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Frankie

Frankie

December 27, 2009

Activities, Amusements & Ammenities

It’s December. It’s cold. Frankie is inside. Frankie is bored. Entertaining a large sulcata tortoise inside a house (in my case a 65 pound sulcata) is no easy task, especially when the sulcata tortoise is used to being outside and wants to be outside. I do my very best by arranging a variety of activities, amusements and amenities to keep him happy lest he destroy the gecko room out of boredom.

These are all the aquariums that Frankie brought down — all of these!

Nine hours: from the time the gecko room lights automatically come on at 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm when the lights automatically go out. There isn’t much to do.

Wake up and bask in the igloo. Return to the igloo and warm up about 6 times during the day.

Walking through the gecko shelf (step up, step down, turn around, step up, step down).

And back through the other way.

Pee on the floor and then push things through it.

Demand to go outside by pushing against the gecko room door.

Walk around the cricket shelf and under the desk.

If it’s warm enough, get lead outside by me so he can see for himself it is too cold outside so he will turn around and come back inside.

Push the cricket cart around the room.

Bother the box turtles by sitting and looking into their enclosure.

Rest in the middle of the gecko room floor thinking out his next plans.

Pooping. Frankie stretches his back legs as high as he can (I assume so the poop can clear his shell), grunting the poop out and then sitting back on the poop so he drags it around under his shell.

Push his hay and grass trough from its original place to the other side of the gecko room.

Eat a carrot.

Walk under the chair.

Those activities hardly cover six hours for a very bored I-want-to-be-outside-walking-and-not-inside sulcata tortoise. Those three plus unfilled hours are potentially disastrous when one must consider the room is filled with glass terrariums, 200 geckos, four shelves, five stands, a desk and a table. Frankie cannot be trusted to behave…..I’ve seen what he can do.

Hmm, toy for a sulcata?

I have tried some unsuccessful toys: a ball (once Frankie deemed it uneatable it was no longer interesting), empty buckets (why push these around when Frankie can terrify crickets by pushing their cart around).

Water Dragon, Rose, avoiding Frankie by hiding under the desk.

Frankie has attempted to make his own toys: electric wires (oh, the horror), eat newspaper and towels, and chase the water dragon (who now knows not to roam on the floor while Frankie is around.

So you see, keeping Frankie completely amused is more than important — it’s essential.

Fortunately this year I found something that can amuse Frankie for up to 45 minutes at a time. Kid you not! I brought his “girlfriend” inside. His girlfriend is a large steel mixing bowl that Frankie can comfortably mount and play mate. Literally: play mate. He spends up to forty-five minutes humping the steel bowl complete with loud grunting. And he can do this about once every hour. He is also content to just sit on “her” for long time periods.

I guess it can even be consider exercise.

And “she” can be put away out of sight should we have visitors (like the termite inspection guy last week).

So, along with the other walking, climbing, pushing, eating, pooping, peeing and basking indoors, the “girlfriend” has help keeping Frankie amused.

December 8, 2009

Frankie and the Igloo

By sheer luck this last summer, a neighbor around the block set out three dog houses in his front yard accompanied by a "Free" sign. I drove past about 100 feet before I thought better and turned around to see what possibilities these dog houses offer to my sulcata world.

Sulcata owners are pretty much left to their own devices once their sulcata gets over ten pounds. The commercial reptile industry completely abandons all large sulcata owners. The reptile industry does not sell mega sized water dishes, substrate by the yard, foods by the ton, supplements by the bucket, big housing, maxed-out heating implements, nothing. That small can of ZooMed turtle food, 2 ounce jar of ReptoCal supplement, and 4 quarts of Retpi Bark won't last two days with a 65 pound sulcata.

The last commercial habitat I found was suited to the hatchling Frankie: an eight pound rock cave that he used for one year. When you own a large sulcata tortoise, you are on your own.

Sulcata owners are Einsteins, Feymens, da Vinci, and Archimedes in their own right. Born out of necessity we develop acute powers of observation: a mere item of trash can be rethought out as a potential sulcata accessory. Old shower bottoms, garden carts, cement mixing tubs, outdoor mower sheds are all potential treasures to the large sulcata owner. So is a large dog igloo.

Sitting on the side of the road there were three choices: a large dogloo, a hand-make wooden dog house and a "barn style" large dog house. I select the large dogloo because I have heard other sulcata owners use them for their large sulcata. I stuff the two piece igloo into my Toyota Prius. Never tell a Prius owner something "won't fit." It fits and the dogloo is coming home with me.

Frankie interpretation of the igloo has already been told. Frankie saw that white igloo, crawled in and pushed it around the yard like a bulldozer. As far as Frankie was concern, it was a toy. Once he lost interest in the top part of the igloo, he used the bottom for a slide for a few weeks. Soon his interest waned in this as well and the igloo went unused for the rest of the summer.

Enter cold weather. Frankie's return to the gecko room at night and eventual days was fast upon me. The old newspaper-filled cardboard box filled with all the delight aroma of sulcata poop and pee would soon be part of an already zoo-like smell of my gecko room. With no solution coming from the reptile commercial world, convenience and sanitation sat low of wants in my search for Frankie's indoor shelter.

