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Lions and tigers and reptiles, oh my!

Dakotah Henn was three when he adopted his first animal.

Dakotah Henn and his pet snake (courtesy of D. Henn).
Dakotah Henn and his pet snake (courtesy of D. Henn).

His father had a habit of taking Henn to the pet store when he was young to look at all the animals. One of the trips stood out from the others, and that was the day when Henn came upon the lizards.

Henn held the other lizard first, one so insignificant that the name could not be remembered. It was decided that this lizard was too big to be Henn’s first pet so he held the other lizard. That lizard was Spike and would soon become the first animal in Henn’s large collection. Henn still has Spike today, and the Uromastyx lizard will be turning 15 this summer.

Ever since then, Henn has fallen completely in love with adopting and caring for animals.

“I love animals so much because I like being able to care for them,” said Henn. “I like learning how each one lives differently in different environments.”

spikeOnce Henn adopted Spike, it seemed like he was in a habit of adopting animals. Currently Henn owns six snakes, eight tortoises and turtles, eight salamanders, three newts, 10 frogs and toads, and one hedgehog named Blaze. The list is far from over, however; Henn also has two rats, five hamsters and gerbils, 12 lizards, two crabs, and a large variety of fish.

Oh, and a chameleon.

Every animal has a unique backstory that is dying to be told. Some are serious, such as the story of Marley, the bearded dragon Henn adopted after Marley’s owner required knee surgery and could not care for the poor dragon any more.

Other stories are lighter, like another one of Henn’s bearded dragons, Sling. The story starts with Henn riding down his driveway on a swivel chair. Predictably, it did not go well. He hit a crack on the sidewalk and broke the fall with his arm. When Henn arrived at the pet store to buy crickets for all his other animals at home, his arm was broken and confined to a sling.

He did not intend to come home with yet another pet, but, of course, that is what happened. He spotted a bearded dragon that had a broken arm just like Henn. This was too good an opportunity for Henn to pass up and he left the store with a bearded dragon named Sling.

Henn decided to take his passion for animals, especially reptiles and amphibians, to Huntley High School when he created Reptile Club. This enabled him to get together with other students who shared the same interest as him.

“I’ve always had my heart set on exotic species ever since I was a kid,” said junior Mary Kate Thompson. “The moment I found out about the new club, I was so excited.”

Henn created the club in order to educate and teach the students at Huntley about reptiles and amphibians.

“I like educating anyone who wants to learn more about an animal, reptiles and amphibians,” said Henn.

Henn has got quite the collection of animals and seems to have a knack for caring for them. There is just something about them that entrances and draws him in, and he would not trade that for the world.

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About the Contributor
Rachel Brands, Author

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  • K

    KathyFeb 7, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Rachel did an awesome job using her resources and making contacts to make this article happen. She was very professional and a pleasure to assist. I loved the article and I liked that she did a story about a freshman so that the freshman have someone to connect with. Dakotah said that he was approached by several students who liked the article and were interested in his hobby. Thank you!