Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: 2007



December 28, 2007

Cold Reminders

I admit. I was out of town for Christmas and have no idea how Frankie & the gang did on Christmas eve. However, our caretaker told us this:

"When I arrived on Christmas, the cricket containers had been dragged all over the gecko room. The gecko container on wheels was pushed over to the far end of the room and almost had flipped over. Hay was everywhere. Frankie acted completely innocent. In fact, he looked rather bored".

But, said our caretaker, he was in his box every night when he went to water the geckos.

Of course he was in bed every night. Frankie values his sleep time - or should I say his beauty sleep.

When we got home there was seven hibiscus flowers freshly bloomed that day. I gave them to Frankie first thing this morning. He was happy with his treat and was happy to see me. He followed me all over the gecko room and then insisted on going outside. It was warm enough for him to go out and graze for about 30 minutes. Big change from where we spent Christmas with snow and daily 30s temperatures. I miss my family but I DO NOT MISS THE WEATHER!

Pretty sure Frankie doesn't miss the cold weather either.

December 24, 2007

Santa Anticipation

Oh, I wonder what Frankie and the box turtles will get from Santa this year? Sweaters? Bedding? New Hides? Food treats? (Can't give it away - don't want to spoil the surprise)

I am horrible at buying gifts for people....I have no idea what to get anyone for any occasion.   Not so with pets.  Why is it easy to gift them?

December 22, 2007

Book Turtle

Yesterday was a grand day - it was warm and sunny. Just what a tortoise would ask for.

Young Macy, a neighborhood girl, was over early to see the baby turtle. Frankie was having a fit because we were looking at the baby turtle and not taking Frankie outside! He was butting at the door and pacing in front of it. How does he know if it's nice outside? So, I let him out.

After Macy left, I needed to go to the library before it closed at 1:00 to pick up some books. I decided to bring Frankie along. I loaded him in the Prius and headed out (library is 6 minutes away).

Our library is always very warm so he enjoyed his walk around the books. He checked out the children's area - maybe because he is only 7 years old or perhaps because there are lots of primary colors. Probably the latter. Kids at the library had fun seeing him.

We went back home and Frankie spent the rest of the day in the yard grazing and basking.

December 20, 2007

Making Mama Happy....Almost

Frankie continues to make his mama happy by eating his soaked hay everyday. I am mixing in some weeds and grass just to keep him very happy. Now if I could just get all the box turtles to eat vegetables. They are picky (especially Brown Eyes who never eats veggies except the occasional corn and it better be fresh!). Today the boxies are getting veggies and a banana mixed in for lunch.

Brown Eyes failed to go into hibernation. She just got sick. She has managed to pull out of it already: A good warm up did the job.

I saw the baby box turtle drink water this morning. Every morning I put her in water but she is so secretive that I didn't know if she was drinking. But she is. Overall, she is better about letting me see her eat and now, drink. I can better monitor health when I know they are getting sustenance and hydration (ooo - big fancy words today).

Frankie is so well behaved this year inside. He simply doesn't go stomping around the room unless I am there. Any other time I check he is just sitting nicely under his heat lamp. He hasn't peed in his water since last week and I am worried that he will have a pee on the floor instead of his water. Today I will put him back in the water to see what happens.

December 18, 2007

Hay Fever

I had asked my neighbor, a very nice school teacher, if she could take care of our cats during Thanksgiving which she said she could (we ended not going anywhere, oh well). She said she would always do what she could to help but she just couldn't take care of our 200 geckos.

That's okay. She did say she could feed Frankie while were gone since "wouldn't I just give him a bag of lettuce?" "Oh, no," I explained, "you would have to go outside and pick weeds and grass for him." She was silent for several moments and then asked if someone else could feed Frankie, please.

I have tried feeding him dry hay but he won't touch it. I've been steadfast and just not tried any other suggestions on feeding him hay.

Since Frankie won the costume contest, and we got the gift card from PetSmart, I bought some Orchard Grass for the heck of it. Try one more time. I did this yesterday. Frankie didn't even bother to try to eat just walked over it. So I surrendered to suggestions of other sulcata owners and took a handful of orchard grass, cut it to pieces and soaked it in warm water for five minutes. I put it in front of Frankie and HE ATE IT!

Now don't everyone get too excited. I am NOT going to start buying Frankie orchard grass for everyday food - I like his $5 monthly food budget and I am not going to pay $40 per bale of hay or grass for him (its expensive in Alabama because of the drought). BUT, it is great to have an alternative food source for Frankie in situations like me being out of town and having someone else take care of Frankie. I figure I can mix damp orchard grass and some lettuce and put it in a bag it and store it in the refrigerator. Not too much work for anyone.

I love solutions. :P

December 16, 2007

Water Works

When keeping Frankie inside for any length of time especially during cold winter months, pee is probably the biggest problem. A gallon of pee on the floor is a big clean up chore especially if the pee runs under tables, etc. So, solving this problems has been on my mind as anyone may know who reads this blog. I may have a solution.

I've been giving Frankie soaks in water every day to every other day for the last month as he spends more and more time inside. The water is put in a under-the-bed sweater box which fits him snug. He can't get out of it (which surprises me). The water is warm.

So, plop Frankie in the warm water and about three times weekly he will pee in the water (he doesn't pee every time I put him in water). Bravo! Frankie. Like magic. Why had I not put two and two together sooner. I have a sulcata trained to pee on command! He has not peed on the floor in the gecko room in a month - yeah!

So here are the pictures. The first is him drinking. The second is about five minutes later and Frankie is doing what is called a 'water exchange." Look close and you will see the brown pee water behind him. What is unseen is the white/brownish urates, heavier than water, that also come out during water exchange.
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Drinking new water in the front end.
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Old water & poop & pee out the back end.

December 11, 2007

One of the really nice things about this time of year is I can hear where Frankie is in the backyard (crunch, crunch). I so love to look outside our window and see Frankie walking around the backyard.
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Frankie basking in the backyard. He just worships the sun.

How happy can one turtle be?

December 10, 2007

Sha Sha Shell

I was feeding and watering the box turtles when I noticed that Mama Turtle's carapace was looking flaky. I washed her shell up a bit and really it was flaking off. This may have made a new box turtle owner nervous but shell shed is not unusual. She simply was having some of her shell chip off (very, very thin layer) revealing a beautiful shell underneath. I did put some shell conditioner on in small amounts and then buff it away. This just treats the shell a bit and helps the shedding parts to come off.

I DO NOT recommend the use of shell conditioners - constant use is contrary to the shell's health. This is the first (maybe second) time in 2007 that I've used it.

Baby turtle, Pumpkin, is back. She was at Macy's house while we were away. Macy loved taking care of Pumpkin and Pumpkin did well under her care.

Frankie's Perfect Day

No ice storms here - while the Midwest weathers one of the worst ice storms in years, with 100,000 customers without electricity including my mother and Greg's mother, we here in Alabama are enjoying Spring like weather. Yes, in the mid 70's today and this day it was SUNNY! Frankie couldn't wait to go outside. I could barely get him to come back inside!

He was all over his yard eating and walking and sunning and resting and eating and walking - you would think he was locked away for years. But after all, he has his favorite weather and sunny in the 70's is IT!

I even brought out the box turtles. Rather than them running for shelter, they strolled around their enclosure and found comfy spots to watch the day go by. I checked them again and again to make sure no one was digging their way to China.

Have I mentioned that Frankie is Mr. October 2007 on the Turtle Times 2007 Calendar. The handsome boy made the calendar. Thank you to anyone reading this who voted for him.

His friends, Tater and Bowser, are making fun of his "celebrity" status. One of them put a car under Frankie's My Space Christmas tree so he could flee the paparazzi. Cute. We love Frankie's My Space fiends.

Back to Frankie who came inside reluctantly an hour later than he usually comes inside for "bedtime". He stayed up way past his normal bedtime. I guess one doesn't always get a perfect day to enjoy.

December 9, 2007

A Trip to the Store

We had two days of exceptionally warm weather, into the 70's, which Frankie should really love but without the presence of the sun he just couldn't enjoy the days fully. But, he did get out and eat some grass and do a little walking around.

So, we took him to PetSmart. We had to go and get some cat supplies. We had the gift cards from Frankie's Halloween costume prize. Off we go. Of course he was restless in the car ride over but we got used to it.

When we got to PetSmart, everyone made a fuss over him as always. It was very neat that there were the employees that remembered Frankie from the Halloween contest and from his other visits. The new PetSmart manager got to meet Frankie. We also stopped by the PetSmart veterinarian office for a quick weigh in. Frankie is 45.2 pounds - not much heavier. His weight gain seems to be slowing. Probably okay for a fellow his age.

December 3, 2007

Winter DIgs Done

All is nice and quiet on the turtle front. Everyone seems to be settled into the winter digs provided in the gecko room.

The box turtles seem to really like their big tub of dirt. Mama Turtle and Brown Eyes dig in every night. Big Turtle snuggles into the leaves. I think today, along with their regular soaking in water, I will let them walk around the gecko room a bit for some exercise.

