A BEARDED dragon declared dead by a Northwich vet had a ‘Lazarus-like’ return to the land of the living.

Rachel Haspell, 42, a former dentistry nurse, counted dragon Nala as one of her favourite pets after buying her in July last year after losing her previous bearded dragon to old age.

The shock for Rachel was that five weeks after she had consigned Nala to her grave in her front garden, she found her sunning herself on the lawn.

An astonished Rachel said: “I can't believe I buried my pet alive.”

She recalls the moment she found Nala dead: “At the beginning of May I went to get her out of her tank and found her slumped over her food and she had been sick. She was completely black underneath and I feared the worse.

“However, when I picked her up I tried to give her CPR by putting her head in my mouth and her tail was swinging but I still couldn’t see that she was breathing.

“When I touched her tongue she seemed to be capable of withdrawing it, but I wasn’t sure if it was a nervous system twitch.

“When I took her to the vet’s in Kingsmead, I told them what her symptoms were but all the vet said after taking a look at her was that she was dead.”

A couple of days later her dad Robert Dunne, 74, buried the lifeless dragon in a thick cardboard box into the garden.

“It was at least one foot down and dad piled a good eight inches of soil on top," she said.

“I suffer with a bipolar condition and had lost a cat shortly before that and I was absolutely devastated at the loss of Nala, who used to even go shopping with me.”

In early June, Rachel dad and uncle Andrew Dunne, 56, were out in the garden when Rachel heard one of them shout to her.

“When I heard shouting I thought what the hell is going on and when I rushed out my uncle had the dragon on his chest," she said.

“Somehow she had clawed her way out of what was a thick cardboard box and come out through the soil and was sunning herself in the front garden.

“To be honest when I saw her I was in a state of shock, because when I checked the box she was buried in it was empty, I could see where she clawed her way out, and I recognised it was Nala because she has a knobbly bit at the end of her tail.”

A subsequent check by Rachel revealed that bearded dragons naturally enter into a state called brumation or hibernation, which can last for many weeks where a dragon can bury itself and go without food and water over that period and will to all intents and purposes look dead.

Rachel, who took Nala back to the same practice, added: “When I spoke with them they were gobsmacked that the dragon was still alive but after a check-up declared she was absolutely fine.”

However, Rachel approached the Guardian this week to plead with the veterinary practice to highlight the dangers of owners of dragons, such as herself, assuming that their pets were dead when in actual fact they were in brumation.

A spokesman for Ark Veterinary practice said: “We were presented with a bearded dragon which appeared to be dead on arrival (on examination there was no heartbeat, no breathing, no response to deep pain and no ability to right itself when placed upside down).

“Bearded dragons are desert species that need to be kept warm and are used to living in the deserts of Australia. Healthy bearded dragons do not burminate unless over a year old.

“It has been reported that the dragon resurfaced five weeks later apparently having grown significantly and was not at all unwell following her apparent ordeal.

“Based on this type of species of reptile this seems unlikely given their requirement for heat and her condition on presentation. However, if we were mistaken in our findings, we are extremely happy for both the dragon and its owner.”

The spokesman added: “This incident briefings to light the very important issue of appropriate pet ownership.

“All animals need a suitable environment and diet to enable them to survive, exotics particularly need an environment which matches the geography in which they are found.

“Owners need to be able to recognise that behaviour is normal and recognise and act on signs of ill health or malnutrition immediately.

“Most vets provide information sheets and can advise on reliable websites and interactive forums and will discuss any concerns a conscientious pet owner may have in order to avoid any unfortunate incidents.

"Some vets specialise in exotic veterinary medicine and we utilise their expertise in unusual cases to provide the best care when required.”