But I am a creative thinker, forced into thinking outside the expected. Suddenly, a large outdoor dog house shaped like an igloo is pictured in my mind as the perfect indoor house for the large and smelly Frankie.

A non-sulcata owner hasn't the vision. Greg heard the idea and immediately "nixed" the idea. But since when do I take a "no" as a "NO" from Greg….I view it as a "prove me wrong."

So I drag the huge igloo indoors barely squeezing it through the two slender gecko room doors. A corner in the gecko room is rearranged. I am surprised it fits. The igloo is filled with newspapers and the top fitted with a hanging ceramic heater. The big question remains: will Frankie see the igloo as a shelter or will he push the igloo through the gecko room re-enacting the fall of the Berlin Wall? I shutter slightly at the thought: it's the kind of a nightmare that wakes me at three in the morning sweating like I just stepped out of a sauna.

Frankie's first visit to the gecko room since the igloo's placement is predictable – he does not see it as a shelter. He looks at it as an invading mutant tortoise. Frankie gives it a good ram. Since it does not ram back Frankie is satisfied that he got the best of the mutant and is still King of the Room. He walks off looking for his box full of newspapers. My eyes rolled to the back of my head.

My only recourse is to force the 65 pound Frankie into the mutants jaws. "How can you feed me into the hungry beast," pleas the struggling sulcata with front breaks fully engaged.

If you don't own a large sulcata, then front breaks fully engaged isn't an experience you understand….but if you own a growing sulcata, someday you will. Sulcata claws leave marks.

I push Frankie forward. My back is gonna need Advil. Greg is gonna need to cut down the igloo's front wall so Frankie's back chutes don't get stuck. I need a lever to free Frankie. Once freed, Frankie disappears into the igloo's dark interior.

Then a miracle: Frankie begins nesting. I hear the distinct sound of digging and shuffling. For Frankie, the igloo evolved from a bulldozer to a mutant tortoise eater to a big warm sulcata burrow.

With no help from the commercial reptile industry, a dogloo is re-invented by crafty a sulcata owner confronted by the needs of a growing sulcata. Eat your heart out Zoo Med. Who needs 'ya anyway?

November 26, 2009

What I Am Thankful For

Indoor accommodations in my new heated igloo

My daily carrots

Petsmart and Petco Black Friday sales

Home delivered meals when I am indoors

The company of three beautiful box turtles (even if mom doesn't let me in their enclosure).

Sunny days

Shell rubs

Getting outside to graze and walk on Thanksgiving day

My buddies, PonG, Mitzy, Rosie, Kim's Krew and the rest of my Sulcata Station and AZ tort friends

A mom who doesn't seem to mind moping up pee and picking up poop

The pound of organic carrots mom keeps in the refrigerator

Thanksgiving leftovers of sweet potato peels and green beans

Getting my own e-mail account (frankie@daygecko.com)

That mom and dad didn't give me away when I tore up the gecko room last week.

November 22, 2009

The Biggest Disaster Yet

It is deep into fall. Frankie needs a lot more heat than supplied in his outdoor enclosure. The Rubbermaid enclosure perfectly suited to a 35 pounds sulcata, and just recently insulated for colder days, is a tight fit for a 65 pound sulcata who needs to spend a lot of time outdoors.

So enter winter plans. A path is set up to get Frankie from outside to inside for the night. A nice warm area in the gecko room is provided for Frankie's comfy sleep. Just like last year Frankie will be spending time in the gecko room when it's too cold outside.

Repeating last year's efforts, the gecko room is prepared for Frankie's winter visit: Containers moved from the floor, plants placed above ground, a panel installed near the to door to protect it from Frankie scratches cause by his turning maneuvers, colorful items moved out of reach from a eager sulcata seeking to taste potential food....well, I could go on and on. The room must be prepared for a bored "I want to go outside NOW" sulcata tortoise. I did just what I did last year in preparation for Frankie.


With a growing sulcata, anticipation and forethought is a priceless talent. Without it, a sulcata owner is headed to disaster. Frankie is bigger than last year. It's a fact that needs to be drilled into my head.

Saturday morning Frankie and I went on the Big Walk knowing that the afternoon would be increasing clouds, rain and decreasing temperatures. By 2:00 p.m. Frankie was spending his time indoors. I figured the Big Walk would satisfy his restlessness and he would settle indoors for the afternoon.

So I thought.

Our neighbor was mowing so Greg and I missed the BIG CRASH. Luckily I had headed downstairs for a Frankie-check before going on an errand.

I walk into the gecko room and find Frankie tangled up in the middle of a fallen metal terrarium stand with electric wires, basking lights, and fluorescent fixtures twisted around him like a child's game of "tie up the babysitter." Frankie has dragged this twisted rubble of metal, wires and lights about ten feet from its original position.