The baby box turtle is eating. She doesn't like to be watched so I have to leave the food with her and walk away. I will pre-count what I leave her so I can tell how much she has eaten. Every few days I put her under a UV light. She doesn't like this -- its like she is too exposed -- but she needs some UV.

Frankie is being good and walking outside on his own each day. He only gets about two to three hours before the sun begins to set or gets too cold. Today its to be rather chilly so I don't know if he will get out at all. Since he doesn't seem interested in the water outside (maybe too cold), I am soaking him weekly. Even if he is reluctant to drink water, he will have the opportunity as well as the soaking. Last winter he just didn't get enough water and at the time I didn't have a good solution. This year, I have a big plastic container that I can fill with just enough water for Frankie and its big enough to get Frankie in (the box turtles use this container to eat super worms).

November 29, 2007

Room Service

Since it has been getting colder, I've worked on getting Frankie more comfortable in the gecko room. He has his own area -- sectioned off when we are not around but when I am downstairs he can roam everywhere. He has his box full of paper to sleep in at night with a heater underneath. Now I have set up an overhead heater for him to sit under during the day.

Frankie has never really had an overhead heater. Most of his overhead heat has been sunlight and halogen lights. He saw where the heat was and would go under light sources. This new heater is a ceramic heater. He can't see that there will be heat under it -- he has to feel it. So, I had to train him to go under it.

I would turn it on (had to heat it up first) and then I would put him under it but on top of a plastic lid. I did this over and over until he would see the plastic lid and could figure out that if he sat there he would feel the heat from above. Took a week for him to figure this out.

Now I can't get Frankie out of the gecko room. He has his nice comfy box to sleep, a nice hot heat lamp to sit under and Leann will bring him grass and weeds. So now when I try to get him to go outside, he takes one look and turns back around! Yesterday it was 62ºF, sunny, no wind and perfect for a good bask. He stopped five feet past the door, sat for five minutes and went back inside under his nice hot lamp. So I put him on his wagon and pulled him into the yard and sat him in the sun. Fifteen minutes later and I find him in his outdoor enclosure going to sleep! I opened his outdoor enclosure and he promply came out and went into the house and under his nice hot heat lamp.

He will not graze outside! He is waiting for me to bring him some food!

Well, I am on strike! No more food, buddy. Get warm and sit there until you get hungry enough to go outside and eat. If it is warm I am not bringing any more chow!
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Frankie waiting for chow.

November 26, 2007

Dirt Bag

This weekend, I picked up a bag of organic top soil for the box turtles. I put it into a tall plastic enclosure (its a cat box that has extra high sides to it) and filled it half up with the dirt. I put the turtles in. They sat there as if to say "what the heck is this?" "It's dirt you dummies, now dig in and make yourselves comfortable." They continued to sit there. So much for bright ideas. Then the exodus from the box began.

The baby turtle loves his enclosure of dirt. He is always digging around. He sleeps under the dirt and in the morning, sticks his head out to see what is happening. The big box turtles like doing this outside so what is the big deal with their new box of dirt?

Soooo, I went outside and gathered some leaves (damp to wet because it rained last night). I placed the leaves on top of the box turtles. Now this should make them more at home. Okay, so Mama Turtle seemed to accept it, Big Turtle took more time, but Brown Eyes completely rebelled. She wasn't going to sit in any dirt. I put her back inside three times. I had to take her feet of the sides more than that. She kept climbing over both the other turtles. It was hours before she surrendered to the dirt.

Come on, turts. This it like taking a prisoner from a cell where they had to sleep on a metal bed and putting him in a cell with a bed roll - he is not going to turn down the bed roll. It feels better. Doesn't it? I mean I bought organic dirt!
(In the picture below, there are two turtles barely visible at 1:00 and one turtle at 8:00 --the two at 1:00 are barely visible but different color than leaves)
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November 24, 2007

Amazing Aggression

Frankie is doing better. Amazing what increased temperatures will do for a sulcata. He has stayed inside each night. Every morning I plug in his hot pad and he gets warmed up. For the night he was feeling the worse, the pad was on all night. Being inside means I have lots of sulcata poop and pee to clean but such sacrifices are okay if we get rain in return.

Last night, we took Frankie to our local PetSmart for their in store pet costume contest. No one has called us since last night so it looks as if he didn't get a prize - big surprise to me since I didn't see anything that looked near as good or cool as Frankie in his pumpkin costume. I got a pic of Frankie and me. I look cute and so does Frankie. :rolleyes:
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Strange thing happen while we were at Pet Smart.

Frankie has never given much interest in any dog. Usually he ignores them. There must have been 30 dogs around him.  But he came across this adult short hair golden retriever and decided this dog needed his butt kicked.  Frankie got real aggressive. Frankie kept "running" at the dog.  At one point Frankie stood real tall on his front feet as if to make himself look bigger than the dog (I thought Frankie was getting ready to "show his penis" as this is the stance he usually takes when he does). I had to get between dog and tortoise. 

When the dog was out of sight Frankie returned to his usual self. His behavior in front of the dog was the most aggressive I have ever seen Frankie.

I have no idea what made Frankie decided to pick a fight.  

Oh, it was cold out last night...45 turtles were inside.

November 23, 2007

Soft Spot

Frankie stayed in all day yesterday on account is was below 45º F and no sun. He was quite bored. But, he got some Thanksgiving table scraps - pumpkin, green beans, carrots, 1/2 apple. Not too bad for a sulcata.

I gave him a chance to go outside today - its about 10º warmer and its sunny. He was out for about 45 minutes when he decided to look for a place to dig in. He has a spot near the back fence where leaves gather. The bad news is he has got it dug down to the bottom of the board. I need to keep him from digging here or he will dig right under the fence. Most of the fence in this area is on rock - no where to dig, but this spot is a bit of soft soil and he likes it.

Anyway, got him inside, put him under his heat lamp, gave him a carrot and let he go to sleep in his box.

I need to find ways to amuse a 45 pound sulcata living in a basement.

November 19, 2007

An Apple A Day

A really nice sunny, warm day for Frankie. I can tell where ever he is because he "crunches" in the leaves. Cute.

This morning, I got him to walk as far and the first batch of grass but he decided that would be a great place to bask so he went no further into the backyard. He sat there for about 30 minutes. Now I have other things to do in the house and I can't pick the monster up soooo, time for a trick. I got a apple and ate it in front of him. That peaked his interest. Finally I offered him the core. It worked. He followed me into the yard. We were both happy. He was in the yard and I could go do other things and he got a treat.

At least getting him back inside the house is easier....sometimes.

November 16, 2007

Baby, baby, baby

Well, I am just blown away - I had my first incubated turtle hatch last night. I have had lots hatch outside in-situ, but never any successfully indoors. Way Cool!

Of course, I am frantic to do everything right. With all my reptile experience you would think I would know what I am doing, but I am so afraid that I will goof something up.

Anyway, here is the precious thing.
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It will be in there from 24 hours or a bit more. Until it absorbs all the yoke.

Frankie is coping well with the cooler weather. He is nice and hot when he finally goes outside around 11:00 am. He is ready to come back in by 2:00 pm. That is just enough time for him to get some walking and grazing in. Should keep him happy. He is behaving himself in the gecko room.

I am working on training him to get "going to the backyard". He has wood posts on their side that guide him up to the yard. It is still slow going cause he want to graze the grass in front of the fence before going through the gate. He gets there.

November 13, 2007

Morning Boxies

This morning, I treated the box turtles to some running around time in the living room and a treat of corn. Since it was warm, I took them to the front patio for the treat so they could sit in the sun, too. Big Turtle and Mama Turtle adore corn and enjoyed their treat thoroughly. Brown Eyes, on the other hand, doesn't like vegetables and I have to trick her into eating them - mix a bit of corn with cat food. While eating the cat food, a corn will get in.

Cat food is not a good food at all for turtles so I consider it a rare treat. I would say that Brown Eyes and sometimes the other box turtles, get some four or five times yearly. Since I am hoping to hibernate them, I thought the cat food with its high fat content would be okay.

I also gave each of them a drop of vitamin A complex. Again, mostly to prepare for hibernation.

Big Turtle is extremely difficult to dose with anything. When I first got her (a rehab case), she was sick with pneumonia. She was on anti-biotic shots for weeks. She was sick with upper respirator illness several times after that and had to have shots. So, she has learned that being picked up by me is a potential for pain. She has not had any shots in probably four years, but she doesn't forget easy.

Big Turtle will clamp both ends up (usually peeing as well). I will wait for her to open the front end just a little and then I put a small wooden stick between the top and bottom carapace to keep her from clamming up entirely. For these vitamin A drops, I simply drop them into the front of her beak and wait for them to seep into her mouth. Once the most of the drops are in the mouth I put her down and she will relax, releasing the wood stick. This is the most humane method I have been able to devise to accomplish what needs to be done.

Frankie doesn't hibernate at all.

