MJ Wixson: The fun of creating a dragon

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 30, 2022

I have been spending a lot of time and effort on writing my Dragon Vet Tales fiction story.

I am not willing to compromise science in this book and, therefore, have had some creative issues. One of the issues is creating a dragon. In my book, the dragon is small enough that it goes hunting with my Harris hawks.

Harris hawks hunt in a group or pack “sky wolves.” And my dragon has to get along with me. So the dragon is described as a cross between a pangolin and a puppy. Since it has to fly, it has wings.

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“The rest of the exam proceeded as I would have expected. Well, wings weren’t often on the reptile types. The wings were leathery like bat wings, but much tougher somehow. The wings were definitely designed to swoop and make sharp turns at speed.”

Some things just have to be that way when you think about it. “Ear canals are a horizontal canal like a human or a bird. I looked at both together. Yep. Like an owl. The left one was a little lower than the right, so the binocular affect of the eyes would work on the ears. Aztec could pinpoint sounds probably as well as he could see. Maybe better. Likewise his neck was incredibly flexible. Like the owl, it could twist 270 degrees in either direction and do it with lightning speed.”

Other things are changed just to be different. “Yeah, the heartus major and the heartus minor. Everyone knows dragons have two hearts. I wondered how that didn’t show up during surgical monitoring when I had fixed his leg, but as I listened, they were almost perfectly in sync. ‘Two hearts beat as one.’ Pretty sure that is not what the song meant, but it did seem to apply here.”

And ‘The scales made it hard to palpate the internal organs, but it seemed that things were about where they should be.’”

It wasn’t until I got the opportunity to do a necropsy of a dragon that caught a wing and fell to his death that I understood some of the anatomy. “I finished up and made some notes. I even drew some crude sketches. While I am not an artist, I don’t do bad when anatomy is involved. The two hearts seemed to be somewhat redundant or maybe it was a booster for pumping blood.

The lungs were fixed like a bird’s with air sacs to lighten the body for flight. The right set of lungs had blood from the fall. The blood was red with a hint of purple, but I already knew that from Aztec’s surgery. Abdominal organs were pretty much like a mammal: stomach, intestines, liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, gonads and even some things that were probably lymph nodes and adrenals.”

In my book, my dragons have lost the ability to create flame and I have to fix them. That means there has to be a way to create flame without magic. During physical exams, I found “The area where the tonsils should be looked different. I pushed on one of the sacs and it opened to let out a whiff of methane. ‘Whew! You guys fart forward?’ Then it happened. I saw two areas slide together and make a click that produced a spark. ‘HEY!’ But I was too late. The puff of flame took out my facial hair and part of my eyebrows. Part of my hair was singed and I could smell the burnt hair.”

I couldn’t tell how they made flame until I saw the mechanism in the necropsy. “The big difference had been in the pouch at the back of the throat. The pouch opened up like an airsac on a bird, but was places like a hamster’s cheek pouch. Usually it was empty and laid on the back, but like a hamster’s, the potential space could reach back halfway down the body. The things that I was calling striker plates were at the front of the sack. A dense bundle of muscles attached to both in opposite directions. It looked like it could do one hard, fast striking, but the muscles had to relax to be in position to strike a second time. This would take a few seconds without muscles to pull it into place. In the pouch itself, there was a wad of injesta, stuff that had been eaten. It didn’t smell good.”

Creating the dragon has been fun. I have consulted with a couple of vet friends and we all are excited about my project. I know it is not something that all will like, but it really is fun!

I’ve drawn on various animals to inhabit the world. Think intelligent, communicating ravens, otters, cats, griffins and badgers to live with the dragons.

Creating the government structure has just flowed. Creating the city that the animals live in without opposable thumbs for industry is extremely challenging.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566