Then horrible reality hit me that that THIS metal stand and all those electrics once stood against the wall with a glass enclosure filled with geckos. Stepping over the struggling Frankie frantic to undo himself, I see not one, not two, not three but four glass aquariums that once sat upright on stands and filled with geckos all over the floor in various states of destruction. In some broken enclosures I can see geckos frantically trapped amidst tossed branches, bamboo and substrate. I wonder what the death count will be.

I scream as loud as I can, "GRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEGGGG!" It is a distinctive emergency cry clear as a fire engine driving to a burning house. Temporarily stunned, I am not even sure where to start amidst this disaster.

Greg arrives and Frankie gets first attention lest he drag his iron foe across the gecko room and take down any more shelves or enclosures.

I have no idea how we untangled the 65 pound struggling monster. Unwinding cords around his feet and through the iron bars, weaving fluorescent fixtures hitched to his head, we unwedge Frankie's huge shell from the metal legs. Frankie is free. Frankie immediately wants a second shot at the iron monster that entrapped him and Greg has to drag Frankie to the other side of the gecko room.

Eighteen loose geckos are re-capture. One completely destroyed ExoTerra terrarium, one cracked ten gallon and twenty gallon enclosure, and a miraculously unscathed 60 gallon glass terrarium took me an hour to clean up. There were no deaths but some very terrified geckos may be "sulcata" traumatize for the rest of their lives. I don't think Rose the water dragon will ever let Frankie in close proximity again.

And whose fault was this? Greg yelled at Frankie. Frankie looked at him like "hurry and clean up so we can go for round two". Greg yelled at me for letting Frankie inside the gecko room. I yelled at Frankie because I think Frankie is protesting that he wanted back outside and he was going to let me know why I should. Frankie looks at me like, "What?!!!"

Didn't I expect something like this was eventually going to happen when a 65 pound bulldozing, furniture moving, bored sulcata is left alone in a room full of glass aquariums? Sure, last year he wasn't capable of doing this. But this year…..

Yep, all my fault. I forgot the biggest rule of owning a sulcata: Always anticipate the next pound.

My new mantra: prepare for the next pound.

November 14, 2009

Smiles Miles Away

I am miles and miles away from home. This makes me homesick for familiar surrondings even if I am here with family. It is surprising how much time Frankie occupies in my day.

I see him in first thing in the morning. During this colder season, my morning visit is much more than a visit. Since he is inside I would go downstairs, remove the cover from the door (which wakes him up), and turn on his overhead heater. Not too long after that and I lead Frankie into the backyard for sun, grazing and walking.

During the day hours I regularily visits with Frankie. A lot of visits. I go out just to spend time with him, walk the fence, feed him a carrot, check to see where he is and to walk around with him. Most of those activities I do several times a day with the exception of the carrot which he is only allowed one daily.

In the late afternoon its time to walk Frankie inside. Most of the time he is ready and willing. He also wants to take a few extra minutes to graze the really good grass ouside the fence. He nearly always makes it known that he would take The Big Walk if I would let him. We complete our trek into the garage and gecko room where 80% of the time he goes directly into his night enclosure to sleep. 20% of the time he checks to see if the gecko room needs any re-arranging and if the lady box turtles would like to be disturbed. Regular stuff.

And it is not unusual for me to head downstairs later after the gecko lights are all out and check on Frankie one or two or even four or five times to see if he is sleeping soundly. It is not unusual to get a dirty look from Frankie, "Yea, already, I am asleep....or was until you woke me up, ma."

So you see, Frankie can nearly dominate my day not because he requires a lot of maintenance but because all these little and big things are a pleasure in my life. Frankie never fails to make me smile even if it may require heavy lifting or smelly clean ups.

So many miles away I miss getting to rub his shell and brighten my day with a little Frankie time. But I also have a super-technically-savy husband who can help me with my seperation sadness (and I am sure if the hubby wonders if I am sad being seperated from him too, I am!). He installed a backyard Frankie monitor. Greg calls it a Weather Webcam but it's really a Frankie Cam. I don't care what anyone says.

So miles and miles away, Greg at home taking care of all, I get to see Frankie get out in the yard first thing in the morning. I watch as he basks in the sun, and walks the yard and trims the grass. I can watch Frankie nearly as often as I would visit him if I was right there at the house.

So, what is Frankie doing right now????? Ten minutes ago he was sitting right in front of the camera streatched out and basking. Right now at this very moment he is sitting with his front end in his pool getting a drink of water.

And I am smiling.

October 30, 2009

Sins of the Mother

I am so in the "dog" house…sort of to say. I have failed Frankie in the biggest of ways, and I don't know if I can make up for this one.

Last Saturday was Petco's Pet Costume Contest and last Tuesday was the a pet costume contest at our area Petsmart. Frankie and I have spent two months getting ready for these events. I spent all of September making Frankie's fantastic Frankasaurus costume. He put up with being paper mache to make a model for his shell and endured several fittings to get everything just right. With hours invested into one super costume, I think Frankie was looking forward to entering those pet costume contest.

