenty of farm animals. But, as Bengato says, pretty much any non-wild animal would be accepted.
When they take in an animal, the rescue provides rehabilitation for past trauma or injuries, training, and socialization to get them ready to be adopted. The animals that can’t be adopted will stay at the sanctuary where they will be cared for and loved for the rest of their lives.
While Bengato specializes in the care and rehabilitation of exotics, she’s also helped with several horses and other animals at the sanctuary. That includes Badger, a pinto horse to whom she provided training, love, and Reiki treatment, a form of tactile energy healing that involves using gentle hand movements to guide the flow of energy within the patient.
Of Badger, Bengato says, “Badger was surrendered back in 2021 along with her partner, Lakota. They were both pretty standoffish and hesitant of people in the beginning, but it didn’t take them long to warm up to us. With Badger, I felt an instant connection, so I started to focus on her and work with her through the anxieties and fears she was burdened with, to the point where she really started to open up and trust me.
“The day she laid down in the paddock while I was near her was a very exciting moment for me, because a horse isn’t going to lay down around someone they don’t trust. It even got to the point where she would allow me to sit with her and stroke her head until she fell asleep, which was the cutest thing ever. She was also very responsive to my energy work on her. She would lean into me and fall asleep while I Reikied her. A few times, she got so relaxed that she almost fell over on me.”
Fortunately, Badger was recently adopted, but that’s not always the case for the exotic pets and other animals with whom Bengato and her fellow volunteers work. To do the best she can for these animals, she says she never stops doing research to better the care she provides. She now has a growing library of information she can use. Despite the hard work and other obstacles in her way, she says it’s very fulfilling and allows her to make a difference. For anyone who wants to make a similar difference, she strongly encourages volunteering and making sure you do plenty of your own research to help your charges survive and thrive.
She says, “Believe in yourself and your abilities, even if everyone around you doesn’t. If you’re struggling mentally or have physical disability, you can still do this. You’re worthy and it’s okay to ask for help if you need it. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, they will happen, but never stop growing from those mistakes and bettering yourself for these animals, the people around you, and yourself. Most importantly, do what you feel is right. The animals need you to be their voice and they’re relying on you to help them thrive.”
Something that may help the exotics at Live and Let Farm thrive is a new small animal building, which they’re currently working toward. They could also use a few more animal lovers to lend a hand when they can.
Bengato says, “We’re really trying to work on building a small animal building for the smaller animals that come in, like the guinea pigs, the rabbits, the birds, the reptiles, etc. We really need that extra space so we can take the small animals out of a building we call the puppy barn where we are currently keeping them, and freeing up that space for more dogs and cats that come in. It also can be stressful for the exotics to be in the same building as the dogs and cats, where the dogs are almost always barking. So we’re really in need of donations and sponsors to help us build our dream small animal building for the rehabilitation and care of our exotics. Which will also give us the space to take in even more exotics in need, instead of sadly having to turn them away due to lack of space.
“We’re also always in need of several other kinds of donations, it doesn’t always have to be money, but the money definitely does help a lot. We need farm equipment, we’re always needing more cleaning supplies, we need a new farm truck to help us do our daily tasks, and we’re also in need of volunteers. We need a lot more volunteers actually. Anything really helps and the help is always so very appreciated.”
To see more of Frodo’s story, as well as the rescue’s, watch the video below!Whizzco