November 7, 2007

Two Freezes

We have had two nights in a row with temps into the 30's. All turtles and plants inside!  was already bringing the turtles inside for the night. I had to dig up Mama Turtle and Brown Eyes from the dirt but since Big Turtle can't bury herself, she is easier to find. They sleep in a old plastic box on top of Frankie's cardboard box (which of course, is where Frankie sleeps).

Yesterday, I checked on them at 7:00 am while I was doing my morning watering of geckos. Frankie was still asleep as were the box turtles. When I went back at 9:30 am, Frankie had peed all over his paper and was sitting across the room as if to say "you didn't expect me to sit in that, did you?" So, my first big chore of the day was cleaning up what always seems to be a gallon of Frankie pee.

Which brings me to a discussion I read about "stinky sulcata pee". Someone was saying they can't stand it when they keep their sulcata is inside because it pees and really stinks up everything. Now, I have to wonder if they aren't prepared for the pee (put down paper or something to catch it!) or are not cleaning up after it (like moping with soap and water, and taking the pee soaked newspaper to the outside trash). They were discussing how very horrible the smell is. Now this is what I wonder - am I immune to the stink or am I just doing a proper clean up?

Only time will tell.


November 5, 2007

Pre-Winter Changes

This weekend we were to host a number of Greg's co-workers for a pot luck dinner. Regretfully, Greg didn't get invitations out to the Saturday event until last Tuesday. I knew that such late invites would bring fewer people and only two of the dozen invited showed up - Kevin and Loretta.

Kevin, whom I have always enjoyed his company, had his first visit out here. He was in time to see Frankie head from the backyard into the basement for the night. Loretta arrived just in time to help Greg and Kevin water all the geckos before the lights went out.

One of the benefits of this event for us includes a very clean house and.  With fewer people showing up it was a more relaxed evening.

Time changed this weekend (I dislike Daylight Savings - why don't we permanently adjust our clocks by 30 minutes and leave them there forever!!!! - Gads Zooks) which means watering, feeding and getting Frankie in and out of the house all changes. The gecko lights are on less and less during the day. Turtles are less active.

Winter changes so much around here. Frankie, who lives on a short day schedule except during the hottest time of the summer, has even shorter days. It is 9:32 am right now and Frankie is still sitting in his "night box". He is awake, just not walking around. By the time I get downstairs at 10:00 am, it will be time to get him outside. Temperatures should be around 60º F and the sun shinning. Good for him. Should we not have sun, he would not want to be outside.

The box turtles are spending nights indoors. Really, Mama turtle and Brown Eyes should be preparing for hibernation. I think that I shall get them ready to do this the first of December. Here in Alabama, too many sunny winter days prevent the soil to stay cool enough for them to sleep. They have picked two areas to dig in the yard and I think I shall work that area so that the clay is less solid for their winter sleep.

November 1, 2007

An Incredible Day

This morning has just been fantastic. A good friend of mine, Florence, invited Frankie to visit a special needs school that has a large percentage of autistic children. Frankie, Florence and I sat outside and several small classes (less than 10 children) were brought out to visit and learn about Frankie the sulcata. The children gathered around, asked questions about Frankie and everyone was allowed to touch his shell. Frankie did a lot of walking around, delighting the children with this large back feet and big front toe nails. Two particular autistic children who reportedly were normally shy and frighten instantly changed to down-right bold and awed at the sight of Frankie. No child left feeling frighten and none were disappointed in the visit. It was so very fun to watch how much children delight in Frankie.

Florence then took us the McWane Science Center where both her and my husband work. Frankie walked endlessly around the lobby, again, delighting children and adults alike. At one point, Frankie was visiting a line of children and adults waiting to see the IMAX.  They had so much fun with Frankie I was afraid they were NOT going to see the movie as they hated to part from Frankie. Florence's husband, Richard, was able to leave and have lunch with us, Greg was unable to go. We picked up some roll-up sandwiches and went to the downtown Linn Park. Again, Frankie delighted everyone present.

Several folks whose windows overlooked the park actually left work to see Frankie!  It was amazing to see how many people who saw Frankie from their offices came down just to see him up close.

Frankie doesn't need a pumpkin costume to draw a crowd. He is a wonder and delight to all that see him. Tortoises are something very special and I don't think that there are many other species of animals that capture the heart of people so very easily.

October 30, 2007

1st Place

Maybe everyone is getting tired of this "Frankie the pumpkin" thing but hey, it novel to me.  I've "put" a witch hat over his shell for Halloween in the past, but I've never spent so much time and effort making one.  Certainly none so cute.

Soooo, on that note, he won FIRST Prize at our local Petsmart on I-280. This is the PetSmart he gets to visit on occasion. His prize this time was a $25 gift certificate - hey that will pay for cat food for two months! Yea, Frankie! Finally pulling his own "weight" around here. Two more contests to go -- both national photo contests.

Now the odd thing. I found some old gecko physical records that included some turtle weights. OMG - Frankie is six years old and not seven! The record for Frankie was dated August 12, 2001. It said "1.7 oz, recorded 2 weeks after purchase". Well, we were real close on his August 1st birthday but somewhere between Oklahoma and Alabama, we added a year to his age! So what to do about his current records? Gads! I guess he will be 7 years old for 24 months to get him back on track.

We are having friends over this weekend so I got to go outside and trim Frankie's yard. All turtles will be outside so I got to keep an eye out for their positions. I use a weed whacker rather than a lawn mower mostly because of the irregular levels of the yard.

Also, to note, this blog is close to being viewed 2,800 times - probably in the next day or two. Big achievement for the turtles and me. My goal was to share the experience of caring for my turtles in the hope that others could use examples as ways to and not to raise their turtles. If anyone was amused on the way, I am simply amazed.

October 28, 2007

2nd Place

I took Frankie to Petco for their in store Halloween Pet Costume Contest. He placed 2nd among a group of dogs. Personally, I think that these pet stores have to award first to a dog! The gal who won kept saying "we are going to lose to a turtle". Funny.

All the kids there just loved Frankie. They dubbed him "The Great Pumpkin". When the contest was over and I had to pick him up to put him in the car I hurt my back. Since Greg could not come with us, I was on my own.  Luckily several parking lot admirers help me get Frankie in the car.

Frankie had a good time walking around Petco. He liked it much more than walking around at PetSmart. I think it was the shorter shelves and brighter lights. Frankie seems to get spooked over dark places.

Box turtles are in at night and outside during the day.

Frankie is a Finalist

Since spending the night outside of his shelter and getting cold to the bone, Frankie has not been himself. He goes to bed extra early and wakes late. He doesn't walk around as much. As a precaution, I've brought him in the last three nights to sleep. It seems to be doing some good as today he is a bit more active. Its almost 4:00 p.m. and he hasn't headed inside for the night yet. I've been concerned but he seems to be on the mend.

Just in time cause Frankie is a finalist in PetSmarts US Pet Costume Contest. I submitted a photo of him in his pumpkin outfit and he made one of 31 finalist. Starting Monday, people from all over the U.S. can vote for their favorite. I am promoting Frankie to his turtle friends. Maybe through the turtle vote he can be the top winner!
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I am just like a mother of a human kid entering a Halloween contest!

Box turtles are enjoying their time outside. The rain loosened the ground enough so they can dig a bit. I check them daily to see that they are tucked in for the night.

October 18, 2007

Saving Rain

Its rained! Thank goodness. Only a 1/4 inch but in perspective, its great. I put out bowls and buckets to catch what comes down so I can water plants later. I put all house plants outside to catch rain.

Trees are beginning to suffer and I have lost a few of the smaller ones. As much as Frankie needs sun, he also needs plenty of shade. Trees provide great shelter and shade.

The box turtles are back outside for a couple of days. They are probably happy to see the sun and grass again. Very boring in the gecko room for them. I may have to bring them in at nights as the night temperatures vary so much this time of year - one night it will be in the 60's and the next in the 40's - hard for a turtle to prepare a good spot for the night. I do trust that Ma Ma Turtle and Brown Eyes can take care of themselves but Big Turtle cannot.

Since it rained last night and some this morning, Frankie was reluctant to come out of his heated shelter. That is all fine but at noon there was sunlight to bask in and still Frankie was reluctant to come out. I pulled him out at 1:00 pm. He is not acting like himself again. He was reluctant to eat a carrot. I think I will have him come inside at night. Crap - I was hoping not to need to do this.

I added some pages about Bob the turtle on our website. I also published by children's story about Bob there. Comments welcome.

October 14, 2007

Out All Night

Frankie found an end of the day basking spot against a fence that caught the last of west sun. Apparently, he then fell asleep in that spot and forgot to go into his enclosure for the night.

I was out for the evening and had an overnight guest too so I didn't keep up with my routine check on Frankie that I do every night to see that he is snug in bed. Night lows were in the 50's. The next morning, at 8:30 am, I found him, cold to his core, still sitting against the fence. I had to lift him into a sunny area so he could warm up. After a short sit in the sun, he then decided he felt really bad and went into his enclosure - which the heater was not turned on since it was day. Again, he failed to warm up. I dragged him back into the sunlight around 10:00 am and stayed with him until I felt he would not leave the area. He never acted okay the entire day. All he did was move to different basking areas attempting to warm up.