In pervious years he placed in every contest he entered so he got several gift cards from Petco and Petsmart from $5 to $10 each. Then he won the AARP pet costume contest and the You Pet Costume contest. All in all, he brought in about $200 in gift cards. The winning went straight to Frankie's head, not necessarily because of the notoriety but because of the gift cards: Frankie became a shopaholic.

Every time we would take Frankie to Petsmart or Petco for a walk he would pick out various items to buy with "his" gift cards. He bought cuttlebone, orchid hay, a yellow ball, some turtle treats, and he even bought a big water dish for his friend, Rose the Water Dragon, and bought cat food for our cats. Frankie was not a miser with his "gift cards", he shared his bounty, but he really got into the shopping.

Putting up with the new costume was worth it because Frankie was looking to more gift cards from the pet costume contest. Everyone who saw his Frankasaurus costume said he was a sure win.

Except mom forgot. Oh yes, I forget the PetSmart costume contest on Saturday and forgot the pet costume contest on Tuesday. I forgot both! Zip! They just passed me by like it was April.

Frankie seems to have a very little grasp on the concept of time other than days are longer in summer and it's hot and days are shorter in winter and it's cold. But somehow I think he knows I've missed the costume contests.

Can he forget being paraded around in a costume and being fussed over by hordes of people and strange animals dressed in people clothes? No, I think those kind of things Frankie remembers.

The other reason I think he know I forgot is he did some remarkable rearranging of the gecko room on Wednesday (the day after the missed costume contest). He moved chairs, containers, boxes, garbage cans, his feeder box, the box turtle container and all his hay and grass all over the gecko room. There was grass and hay all the way across on the other side of the gecko room. Some one (or in this case, some tortoise) had to drag all that hay across the room and stuff it under the gecko shelf. I didn't do it.

I am not sure what I can do to make this one up. I am thinking of taking Frankie in his Frankasaurus costume to Petco on Halloween and let him pick out some cuttlebone. I just know that I had better do something because I don't know if my gecko room can survive another Frankasaurus rearrangement.

October 16, 2009

Help Frankie win...um, I mean Frankasaurus Win!

It's that spooky time of the year when everyone is thinking what costumes to dress their kids and pets. Of course, this includes Frankie. This year I went all out and spent months to make this years costume: Frankie the Frankasaurus!









He is entered in PetSmart's 2009 Online Halloween Pet Contest. And he needs your help. Once again, the tortoise has to beat the hare. So I am asking all of Frankie's friends to get to PetSmart's website and give Frankie....I mean Frankasaurus 5 stars! Go Now!

Go to petsmart dot com and look for their Halloween Online Costume Contest. Frankasaurus is listed under "Other Pets" because he is not a cat or dog...duh, he is a dinosaur.

Don't forget, give him 5 stars above his photo. Okay? Let Frankie know how much you love his costume.

BTY:  This is Frankie's previous costume:

October 6, 2009

Again!?!

On Sunday, due to the colder weather and overcast skies, I put a ceramic overhead heater in Frankie's enclosure. When Greg insulated his enclosure this last summer, he set it up just so I could put in the ceramic heater. Still, I was nervous. It could get too hot and scald his top shell, cause a fire or, even do its job and keep him warm when it gets cold outside. I just couldn't take any chances.

When I installed the ceramic heater, I made sure that the "S" hooks were pinched so that the heater could not accidentally fall from the top. I set the thermostat to 70º F so if the temperature got any higher the heater would turn off. I went back inside and set a timer for 15 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later I go outside and open the enclosure. The heater has not fallen. There is heat radiating. The top of Frankie's shell is warm. Hmm, maybe i should turn the temperature to 75ºF. I do. I go back inside and turn the timer to 20 minutes.

Twenty minutes later I go outside and open the enclosure. Frankie gazes up to me puzzled by all the attention. His shell is a bit more warmer. I am feeling a bit more brave. I turn the temperature to 80ºF. Close the enclosure, go back inside. Set the timer for 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes later I go back outside. I open the enclosure. Frankie gives me another puzzled look. I check his back. Nice and warm. Things are working well. I go back inside.

Through out the day, I check hourly to see that the system is working. Frankie starts giving me annoyed looks.

At 4:00 pm, Frankie's normal bedtime, I go outside and check again. Frankie has shifted position to his "head-in-the-corner-time-to-sleep" position. With some difficulty he cranks his head around to see who is bothering him this time. "What NOW?" Frankie looks my way. I close the enclosure and go back inside.

At 6:00 pm, it's getting dark so I go out to see if the enclosure is holding heat. I open the top. Frankie ignores me this time. Things are fine. I close the top and return inside.

At 8:00 pm, it's completely dark outside, and I have to check one more time. I go outside and open the enclosure. Frankie gives me a dirty look. I move the hay around so that it sits against the front door to keep drafts from getting in. I close the enclosure and go back inside.

At 9:45 pm I am still worried about the heating system, safety, and if Frankie is comfortable. I go outside. I open the top. This time Frankie gives the old "startled" jolt and bumps into the side of his enclosure which tells me he was deep into dreaming and I have rudely waken him up. I have probably **** him off. This time he gives me an unmistakeably look of annoyance. "What can I say, I am worried." I am not sure Frankie believes me.

