Customers can bank on Bella the bearded lizard

Padgett and Bella enjoy a little friend time during the work day. Patty Decker / Free Press
Padgett and Bella enjoy a little friend time during the work day. Patty Decker / Free Press

Bella the bearded dragon has a hard job at Central National Bank in Marion. It?s not easy hanging around at the drive-through window to greeting customers in the lobby.

Shelly Padgett, CNB employee, said Bella has a daily routine and enjoys customer service.

?I get here in the morning and Bella will hear me and start looking for me,? she said. ?We open up the bank (together), get the food ready, bring her down to the drive-up window, where she eats and then loves sitting in the sunshine.?

Bella also makes yearly appearances at the preschool in Marion, she said.

When Bella was a young lizard, a lot of people didn?t think she was real, Padgett said.

?She was about brooch size when we first got her from Steve Unruh, and so customers didn?t know if I had on an ugly brooch,? she said. But when Bella moved her head, ?they were surprised that she was real.?

Bella has been a fixture in the bank for three years, Padgett said, and most people know who she is.

Pleasant surprise

?Every now and then, Bella surprises people coming to the walk-up window,? Padgett said. ?They might be startled at first, but then say she is cool.?

It?s no surprise to see Bella snuggle Padgett?s neck.

?Bella?s not cuddly like a puppy or slimy like a snake,? Padgett said. ?She is more coarse to the touch, but I love her.?

Even though Bella belongs to CNB, Padgett tends to her needs and care. Some other employees don?t want to touch or play with the lizard, but Padgett said she fell in love with her at first sight

?She is so sweet and the easiest pet to take care of,? she said.

?I trim her nails on occasion, but that?s about it. She doesn?t stink, there?s no hair everywhere and she doesn?t startle.?

Bella?s diet consists of grasshoppers, green beans, bugs and occasionally mice.

Bella, the PR lizard

Bella does well as a public relations officer, Padgett said.

?It?s amazing when people come through the drive-up or in the lobby and they know her,? she said. ?Some of the young children will say they remember Bella visiting them at preschool.?

Bella, the bearded dragon, snuggles up to Shelly Padgett, employed with Central National Bank in Marion, while Bonnie Vinduska transacts business at the walk-up window.  Patty Decker / Free Press
Bella, the bearded dragon, snuggles up to Shelly Padgett, employed with Central National Bank in Marion, while Bonnie Vinduska transacts business at the walk-up window. Patty Decker / Free Press

Prior to Bella?s arrival, CNB had fish, but they all died. After the fish were gone, employees turned the aquarium into a terrarium.

When Unruh offered to give Bella to the bank, the former terrarium became her home.

?Steve has reptiles. Bella likely was rescued after her lizard mates attacked her. Whatever happened, she is missing her toes and part of her tail, but she is fine.?

Friends for life

Should Padgett ever leave the bank, which is something she isn?t planning to do anytime soon, she said Bella would go with her.

Padgett said she is the only one who feeds her and the only person Bella seems to trust.

Todd Heitschmidt, CNB president, said Bella has been a great addition to the Marion branch.

?Shelly does an excellent job of taking care of her, and (Bella) is quite the conversation piece when our drive-up customers see her resting on Shelly?s shoulder,? he said.

Heitschmidt said Bella also receives a lot of attention from lobby customers when she?s enjoying some rays from her warming lamp.

?Bella is not something one would normally find on display in a bank lobby, but there is nothing wrong with being different,? he said.