I worried all afternoon that this was going to bring on a respiratory infection or worse. At his bedtime, I went out to double check that his heater was working. I put a board in front of his door to keep any drafts away. I checked on him hourly until I was entirely sure he was okay.

In the morning, I found him basking in the sun, looking quite cheerful and ready to take a walk. Greg had a backyard project, putting in a weather tower, and Frankie was on site to supervise the whole operation including the moving of materials, digging of holes, and mixing of cement . He stepped on all the dirt - guess it checked out - and then moved on to check to see that they tools were appropriate for the job (maybe a potential girlfriend in the bunch).

So, after his night in the cold, his recovery looks complete. Thank goodness, I was very worried.

October 12, 2007

Pumpkin Progress

The pumpkin costume is progressing. I've done a couple of fittings.
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He is real good about sitting for fittings. Of course, I tend to do them first thing in the morning when he is basking in the sun.   I figured it is the only way he will sit long enough for me to work on the costume when it's on him.

When I actually put the costume on (pic above) he stopped and wouldn't move -- for about ten seconds -- then he saw a nice piece of grass and got moving again forgetting all about the costume on his back.

It is getting colder at night. I put Frankie's pig blanket under him last night. He had two heat sources - pig blanket from below and heat ceramic from above.

Boxies are inside. Bored, it seems.

October 7, 2007

Frankie is a Pumpkin

I've decided to enter Frankie in a pet haloween contest at PetSmart later this month. I am working on making him a pumpkin costume. Thought it would be easy. No so. At least I bought extra material in case I screw up stuff, and I am.

Here is the tacked up product so far (means that it isn't sewed, jut pieced together to see how it works):
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Making it round is the hardest thing.

September 29, 2007

Frankie: This is just right

Soooo dry outside that I've brought the box turtles inside. Poor dears, when they try to dig to bury themselves for the night, they are digging in hard tack clay. Just not very comfortable. Inside they have one of those Rubbermaid under-the-bed sweater boxes. Got rollers on it, no top. It’s long for lots of moving around and just tall enough to keep them inside. I cover one end so they have a "hide". They have a short glass bowl they can get in and out at will.

Frankie doesn't mind the dry. In fact, it’s probably just his kind of weather. Dry not wet, hot during the day, cool at night, stuff to graze upon. Probably more like his natural environment, he just doesn't have to rough it. When Frankie wants water, he goes to his pool. When he wants shelter, he goes into his plastic shed with heater. When he wants to walk, he has lots of yard to walk. When he wants to cool off he has plenty of shade. He simply has it made: up at 8:30 a.m. and back in bed at 4:30 p.m. What a schedule - I would love to sleep that much!

Frankie at 4:30 p.m. Looking out his door just before going in for the night.

September 25, 2007

Water Falls

Being fall, temperatures are much more tolerable but we are in a position of still needing rain. Frankie's lawn crunches when I walk though. Frankie doesn't seem to mind: he eats the grass soaking wet, normal, and crispy dry. I think Frankie would eat grass served purple. Seems to be a sulcata's primary job - eat grass.

I've moved Frankie's pool up near all the trees. Figured that I the trees can get a bit of water just from the pool being there. Frankie is more than obliged to help. Yesterday, he was in the pool with the small bit of water (about six cups) left from the weekend so I turned on the hose and the pool started to fill. He started his splashing (love to watch this). I hosed him a bit (he loves this as long as I don't get it in his eyes). When the pool was pretty full I walked away to turn off the water. When I turned around after turning the water off, Frankie was crawling over the pool's edge and all the water was draining out. Now I know why the pool never has water in it - I thought there was a leak! But at least Frankie is helping to water the trees.

September 23, 2007

Fall Frolics

No matter the occasional hot day here and there, it is fall. Certainly the turtles would say this is their favorite time of year. The boxies can come out in the morning and wander around, dig into the softer soil, gaze from their half buried burrows during the middle of the day -- basically enjoying themselves. Frankie gets to walk like the walkin' fool he is and needs only to rest/cool occasionally, nights under a nice heat lamp, and normal sleeping hours (9:00 am - 5:00 pm).

For me, it means more time with turtles. I don't have to hide from the extremely hot sun. That is so nice for me.

I actually mowed Frankie's yard. It looks quite nice. Compared to four years ago when the yard (if you could call it that) was nothing but mud, the presence of lots of green is lovely. I have to pull golden rod, a rather obnoxious weed that although a very beautiful yellow flower causes no end of allergy problems. Frankie doesn't even eat it.

Greg took the barrier down from a section of the chain link fence so he could weed whack. That means that Frankie has returned to pushing against the links to get through. Now I need to get out and put the barrier back up before Franks hurts himself.

September 16, 2007

Behavior observations

Fall temperatures are quickly overtaking the former hot summer days which means behavior changes in tortoise and turtles. The sun is nice and warm. Frankie and the box turtles are able to get out and roam around. At night, the temperatures are dropping into the sixties.

Turtles Mama Turtle and Brown Eyes have made tremendous efforts to dig under ground. Big accomplishment considering this Alabama soil is the toughest I've seen. When dry, the soil is nearly impenetrable. When wet, its clay with rocks throughout. Mama Turtle and Brown Eyes have both managed to dig far enough to cover their carapace. That is not too deep but I think it is a good start. I think this is a sign that they will want to hibernate.

A discovery of two box turtle eggs was made when I checked on the turtles yesterday. Who ever laid them didn't take time to really cover them making me think it was Brown Eyes. Mama turtle is strong instincts and does very well with her eggs. Brown Eyes is not so careful: she has laid them in the open before.

The previous box turtle eggs laid just a few months did not make it. Two died early in development. One never started to develop. One made it all the way to making slits into its eggs but failed to complete the job and get out of the egg. I regret this occurred when I was out of town or I may have been around to see the problem and help it out. Overall, I am not very good at incubating turtle eggs.

Frankie has a night ceramic heater in his enclosure that comes on when temperatures get under 70 degrees. I've checked on him the last two nights and so far our heat set-up is working for him. Still, I don't think its a good enough solution for winter temperatures. When he is cold, legs and head are pulled into shell as far as he can. When he is warm, the legs spread out.

September 11, 2007

Looking Sandy

Frankie continues to grow at a remarkable pace. I noticed that all the chocolate areas on his shell have really been outgrown by newer sandy growth. Indeed, I think it looks quite handsome.

Looking forward to taking Frankie to class even though we have not yet been confirmed. This means he will have to get a bath. He is a little more stinky nowadays than when he was a little tyke. When he was small it didn't seem so cruel to turn him over to get his underside. Now, at 45 pounds, he really acts as if he cannot stand being on his back. Maybe I can design a lift system. I wish!

Mama turtle is underweight. Can't remember ever picking her up and having he seem to light. It may be time to take them all in for fecal checks.

It won't be long until Frankie pushes his way into the box turtle pen. Have to make a new Frankie-proof fence. Still have to make a new Frankie winter house. He is way to big to be indoors during cold weather.

September 7, 2007

Fast Friends

Is seems that Frankie and are on the best of terms again. When I open the back door and go down the stairs, he is alert and looking at me hoping for some carrots. If I call at him or yell "carrots" while he is out in the yard, he will look at me to see what is going on. We are friends again. No hard feelings about being left behind.

Probably helps that he got a T-shirt from Cozumel:

Box turtles are happy being back outside even though since we got back there has been no rain (rained all week while we where gone). The soil is soft enough for Mama Turtle and Brown Eyes to get holes dug.

Bob the turtle, the one tortured in California, the accused perpetrator has pleaded "no contest". At this man's age, and no record it was the best he could have done. My wish is that he and his family will be able to overcome their extreme anger toward the court system and toward the Sullivans and learn from what has happened. Since there was others involved in the torture, Tony could only be more angry that he alone faces the consequences. Plus most the world is looking at Tony as a monster. The Sullivans are being harassed but Tony and his family is also the target of violence. Can no one see the big picture here? Everyone, and I mean both sides and their supporters, must lay down their arms and allow what has happen to be, to let the courts do what they have been set up to do, to let Tony learn from what has happened, to let the Sullivans heal their wounded family. The dominoes have fallen and no one, not one person, has shown any sort of humanity to all. The Bob supporters need to turn to Bob and his family. People's attention is not helpful anywhere else.

September 2, 2007

Bonding with Frankie

I am back after a eight day vacation. I hired a young lady to live at the house and care for all the geckos, turtles, reptiles, and cats. She does a good job but this was the first time she lived at the house while we were gone. I felt that there was enough to do at the house and the animals needed a lot of attention that her presence was best.

She found Frankie outside one night in the rain and managed to get him inside her house. Good girl! She did neglect to give Frankie his daily carrot. Frankie seems smart enough to know he was neglected in this important detail. He seemed happy enough to see me but when I went to the backyard in the morning he turned his head away as if to say, "Glad you are back but hey, I was not treated up to par and its your fault!" I had to make up to Frankie with extra carrots, some tomatoes and one pear. He seems to require that I spend quality time to "bond" again with him before he is his old self. Maybe a walk around the block.