Okay, I didn't check again all night. But I was up at 6:45 am and headed outside in my pajamas to see how the night went. I open the top. It's nice and warm. Frankie slowly opens his sleepy eyes, "Oh, it's you. Again. Of course. Go away." I close the top. I return to go make coffee and eat some breakfast.

Yep, I will be out again later to make sure everything is okay. It's what sulcata owner's do.

October 4, 2009

Big Fall

Fall is pushing forward in Frankie's yard. Already the bushes and trees are beginning to thin out and some leaves have already started to turn yellow and fall. It's easy to track Frankie during this time of year, not necessarily because it's easier to see through his tree and bush area, but because he crunches when he walks across the fallen leaves.

The sun is adjusting its angle in the backyard. No longer does it shine all day on Frankie's outdoor enclosure so I was able to remove the emprovised awning I hung over it to keep the sun from warming it up. With the awning gone (it really a plastic table cloth) the sun can warm up the enclosure first thing in the morning.

But again, Greg put so much insulation in the enclosure that the sun hardly makes a heat contribution. So it was time to put his heat pad outside. The pad is hung on the side of the enclosure against the cement wall board that absorbs the heat. Inside it's pretty cozy in the fall.

Frankie is getting big for the enclosure. He can't scoot around easily. But he is snug. I have hay in there for him to cozy into. He likes that.

He is turning in about 4:00 pm each night. I check on him before its dark to make sure he is in and then I check back before I turn in so I can be sure the heater is on and his door flaps are not letting in all the cold air. I don't see him again until 10:00 am. Rough life.

During the day, Frankie spends his entire day outside in the sun basking and chowing down. He gets in some walk time, well quite a lot of walk time. What is very different this time of year as compared to the hot summer is Frankie does not have to spend any time under the porch to stay cool.

All the poop is in the yard. No more scooping poop from under the porch. But there is still poop in his enclosure. I have not been completely relieved of "dooty".

Regretfully, it was all rain and overcast today so Frankie spent the entire day in his enclosure. That's a bummer for him. I didn't bring him any food. Now if tomorrow is the same overcast rainy day I will have to bring him some grass clippings. Don't want him to get too hungry. Hunger makes him grumpy. Not a good thing to have a grumpy 65 pound bulldozer.

But all of this is a reminder that Frankie is fast outgrowing his outdoor enclosure and Greg better get it in gear and start designing and building a new one. If Greg doesn't, Frankie will be inside all winter again. At 65 pounds, this is a bit troublesome. Think 65 pound bulldozer.

See, not all blog entries are filled with hilarious Frankie adventures. Sometimes he is just an ordinary back yard tortoises with fall housing issues.

September 21, 2009

A Pet Rock is Better

"If I had wanted to raise a sulcata tortoise in Seattle-like weather, I would have moved to Seattle!" So I said to Greg a few days ago.

"It's colder there." He says.

When you own a 70 pound sulcata is there a difference? ….we will get back to this.

Alabama makes for a fine place to own a sulcata. We have lots of sun - summer through winter - and a mid to high amount of humidity. For a captive bred sulcata this is really about perfect. They are, after all, from the sub-Sahara semi-arid areas of Africa. Contrary to the general public, this is not desert. Sulcata get a good deal of humidity during the rainy season or they provide their own humidity in their underground burrows -- they pee and poop where they live.

This means they do not like it wet. In fact, if I had to describe the humidity they like I would have to say it's like what a good violin needs: humidity from 30% - 40%. Alabama can do this easily, with some extra humidity to boot which seems to benefit the captive bred sulcata over its family still in the wilds of Africa.

But 60% to 100% relative humidity for three weeks is going to far! And more than 6" of rain in a month when Alabama should only have less than 5"! Nearly 80% cloud coverage all month! And we have more than a week left to the month.

And Frankie is miserable.

Makes me miserable too.

Frankie had his last invited public appearance this last weekend at the Leeds Downtown Folk Festival. Anticipating really hot weather, we only planned on Saturday morning until it was impopssible to keep Frankie outside walking on asphalt. Instead, on Saturday Frankie shows up rain drenched.

Silly us, we thought this may be a good thing. He would not run crazy through the street knocking down art exhibit and little children. And we were right. He was slow with no interest in terrorizing anyone. Instead he spend the entire time attempting to walk under cars where some remaining engine warmth was beckoning him in for some comfort.

Miserable.

Lifting a cold 70 pound sulcata back into the car was no easy task. If you are interested in owning a sulcata and can't accomplish this task, maybe a pet rock would be a better choice for the family.

When we got home (again lifting a cold 70 pound sulcata out of the car) the choice was put him outside where sulcata should be for the summer which is what I preferred. Or, I could give into those puffy cold pleading eyes crying to mommy "Where is my sun? What have I done that is so bad that you've taken my sun away for two weeks."

So I lead my cold, slow, wet, 70 pound sulcata into the gecko room. Drag out stored away a livestock heating pad and a ceramic heater. Set it up for Frankie. Go outside in the rain (big fat rain drops) and cut a bag full of grass, weeds and clover. Bring the wet greens back to Frankie who is finally snuggling under his warm lamp and sitting on his warm pad.

Frankie looks up to me with those deep back round eyes. Am I mistaken or is he saying "Awe, Mom, you are so wonderful to me. I love you."

Sure he does, delivering two steamy poops right on cue.

If you live in Seattle, I recommend a pet rock. If you just got tears in your eyes over a couple of poops and think owning a 70 pound bag of cement sounds like fun, go adopt a sulcata. I got tears in my eye too but I think it was from the steam off the poop.

September 12, 2009

What Comes First

Frankie had visitors last weekend….well, actually we had visitors this last weekend. But no one visits our house without some time spent with Frankie. It's just a house rule.

With great hopes for a nice weekend, Greg and I made plans for our two young guest that would include time in the gecko room (their intended purpose for visit), a tourist type outing for out-of-town visitors, a great dinner at a nice restaurant, and taking Frankie for walk.

Taking Frankie for a walk, after all, has to be the highlight of anyone's visit to my house. Well, maybe I project my own enthusiasm for Frankie on other people. Who knows.

It had been wet and dreary most of the week before our guests arrived on Friday night. Falicia and Stephanie (our guests) re-assured us that spending the entire day cleaning gecko enclosures and feeding the group of 200 would be super. I think to myself that surely two young ladies just about to hit their 20's would be amused elsewhere.

Like taking Frankie for a walk.

Could I be wrong?

Saturday morning rolls around early and I am up making coffee and Belgian Waffles and serving orange juice. The rain hasn't slowed down all night so I am thinking of alternative plans. Frankie still needs a walk. So I tell the young girls we are going to take Frankie to Petco for a walk. I think they think I am crazy.

After breakfast the bunch of us load Frankie into the car and head out to Petco. It is still wet and rainy. Greg drops us off in front of Petco and then leaves to park the car.

All this time I am forgetting that the Frankie has yet to warm up. There is no sun. He did not get into the house for a warm up. We have simply dragged the poor cold tortoise to Petco and expect him to have some fun walking around. Cold tortoises don't walk around. Cold tortoises are not in the mood for any fun.

Frankie takes ten minutes to get into the front door and past the first aisle of pet goods. Another ten minutes for him to walk to the reptile area. Ten more minutes to get to the dog food aisle. Twenty more minutes to get back to the front of the store. Are we having fun yet?

So we load the unhappy, still cold Frankie back into the car and take him home.

The ladies made a bee-line into the gecko room to prepare to feed geckos and clean enclosures. Greg and I carry Frankie into the gecko room where he can finely get a warm up. Frankie obediently heads to his box of paper. I switch on his heat lamp. Frankie gives me the "it's about time, woman" look.


The young ladies and I spend the next four hours doing gecko chores that are impossible to do without help (that is a whole other gecko blog, I will just skip that).

Frankie was completely happy sitting in his box of paper soaking up the rays from his heat lamp. After all, this is what should have been first!

Later that night we take the young ladies to a great original pizza place for dinner. We return home and spend another couple hours in the gecko room doing chores. Frankie decides this time he will spend some time under foot. I was okay with his stomping around the gecko room this time since I really messed up his day by forgetting to warm him up before any walking activities.

Falicia and Stephanie seem happy spending time with the geckos even if it involved work. I was happy to get some serious help with some rather frantic geckos. Frankie was irritated at the whole ordeal.

Really I am glad Frankie lacks English skills. I take admonishment a little too hard especially when it comes from family members.

August 29, 2009

Frankie as Art - II

The response to Frankie's paper mache shell was so amazing I thought I should share some comments:

"Don't let him near little puppies who are 'paper training'"
"Now he can read the paper while he's going potty!"
"When you go for a walk you can read the newspaper at the same time."
What is black and white and read all over? Frankie!

Costume Ideas for Frankie in the paper mache shell:
A printing press
Newspaper boy
Origami Turtle

Captions for the picture:
"That is the last time I go to that kindergarten class!"
"Hello, my name is Frankie and I'm a news-print-aholic."
"Fold this! Fold like that! Baaahh!....so I ate the whole origami class."

Check back for more!

August 28, 2009

Frankie as art

While Frankie been enjoying his birthday cake and having fun walking in a parade, I have spent the month working my fingers to the bone getting his Halloween costume ready. Frankie has a reputation to uphold.

His Frankie-o-Lantern Halloween costume was a big winner. He brought in over $200 in prizes by winning or placing at local Petco and PetSmart pet costume contests, and national pet photo costume contests at You Pet and AARP. Having all this money turned Frankie into a shop-a-holic, albeit generous gift giver to family members. Besides buying himself some hay and cuttle bone, he also bought the Water Dragon a pool and cats enough food to last six months.

But there is that expectation that his costume this year has to be something special. Anyone tell him that I am no expert when it comes to sewing? It's true. But I try.