The box turtles, after nearly a month inside due to drought and high temperatures got to go outside today. It rained gently for them so they are happy. Probably looking forward to some worms, too. They got a banana, pear and peach for breakfast.

August 23, 2007

Cha cha hot

Today we are expecting 104ºF temperatures – our hottest yet. I have already filled Frankie's pool with fresh cool water and placed it in the shade. Box turtles are inside. Ice maker is full. Need to make ice tea. Window curtains all closed.

I think around 3:00 pm, as it gets to its hottest, I will bring Frankie downstairs into the basement. It’s the coolest place in the house (mostly because I refuse to run the AC all day just for me). Frankie, the geckos and I will be cool until the AC comes on at 4:45 pm. That time will give Frankie a chance to lower his body temperature so he will feel more comfortable the rest of the evening.

After today, and into next week, temperatures are expected to drop and rain is finally expected to start showing up.

I bought an old glass pie dish from a thrift store to use as the box turtle's water dish. It works great. They can get in and out by themselves. It is smaller than I want but I needed them to have something to get in without help. I will still soak them every other day in a larger container.

August 14, 2007

Sulcata sexual development

There are certain subjects I wonder if I should put in my blog but then I think that if I didn't someone who regularly read it to see about sulcata behaviors would miss out on something that really should be eventually be expected. This would be one of those times. It’s about developing sulcata sexual behavior.

Frankie just turned 7 years old. This week, he found a girlfriend -- a Tupper bowl about five inches high. Just high enough for him to "mount" and practice his sexual savvy. He gets this hard plastic bowl cornered so it can't slip away from under him, he climbs his front over it, and proceeds to repeatedly push his rear end at it, i.e. in general terms, humping. He grunts very loudly at each hump. He practiced without distraction for about 20 minutes.

This is perfectly normal animal behavior. As far as I know, his first real girlfriend as I have not seen the behavior before, at least not successfully.

Why might this be important to know about when considering a sulcata? Several reasons; if he was practicing this behavior against any unsupported item (chair, unsupported fence, lightweight shelf), that item would go crashing to the ground. I've heard of large sulcata moving lawn furniture around yards -- this may be why it is done. Second reason: visitors, especially conservative or very young people may find this behavior a little shocking . A keeper must be prepared to explain such behavior. Frankie didn't seem eager to give up the behavior.

August 12, 2007

Shell seen better days

Frankie is really rough on his shell. In diggin’ beneath the AC unit and support bricks, he really scratched his front shell. I did my best to buff this out and it does look better. But he has other dinks and small gouges that are permanent. I just wonder, what is within the normal for most sulcata? Do they get this much shell damage? I wonder?

He is doing well in the hot weather. I am home all day so I can get outside often and water him down to cool him off. His pool is under the porch and it is shaded so it keeps cool. He does get in and out to stay cool. All in all, he is doing well outside.

I brought the box turtles inside just because it is too hot to try to find them daily to be sure that they have gotten access to the water. A few weeks indoors isn't go to be harmful. They get fed and watered regularly so it is beneficial for them.

As for me, I just try to stay out of direct sunlight.

August 6, 2007

Hot dog day of summer

Frankie is on hot day survival mode. He is up very early in the morning. Does his walk around his yard about three times, heads to the middle for grazing and by the time he finishes, it is very hot and he heads under the porch for some cool dirt. He stays under until well into the evening when he will get out again, walk and eat until very late at night. I go out after dark and he will be under the porch, awake, watching the night come in. This is not his winter, spring or fall pattern. Usually he is in his house asleep by 6:00 pm. The last few nights he hasn't wanted to sleep inside his house. I have been conflicted about this but gave in because of the heat.

During the heat of the day, I go out and water him down with a cool sprinkle from the hose. This cools him down and provides the soil with some nice damp areas for him to sit on.

Overall, we are surviving the 98º F heat.

August 1, 2007

Birthday tort out of the dog house

Well, today is Frankie's birthday so we had to take him out of "time out" and celebrate his turning 7 years old.

A neighborhood young lady who is a great friend of Frankie came over this afternoon and helped me prepare a turtle cake. So, what does a turtle cake comprise of? Mashed potatoes (no butter or spices, please) peas, corn and green beans from frozen, carrots for legs and tomato for head. Here is our finished masterpiece:

At this "party" he also received a bag of carrots and four corn on the cobs, all his favorite foods (not to be eaten all at once - these will be served all week long). Frankie loved his cake and had no problem eating everything.

It was a nice Frankie day.

July 30, 2007

Bad Frankie

Frankie has been a very bad boy. He has started to dig a tunnel next to the house and under an air conditioning unit. Very bad Frankie. I was in the gecko room and could hear his digging. I have put a roll of fence in the hole for the time since I was barefoot and just dressed to go out on a few errands. Frankie looked depressed at the object in his hole, but oh, well.

I think this is a housing issue again. I think that he doesn't like that his house is empty inside with nothing to "dig" and snuggle in. Today, unless I forget, will be picking up some hay to put in his house. Since I don't use any heating devices in the summer, hay will be safe.

July 26, 2007

The "P" Word

Oh, yes, its time to talk about the "P" words again. Now we (meaning sulcata owners) are very fortunate that our beloved tortoises poop a nice cylinder looking shape object that is capable of being flung 20 feet in order to tidy up around the sulcata yard. Unlike dogs, that poop can't be flung. We are lucky. That makes cleaning up after Frankie pretty easy. Open his night house, fling out the poop and for the most part, nice and clean. Same goes with poop around the house - fling and be gone.

But, sometimes Frankie, and this is not often, decides to poop or pees in his pool. I do hear that many sulcata do this very often but Frankie is mostly a gentleman and keeps his pool clean. We got a small drought going on around here so when the pool is filled up with rain water I give a little "yippy!". Yesterday, the pool was filled with fresh rain. This morning, Frankie decided all that rain water, filling his pool as full as possible, was suitable not only for a little pee but some poops, too. Yuck. There is no poop flinging possibility now or in a few days when poop has been watered down this much. The pool, when full, is also difficult to spin around to empty and I usually get my feet wet with pool water (in this case, poop water). Again, yuck, and I just finished taking a shower an hour ago.

Frankie enjoying a pee and poop free pool

July 24, 2007

Elisive Safety

Weather is very nice here and Frankie has spent a lot of time walking around the yard. He does not have to spend as much time hiding under the porch to keep cool. Even the box turtles get around their enclosure a bit. After all the rains, even Frankie's yard needs mowing. He just can't keep up with all the growth.

It is time to pick up Mattie's shell. I am ready. I have not mentioned it to Greg although I am sure he will be okay. He has a way of walking forward without regret or discomfort.

I have worried a lot about Frankie's safety since the story about Bob the sulcata started. Bob was taken from his yard and mutilated. As hard as keeper's try, it is difficult to guarantee the safety of our turtles. Because turtles are unique, I think they draw more curiosity than the typical dog in the yard. I have yet to decide which is safer: making the neighbors aware of Frankie so they can watch out for him, or to keep him a secret so no one knows he is around. The apartments behind my house are the greatest security risk. So many people that it increases the likelihood that there is a animal abuser among them. I think a great deal about how to protect the back fence.

July 19, 2007

Mushrooms Galore

It has rained so much the last two weeks in Alabama that everything has turned lush and green. Also popping all over the place is a menu variety of mushrooms. I counted seven different types in our front yard and in the backyard. I went around Frankie's backyard area because several have that very attractive orange color that Frankie loves. Just this morning, I had to race Frankie to a batch of orange mushrooms he was ready to devour. At least I had a carrot to give him to make up for not allowing him the mushrooms.

I know only a little about mushrooms. I have a mushroom identification book that helps. But, to be safe I just crumble them back into the ground just because I can't be sure if Frankie would get sick eating them.

Box turtles are especially fond of mushrooms but I didn't offer them to my boxies just because I don't know enough about the mushrooms in this area. Better safe than sorry.

In three years I have not seen so many mushrooms.

July 16, 2007


Enough time has passed that I was able to remove Mattie's shell from the wrappings our veterinarian made for it and to put the shell out to be cleaned. Who Mattie was and my feelings for her spirit are very much separated from her shell. The shell is more like a photograph, or a reminder of days together. Greg has not spoken of Mattie since a few days after her death. This is Greg's normal way of moving on. He is quicker to separate time and feelings.

On other subjects, I have been keeping up with the story of Bob the sulcata from Ventura, Ca who was kidnapped from his home and mutilated. He was recovered and his chances of a full recovery are good. Had I written about this days ago, I don't think I could be as matter of fact. I think that I have found every mentioning of him on the internet.

The story about Bob has made me come to realize how very much I love Frankie. I think I can say that I have really loved only three pets in my life: Kitty, Zooter and now Frankie. I have loved other pets but just not to the depth that I have about the three mentioned. I do think often of Zooter's and Frankie's welfare in almost the same level of concern that I think about Greg's and mine.