The pumpkin costume doesn't even fit him anymore so the first thing I had to do was re-measure the beast. And he is significantly bigger. So big that I decided that making a costume would be a bit easier if I had a "Frankie model". Frankie is a lousy model as standing still to be fitted is not in his character.

But how to make a model? There was a brief but completely disastrous attempt to make a foam model. The sound of rubbing foam is enough to send me over the moon. I had to wear ear plugs. I tried very hard to "cut"and form a shape like a tortoise only to get thousands of little pieces of white foam all over my garage that will never clean up. When they tear this house down in a hundred years there will still be white foam pieces all over. That stuff never goes away!

But Greg comes through with the good ideas.

"Simple," says Greg. "Paper mache him."

I do the research to see if this will work. And it seems very possible.

The plan: cover Frankie's shell with aluminum, set wet paper mache all over him, let it dry,remove. Sounds simple enough.

Nothing is simple with Frankie.

First, Frankie is not going to sit still for thirty minutes so I can cover him in paper mache.

I get a brilliant idea: paper mache him while he sleeps.

So I get everything ready and head outside at 7:00 p.m.with everything I need. Cover him with aluminum. Start applying newspaper soaked in flour water. Wait for it to dry. By 10:00 p.m. there is no sign that the stinkin' thing is ever going to dry.

Hey, I live in Alabama and the humidity level is80%. What did I think would happen?

At 11:00 p.m. I have no choice but remove the soggy thing from Frankie's shell. I do my very best to re-set the soggy thing in a shape like Frankie. I place on a box. Pray it works and go to bed.

Next morning and it's still damp but it actually looks a bit like Frankie's s hell. And wonder of wonder, since it is still damp I can take it outside and put it on Frankie again. As he basks in the sun the paper mache actually dries to Frankie's form.

Two days later I have to repeat the whole process as the paper mache shell cannot hold up to its use as a Frankie model. It needs a few more layers of paper mache. At least on the second try to paper mache things go much better and I learn to let the sun lend a hand.

This time I let the paper mache shell dry as Frankie basks and then starts his morning grass grazing. Walking around the yard Frankie looks art.

And the completed product is a perfect Frankie model.

That was four weeks ago.

His costume? Nearly done. Come on, I don't sew all that well and the costume is an original design and no picnic to complete.

Sorry, not ready to unveil it yet. You will just have to be in suspense.

But you can look at Frankie as Art.

August 22, 2009

On your march!

I have reported on numerous occasions that Frankie is a walking fool, he loves to participate in parades and The Big Walk is his favorite activity. Maybe many people expect a large tortoise to be a slow awkward creature but the sulcata tortoise is a speedy thing when let loose. Frankie loves to be let loose.









Before getting Frankie, I encountered maybe a half dozen large sulcata tortoises all of who were confined to small spaces or small containers. These sulcata were dull and inactive. These first impression were horribly deceptive and now looking back on these poor creatures I realize that they were probably raised in terrible conditions and no longer behaved as a real sulcata should.

Frankie has taught me what a real sulcata is like….and sedate is not a characteristic. Slow is not a descriptive word.

But pictures speak louder than words. A video speaks volumes.

Without further adieu, a video of Frankie walking in the Dawg Daze Pet Parade giving the crowd an eye full of fast moving tortoise. Go, Frankie, Go!
video

August 6, 2009

Frankie's Birthday

I just wanted to announce that Frankie is 8 years old!

He celebrated his birthday with a cake and a walk around the block!

I hear he is working on a birthday wish list...can't wait to see that!

How To Make A Sulcata Birthday Cake

Plan on making potato salad for dinner.

Chop up a whole potato. Put into boiling water. Forget it's there for 30 minutes. Return to the kitchen, see soft potatoes. Cuss. Drain water and put aside potatoes.

Chop up another whole potato. Put into boiling water and set timer for ten minutes. Return to the kitchen in 15 minutes. Cuss. Drain water and put aside potatoes.

Decide to call for pizza delivery for dinner.

Wonder what to do about wasted potatoes.

Remember that Frankie's birthday was Monday.

Think potatoes alone are not great for sulcata,. Remember that Frankie needs his weekly calcium.

Measure out one cup of calcium carbonate. Mix with two overcooked potatoes.

Notice that the horrible gray color isn't very appetizing. Remember food dye that sits in cupboard since marriage 14 years ago. Fetch.

Mix in eight drops of yellow food dye. Mix well. End up using hands to mix well.

Shape in to cake.

Chop carrots and stick into cake.

Place cake ten feet in front of sulcata. Clear out of the way.

August 1, 2009

The stranger

Just how well do owners know their Sulcata Tortoise pets? Does a sulcata owner know a beloved pet by sight alone? Perhaps it's our tortoise's antics that define who it really is. After all, how do we really know when someone has sneaked a pretender in its place?

I believed it was Frankie's endless antics that defined him. But it's been a strange week.