So, there are my heartfelt admissions toward my pets. It’s a good thing I cook, clean and maintain the house for Greg or he would think I care more about them than him. Of course, he knows better.

July 12, 2007

Visitor to the yard

Unbelievable - to my surprise, a groundhog (you heard me right) decided to move into our yard! Groundhogs are no small rodents, not small like squirrels or chipmunks or moles, nope, groundhogs are like big cats! My first thought in coming across this guy (screaming my head off as I had no idea what it was thinking first it was a badger) was the turtles. Groundhogs are vegetarians which may be one reason he was attracted to our yard -- lots of good grasses and weeds to eat. Still concerned about the turtles, Greg and I decided to turn this potential yard resident to a day visitor. We found some nice country real estate for him, about five miles away, to relocate him.

Now for a picture:

If you can't appreciate the size, it fit tightly into a cat carrier.

Nice to have you for a visit, groundhog. Hope your new home is just as nice. The yard is all yours again, Frankie & turtles.

July 7, 2007

Caught in a downpour

Leeds had a major downpour yesterday, over 2" in less than an hour. I realize this is nothing to our friends in Oklahoma City or Tulsa and a few other places where flooding is serious, but Alabama hasn't had this much rain in months!

I didn't think much of the downpour as I didn't see any of the turtles of Frankie walking around in it -- all was quiet. After 30 minutes, I thought too quiet. I put on my rain slicker and went out to check. Frankie had been caught in a "river" of water and was sitting unmoving. His eyes were shut and water was pushing over his face. Briefly I thought he had drowned! But he responded to me touching him but was just too cold to get moving. I tried to put him into his outdoor house but the rain was coming down so fast that he just wouldn't move.

I lifted him (ugggh) and brought him into the house. I didn't have anywhere ready for him. The biggest box I had was just about big enought to get his head inside. So his head was in the box and rear end sticking out. Good enough for Frankie who seemed tired after the ordeal.

Oh, but then we lost electricity at 4:30 p.m. No heat for Frankie, no air conditioning for us. Both miserable. We got electricity at 1:30 after midnight. Greg and I slept in until 9:00 am, forgetting that Frankie was probably wrecking havic in the gecko room. But, when I got downstairs, he was sitting sideways in his box resting and relaxing.

It is still raining outside, lightly.

July 5, 2007

Clouds make it cool

Frankie and I have taken two long walks around the block this last week. He really enjoys it especially when the sun is out during the day making it too hot for him to really get around the yard. Luckily, nearer the evening, the clouds have moved in several nights making it possible for him to walk with me.

I tricked the box turtles yesterday and mixed lots of vegetables in with their favorite foods (cat food, bananas, corn) and they ate some of the veggies attempting to get to their favorites. This may finally be the way to get them to eat their veggies.

I have been spotting more grasshoppers in the yard. My box turtles really ate lots of grasshoppers in Oklahoma and they really like them. Since this neighborhood was all new construction, many of the bug habitats were displaced. Having them move back in is helpful to the boxie food supply.

July 2, 2007

An explanation and something to hold onto

Dr. Atlas preformed an necropsy (autopsy for reptiles) on Mattie on Sunday. He found that she was suffering from a fatal liver disease that we could not have done anything for. The condition said several things: Mattie was older than we thought, probably at the end of her normal lifespan; that she did not die from husbandry errors; and, her fatigue, lack of appetite and slow demise were very much part of the disease progression.

90% of reptile deaths occur as the result of husbandry error. I knew this and over the weekend felt very guilty that I was the cause of her illness. I am relieved to know that her care was good and that everything I was doing for her in her last few months were in her best interest and comforting in what was probably a very painful condition.

Dr. Atlas was so kind to arrange for us to keep her shell. At the present, it is wrapped and refrigerated. We will have it cleaned by a preservation specialist. For now, neither Greg or I are able to open the wrapping to look at the shell. We don't think we will be ready to see it for a few months. We are grateful to have a bit of Mattie with us, a little bit of her to hold onto.

Thank you to everyone who has extended comforting words to Greg and me.

June 30, 2007

An ending and a new beginning

This evening, Mattie took a turn for the worse and we ran her down to see Dr. Atlas under emergency conditions. She was struggling and her plastron was turning reddish. During her emergency treatment, she quit breathing and her heart stopped. Dr. Atlas, one of the most competent exotic veterinarians I've ever met, did all he could to resuscitate her. After 10 minutes of work, we finally decided that she could not be brought back.

Greg and I mourn the loss of our little girl and will miss her very much.

When we got home we found that Mama Turtle had laid 4 eggs. They were dug up and I will incubate them inside. Mama proves again to be a great mother and we have four baby turtles to look forward to this fall.

Mattie see Dr. Atlas

Mattie went to see her veterinarian, Dr Atlas, on Friday. He is a very competent veterinarian, still she and her symptoms had him puzzled. On Thursday night, she started to drip red fluid from her nose. That was the first time she showed outward signs of a respiratory illness although the redness was very frightful. Dr Atlas took x-rays of her lungs and they were all clear. More mystery. She would push her head out high and twitch. More mystery. No swelling of the vent as was present last time she was sick a few months ago. So, she is on 4 weeks(!!) of antibiotic shots, once a day. When she got home, she drank a great quantity of water.

This morning she was restless, but at least has moved more today than in the last two weeks. She seems quite exhausted an in need of sleep.

It rained last night, nearly a whole inch, so box turtles and I were able to find lots of snails for their breakfast (I had cereal). Frankie delighted in eating damp grass (which he loves). He found a new toy - an upside down wagon that he can climb over. This is horribly noisy as the wagon is light steel.

If you read this blog, have good thoughts for Mattie as she fights for wellness.

June 26, 2007


With Blogs down for a few days, the possibility that they may never come back or disappear all together was a bit depressing. I had come to enjoy recording all that was going on with the turtles. I am still apprehensive about the final outcome of the blogs.

Mattie has quit eating. I have weighted her so I see if she is loosing weight. I soak her in water with vitamin A. I have also given her vitamin A drops a couple of times. I don't want to overdo the A but I keep thinking it is needed. I got her a vitamin B complex and have given her that once too. She gets soaked daily. Her last bowl movement was about ten days ago (that I know of). I am going to give her a few more days and if I don't see a turn around, back to the vet she goes.

Frankie and all the other turtles are doing great. Coping with the heat.

June 13, 2007

Dry Poop and Orange Plastic

I found the orange plastic piece that Frankie ingested on April 30th! Found it this afternoon while giving Frankie a carrot. It was in a bit of poop that was under the porch. I cleaned that area of poop a few weeks ago so the piece & poop must have past sometime since then. It could very well be that that piece of plastic hung around in his bowels for more than 30 days. Is that really possible?? Regardless of how long it was inside Frankie, I am glad it made its way out.

Frankie spends the long hot part of the day under the patio in an area we dug out for the box turtles (which they never used) and filled with potting soil. I water the area every day or so. The soil is cool for Frankie.

Since it has been hot, I bought the box turtles inside. They spend much of the day walking around the gecko room. I think this is mostly because the gecko room is kept at a comfortable temperature and humidity level that they feel free to move about. Certainly, when it is hot outside, they hide all day. On days when it rains and is cloudy, they move around their enclosure.

June 9, 2007

Not Cute!?

Frankie did not win Cute Pet Contest. I blame it on the photographer. The picture was just not cute. How can someone not take a cute picture of Frankie. Most all photos of him are great.

Rained yesterday helping the yard gain some of its loss moisture. Frankie didn't stay outside in the rain too much as it did come down a bit hard. He was out between downpours. Today it is hot so Frankie can make up any lost basking time.

June 7, 2007

Cute Pet Contest

It rained yesterday making all the turtles very happy. Me too.

Just came back from taking Frankie to PetSmart to enter the Cute Pet Contest. He always makes an impression. Many of the employees know him by name. Customers took photos with their camera phones. Some people remember him from Do Dah Day.

Greg and I always take time to educate people about keeping large tortoises. I am glad that they see sulcata in the adult forms as most people are less likely to run out and buy one. Sort of like seeing a full grown great Dane dog. Being in the presence of a big dog like that helps one to visualize it running amuck in one's house.

Back to Frankie - he weighed 42.2 pounds. I've guess 45 so I was very close. I think he is a sure shot for the Cute Pet Contest. Hope the grand prize isn't a bag of dog food. Useless around here.

Hot and Cloudy

Temperatures going up to the nineties. But, we have partly cloudy skies. Makes it much easier on everyone. The box turtles had the morning to walk around their pen under clouds before the "partly cloudy" started. Doesn't stop Frankie -- he simply waits until later in the evening to get his walking in.

I brought the box turtles indoors yesterday for superworms. They were very hungry. I am still working on the "outdoor" food solution. The boxies just had no problem getting some of their own food in our yard in Oklahoma. Here, with the new construction driving off natural insects and ant attraction to food, I continue to have problems getting other insects to hang around.

I hear that other sulcata owners catch their sulcata napping during the day. I have never seen Frankie, except on a very rare occasion, nap during the day. He sits and watches the going ons in the back yard.

May 28, 2007

Mattie Milestones

I am happier with Mattie as she has shown some spirit the last couple of days. I went and bought liquid calcium and vitamins (lots of vit. A) to put into her water as she is not very accepting of powder vitamins. So, yesterday and today she got to soak with vitamins/calcium. She ate lots of baby greens and a part of an over-ripe pear. She then had a good walk around her enclosure and climbed into the baby box turtle's water dish (which is too small for Mattie). I took the hint and went looking for a dish that I could leave in her enclosure. I found an oblong dish that was fairly shallow and put that in her enclosure. She was sitting happily in it when I left.

Greg has grand plans to create a new enclosure for Mattie. Lots of plants, deep soil, great lights, etc. It will probably take the month of June as he is very busy (he is working on fixing my vacuum cleaner which is a priority). Mattie will be very happy once it is done.

I tried all weekend to get Frankie's Growth Chart on my blog only to find out that tables are nearly impossible to add to BB Code. Still working on some sort of solution.

May 23, 2007

Happy World Turtle Day

Box turtles got a pear (not that everyone ate)
Frankie got 1/2 a pear.
Mattie got rose petals.

May 22, 2007

Mow and Go

Mattie still gives me worries - even when she does healthy things. This morning she seemed hard to wake up. I did wake her, put her under her UV light, gave her a small bit of tomato and check back an hour later. She had peed, very nice amount, etc, but no eaten tomato. I took her upstairs to soak, which she did for an hour. She seemed very happy when I removed her. Took her outside and put her into a nice shady spot that she seems to favor. I gave her a clover flower, which for several weeks she has refused to eat, but this time she happily munched down on it. Picky little rascal. Hopefully she will take a stroll around the pen and get some exercise.

Yesterday, Frankie helped me mow the side yard. From outside his gate to the front drive, the area is covered with clover. Frankie sat at a good spot and munched away. When he finished one spot he would move forward a few inches and start over. When he got to the end, it looked as if someone had taken a low sitting lawn mower and mowed a straight line about seven inches wide from the gate to the drive way. Every little bit helps.

Found some wild growing lantana. Going to look it up to see if it is poisonous to turtles. May have to transplant it to the front yard if it is.

May 20, 2007

Do Day Day

Frankie walked for a second year in the Do Dah Day parade (Birmingham, AL), a pet parade and festival benefiting area animal support groups. He was first to start the parade, and just like last year, last to finish the parade. Of course, everyone else was quicker including dogs, people and vehicles. Nevertheless, he did very well and seemed to enjoy it very much. He is mentioned in the Birmingham News:

His photo is here too (6th photo):

We handed out information that included warnings that sulcata were not for everyone. Links were included in the handouts for people considering a sulcata for a pet, the Sulcata Reality Test:

A representative from the area Humane Society commented on how responsible we were to provide this information. She invited us to speak about the facts and problems of turtles/tortoises as pets to a community group.

May 10, 2007

Plans, Problems & Duties

Caught Frankie (sulcata) trying to climb the stairs to our porch -- nine steps. He couldn't even make it to the first stairs except his two front feet but I cannot but think that this is a sign of trouble. If he got up on the first step the danger would be falling backward and flipping on his back. I am home all day except few errands but still the risk of him suffocating or heat stroke is real if I don't see him. At the top of the stairs I have a child safety gate. I may need to get another one for the bottom step.

I put up a barrier on the chain fence today to keep Frankie from pacing. It helps lots. A permanent fix is not yet in the making. His next shelter is first. Which means buying some Insulated Concrete forms.

Mattie (Madagascar spider tortoise) is really doing well. Still very picky about food. I worried all week since she would not eat food presented. Finally I put in a whole ripe pear and a mix of corn and broccoli. She ate well. Today she is outside for sunshine. I watered her area so it would be humid for her.

Boxies are doing fine. I think their biggest complaint is lack of food in their enclosure. I have to feed them.

May 7, 2007

Attracting the Wrong Sort

I have a small dilemma with the box turtles in attracting suitable bugs into their pen so that the turtles will have something to eat. The problem is ants. I have the ants under a degree of control. The very dangerous fire ants are no longer in the area but they respond very quickly when food is around. When I do feed the box turtles, I do so on plastic tops so that the tops can be cleaned so not to leave anything for ants. Attracting slugs, pill box bugs and worms involve some type of bait. They are slower to respond to food than ants. I will continue to think about this.

Frankie is, after nine days following the ingestion of a piece of plastic, doing very well. I think the danger has passes even if I did not find the plastic. It is probably somewhere in the yard. It was suggested by one person that possibly the plastic was digested but that is very doubtful.

Mattie, our spider tortoise, is being picky about her food, or she is just not wanting to eat. I haven't a clue which. I have offered her chopped veggies, clover flowers, wild strawberries and she wanted nada. Corn is not a real appropriate food but I may need to offer her corn just to be sure she has an appetite.

Greg was out of town last night and I was wishing that turtles were as good as watch dogs. They are not. The cats decided that playing around the house and making noises was fun. It was not.

May 3, 2007

Water Challenges

After a five day poop watch, no piece of plastic was found. It is possible that I missed a poop somewhere in the yard. Frankie behaves normal. I guess I will just continue to watch him.

I've decided that I will put a small garden in the box turtle pen. Since I will need to water the garden daily, the box turtles will have the benefit of the moisture. My box turtles don't seem to be very interested in vegetables so I doubt they will invade growing stock. This garden is not too ambitious. I am considering yellow squash, zucchini, egg plant and peas. Not lots. The plants will also provide more shade for the turtles. I will do tomatoes but due to the toxic leaves I will do those in the front yard. Can't grow anything in Frankie's area ‘cause he will just eat it.

The low rainfall continues to challenge backyard grass growth and turtle comfort. Frankie's grass is dulling. He still has plenty to graze on. The box turtles really need the moisture. When ever it does rain, I collect rainwater and put it into plastic gallon containers (I save containers all winter) and store them. I use the water to water plants. Rainwater that collects in Frankie's pool is only good for the one day because he pees in it. The water gets dumped on the ground so there is no waste.

April 30, 2007

Poop Watch

On Saturday, I took Frankie to the Creek Bank Festival. We went first to the wrong place but decided to walk around the park for a while. Frankie came upon a small plastic disk the size of a nickel and the color of a carrot. He ate it before I could stop him. It was suggested by other sulcata owners that I feed him cactus and high fiber foods to get the poop going. With luck, it will pass without incident.

I checked poop on Sunday and found nothing. I did learn that it is important that one wear gloves or handle the poop with something other than bare hands because fresh poop smell lingers even after several hand washings.

I checked again this morning (using a plastic utensil) and found nothing.

So far is behavior is very normal. He is not lethargic which would be a symptom of problems. I am encouraging him to soak in water and eat more grass.

April 25, 2007

Battling Both Ends

Mattie is on her second dose of medication as prescribed for the intestinal infection. I noticed that her vent was slightly swollen (10% compared to the previous photo) so the vet was correct that she would need a second course of medication. She hates the medication that I have to administer into her mouth and this morning was particularly difficult with me ending up hurting her mouth enough to make it bleed. I don't look forward to tonight's dose. For a little tortoise, she is very powerful. She is eating and that is a good sign.

Mama turtle laid five eggs last night but I was only able to recover two. It wasn't hard to find the nest because the ants had already begun their assault. I cleaned up the area so they wouldn't stick around. I soaked Mama Turtle and gave her as many superworms as she would eat (supplemented, of course).

I joined a sulcata message board a while ago hoping that it would be a fun place to chat about sulcata and exchange ideas. It still surprises me that people spend hundred of dollars every month feeding their sulcata. Frankie's food budget still remains less than $10 per month.

This afternoon Frankie ate a six inch cuttle bone in five minutes. Must find source for bulk cuttle bone.

April 23, 2007

Back in the Green

Everything is going so well with all the turtles. If it would only rain for the box turtles, it would be perfect. All four box turtles and my sulcata spent their first night outside since the unexpected cold snap. Last night, Frankie waited by his door expecting me to walk him inside. I pushed him over on his heat pad instead and bid him 'goodnight'. Today, all turtles and tortoises are enjoying great weather as they navigate the green of their enclosures.

Mattie, the spider tortoise, has made a full recovery. She has another five days of treatments but it will be well worth the bother to keep her healthy. She turned down strawberries this morning but I am not worried as she is a picky eater.

I talked to Brenda who is Bama's new mom and she just loves him. She said hi is a "real card." I should be seeing pictures from her soon. I do miss the little squirt.

April 17, 2007

Road to Recovery

Mattie is doing very well. Her swelling is completely gone. No nose bubbles. This morning I put her out in the turtle enclosure and she ate clover flowers. All very good signs. Too bad she has to continue treatments.

On another note, Bama has been adopted out. Much as I love him, I just could not have more baby turtles and he was just not going to stop mating -- he loves the girls too much. He is going to live with some other turtles who also have recovery issues and will be hand cared for. This is all good for him.

Frankie is outside walking all over the yard and eating to his delight. Still, temperatures at night require that he and all the turtles come in each evening.

April 16, 2007

Turtle Medical Emergency

On Friday, I was taking Mattie for her soaking and I noticed a piece of poop that was attached to her tail. When I turned her over I was horrified to see that her vent swollen and partially prolapsed. I started first-aid by soaking her for 30 minutes and sprinkling some sugar on the vent, but when that made no difference, I had to call Greg to come home and take us to our veterinarian.

By the time we got to the veterinarian, Mattie was also blowing bubbles from her nose. She was in very sad shape. Our vet, Dr. Atlas, was due to be out of surgery soon, but his co-worker, Dr. Campbell was stopping by when we arrived so he attended Mattie. Both doctors are exotic veterinarians but Dr. Atlas has more turtle experience, so from the surgical room consulted with Dr. Campbell.

After a painful probe, a fecal check and thorough examination the veterinarians agreed that she had a prolapsed probably due to some time of parasite. I was leaning more toward dehydration. The treatment was a course of Metronidazole (by mouth) and Claforan (by injection). No matter the treatment, both invasive treatments by themselves could stress this delicate tiny turtle to death.

We brought her home and began treatments. She was given twice daily soakings in lukewarm water. Her enclosure was re-calibrated for temperature and humidity. She was not eating and a veterinarian-provided medical diet was forced down Sunday. The first two days were not promising because she was was stressing so much from the treatments.

Monday proved to be a turnaround day. During her morning soak, I could see her drinking water. The sun came out so Mattie got to sit in sunlight for good UV rays. I fixed her a meal of spring greens, strawberries and corn. She ignored the meal until late in the afternoon after a sun basking and she began to pick out a few bits of corn and strawberries. Drinking water and eating some food are good signs. Her tail swelling has reduced significantly. Her treatments have to continue even though she seems to be so much better this afternoon.
Image Reduced

April 11, 2007

Reverse Directions - Back Inside Again

A sudden change in weather, a drop in nighttime temperatures now predicted below 50, has prompted me to go outside and get all the turtles, again. Good thing, as all turtles were cold. Frankie was especially cold as his night heater did not come on. I picked him up and brought him as soon as I found out. He was too cold to walk. Luckily, the gecko room is very warm and he already had a heating pad set up. He was looking much better within 15 minutes.

All day today we are expecting rains and thundershowers. We need the rain, but I sure wish we could count on stable weather. Besides weather wrecking havoc with the turtles, I have had to delay shipping several gecko orders. I also put all my winter clothes up and had to pull a few turtle neck shirts out to get through the last few days and maybe a few days to come.

April 10, 2007

Outdoors Again, Happily

After four days inside, Frankie and all the other turtles have headed outside. They were very thankful. Frankie seemed to suffer most as he had just gotten used to being outdoors again and was thoroughly enjoying himself when he found himself cooped up inside again. He was a major pain when I was feeding the geckos yesterday as he was under foot the whole time, and walked endlessly around the gecko room. I finally opened the door into the garage and he walked endless there too.

The box turtles were in the process of looking for egg laying sites when I had to bring them in. That made them even more restless. I am sure they are outside looking for egg sites all over again. Hopefully, they will get that business taken care of.

I have made the decision to adopt Bama out. I really have and had no intention of breeding these female box turtles and now that Bama has made such a remarkable recovery from being run over by a car, he has proven that he can reproduce. I have had to adopt out hatchlings and worry about surviving hatchlings that are outside that I missed. Of course, I found one (meaning there are more) and a great turtle lover, Brenda adopted that one. Brenda will be the one adopting Bama. I can be assured that he will be going to a great home.

April 5, 2007

Marching Orders

A cold front has suddenly entered Alabama and for the next five nights all the turtles have to come in at night because night temperatures will get as low as 24 degrees! Yikes. Greg is tished because I had just gotten the wet room cleaned (where Frankie slept at night during the winter). Greg complained all winter about the presence of Frankie poop on the floor (and the smell).

I got Frankie and the rest of the turtles inside last night. Frankie did well, remembering the route, to march directly from the backyard and into the house. Frankie was not quite ready to go directly to bed, either that or he just wanted to check out the gecko room after his time outside. He pushed the box turtle enclosure around a bit.

After lights went out, I went downstairs to check on everyone. Frankie left me a big present -- he peed on the floor -- that is about a small bucket of water worth. Fun stuff. This morning, he left me another present as he does every day. He is so sweet.

April 1, 2007

House of Poop

Frankie is really eating like a sulcata should, and the proof is in his outdoor enclosure! I went outside last night to check on him and when I opened the lid it was like stepping into the elephant area of a zoo. There was poop everywhere. His winter time constitutions were reasonable and I could handle cleaning up after him but it is obvious by the amount of poop currently on the floor that Frankie is making up for his "lean" winter diet.

I have observed him on continually grazing since the weather has remained steadily above the 70 during the day. No doubt that the poop factory is going. I just wish he would do his duty OUTSIDE his night enclosure. But he doesn't, and I have discussed this before in earlier blogs.

On another note, the baby turtle has been adopted and today a lady named Brenda is picking Dudley up. Dudley has begun eating like a pig. I have never seen him personally eat, although I have tried. He prefers to eat alone and will wait until I leave.

It finally rained last night and all the box turtles are wondering around their outdoor enclosure looking for bugs and slugs.

March 28, 2007

Baby in the Grass

All the turtles are outside full time. Today, I went out to give the box turtles a soak in water. While I had them soaking, I looked down by my foot and saw a baby turtle. Since we hadn't had any rain in over two weeks, I immediately put the baby turtle in water and he seemed to appreciate it.

I figure he is one of the hatchlings from last fall. He did well to survive the winter outdoors. As I understand it, sometimes young hatchlings will stay in their "egg hole" for a winter before digging out. That does mean that there may be other babies in the grass that I have not seen even though I took to time to look for other babies.

I've named him Dudley (at this point we will be able to tell what sex for some time). I will keep him indoors in his own enclosure and take him on daily "sun" visits for good UV exposure. Dudley will be put up for adoption as I do not want additional turtles. I am seriously considering putting my male box turtle up for adoptions as I really do not want breeding to occur.

Frankie had a blast in his "tub" today. He was flicking water over his back. I joined in by splashing water over his shell which only got him flicking even more.

March 20, 2007

Pounds to Consider

All the turtles are outside full time. Today, I went out to give the box turtles a soak in water. While I had them soaking, I looked down by my foot and saw a baby turtle. Since we hadn't had any rain in over two weeks, I immediately put the baby turtle in water and he seemed to appreciate it.

I figure he is one of the hatchlings from last fall. He did well to survive the winter outdoors. As I understand it, sometimes young hatchlings will stay in their "egg hole" for a winter before digging out. That does mean that there may be other babies in the grass that I have not seen even though I took to time to look for other babies.

I've named him Dudley (at this point we will be able to tell what sex for some time). I will keep him indoors in his own enclosure and take him on daily "sun" visits for good UV exposure. Dudley will be put up for adoption as I do not want additional turtles. I am seriously considering putting my male box turtle up for adoptions as I really do not want breeding to occur.

Frankie had a blast in his "tub" today. He was flicking water over his back. I joined in by splashing water over his shell which only got him flicking even more.

March 15, 2007

Spring is closer and closer...

Yesterday was a great day for turtles. All turtles went outside for a wonderful warm day filled with light breezes, great shade and warm sunlight.

Frankie seem particularly happy. He spend so much of the day wandering around his yard, occasionally eating grass and sitting in the shade. He has discovered the new space under the porch. I found him sitting in the soft dirt cooling off a bit. I also filled his pool for the first time this year and he spent time drinking fresh water.

Mama turtle and Brown Eyes are a bit restless and may be looking for places to lay eggs. Both spent time wandering around the enclosure and finally settled down at dusk. Neither started digging and I did bring them inside for the night.

I was actually thinking of leaving all the turtles outside for the night since temperatures were supposed to be in the 50's but predictions of rain caused me to change my mind. The day that all the turtles get stay out for the night is closer and closer each day.

March 10, 2007

Turtle Enclosure Ready

I spend this morning fixing up the outdoor box turtle enclosure. This entailed getting the wire fence under the porch anchored tightly. I had to dig into the dirt a bit so the fence had no gaps at the bottom. I filled in a hole that I had dug out last year into which I put a water dish. Water will be done differently this year. I set up two plastic enclosures that the turtles can get into for shelter. I inspected the rest of the fence for potential holes that turtles could escape. All seems ready.

All the box turtles (Mama Turtle, Big Turtle, Brown Eyes and Bama) are now outside. Mattie, the spider tortoise is outside. Nighttime temperatures are not expected to drop below 50. Now is the time to decide when to bring in or leave out the turtles at night based on forecast-ed night temperatures. I think I shall check some reference books. If I cannot find a good answer, I will go to the forum for other keeper's experience.