Earlier this week I mowed the yard. A quick safety look around the yard did not turn up any Frankie "pushed" or "dragged" items like tree limbs, chairs or parts of fences. Frankie's yard was free of the usual debris so mowing was easy. Remarkably, Frankie stayed away from the lawn mower. For once Frankie didn't attempt to "mow" down the lawn mower. It was a bit refreshing.

Then there was the lady who came over to take publicity photographs for Frankie's appearance at the Annual Leeds Downtown Folk Festival. Much to my surprise, Frankie was a perfect gentleman - no flashing the proper Southern Lady or humping his favorite log in front of her. Frankie was very good and sat for his photograph with one bitty carrot to keep him occupied. Hmm, is Frankie developing manners?

And then the other day I invite Frankie to take a walk. Usually a verbal "Hey, Frankie, you want to take a walk?" and Frankie makes a bee line to the gate and heads down the drive before the gate is locked behind him. This time he just sat there like he didn't even know an invitation to his favorite activity was given. I had to repeat myself many times, point to the gate and even demonstrate how to walk through the gate. He finally got the idea and followed me.

As he passed my garden there was a brief panic but much to my surprise he completely ignored all the delicious squash plants and continued walking. It was beyond belief.

Then, instead of walking down the drive he stopped to graze on the front yard. He has never done this. Never ever! I've waited four years for him to do this. He always prefers walking. Frankie spent thirty minutes grazing the front yard. I sat on the front steps and sipped ice tea.

Frankie even made it easy when it was time to go back. I just said, "Frankie, time to go to the back yard." Much to my complete astonishment, he did! Not fighting, no dragging, no need to call Greg to pick the monster up and put him into the backyard. Frankie just walked to the backyard like he understood English for the first time in his life. Go figure!

We had a huge storm this week: flooding, thunder, lightening. I just knew Frankie was caught out in the storm and I would have to go outside to drag him into his house. I put on my big red rain coat, buttoned it completely up, put the hood over my head and fastened it under my chin, and put on a pair of rain boots. Just as I got to the bottom of the stairs I spy Frankie headed under the porch to his house. He's never smart enough to take shelter! I always have to go outside, risk my life in the middle of a dangerous storm and haul him to safety.

By this time I am getting very suspicious.

So last night I go to clean poop out of the outdoor enclosure before Frankie turns in for the night. I carefully take out the Purple Pooper Scooper so not to catch Frankie's attention and face being attacked. I open his enclosure ready to clean a couple of pounds of his morning deposits. And there are none. None!

What in the name of Alabama is going on here?

I am standing there in complete disbelief as Frankie ambles over to climb into his shelter for the night. He heads to the back and snuggles into his hay. "Impostor!" I say, "Who are you and what have you done to my Frankie!"

July 22, 2009

Two Minutes

Here in the South, gardening is an obsession. For women who are stay-at-home, it's almost an expectation: No worthy Southern Woman would be without some sort of garden at her home. The origin of the term "Garden Home" came somewhere, and my guess it originated in the South.

I heard about this "gardening" thing before moving here. I read Steel Magnolias and To Kill a Mocking Bird: ladies garden because it was expected they would garden. Begrudgingly, I've given this a try with no previous experience in Oklahoma save a few marigolds that would come back year after year no matter what was done to their soil.

Frankie posed a major problem to my ambitions of becoming a Southern Lady With A Garden. I did put in a blueberry bush and a raspberry bush in the backyard but Frankie ate them both. With Frankie, backyard gardening looked difficult if not impossible. I didn't want to do a garden in view of my neighbors lest they find out that not only am I a total failure in the "manners" department but I rate an "F" in gardening too.

After much consideration, I decided on a garden on the side of the house next to Frankie's fence. Last year I managed three yellow squash plants and three zucchini squash plants that produced a total of eight squashes before they were totally destroyed by bugs. Perhaps wanting to be an organic gardener was reaching too high.

So this year, I went back to basics. I dug up two feet deep worth of Alabama clay (mixed with rocks) from my designated garden area. The clay/rock dirt was put into Frankie's hole that went under my Air Conditioning Unit. I figured if it took me three weeks to dig 2 feet by 10 feet of the "hard as rock" stuff then it may take Frankie more than an hour to get under my AC unit. So far both projects were successful. I had a nicely dug out area for my garden and Frankie hasn't dug under my AC unit (yet) this year.

It's true what they say about soil: just go buy it at Lowe's Home Store, it's much better than what is in your yard for gardening. So far, after one month of gardening, I've done so good that I have harvested one cucumber.

Frankie has done better.

Next to his outdoor house and on the other side of the fence, a squash plant sprouted without me planting a seed and is outgrowing all the plants in my garden. I kid Frankie that since I didn't plant it, it must be his squash plant. Frankie just looks at me. He doesn't speak English.

Frankie's squash plant grew double the size of all of my plants in half the time. I am guessing it's all the degrading Frankie poop that washes from under the porch (where he hangs out all day) and fertilizes his plant into a frenzy. I've taken the hint and last week started putting all the Frankie poop I can find into my garden.

Although my garden is on the other side of the fence from Frankie, there is the occasional cucumber vine that dips down too low on Frankie's side that he can get a bite out if it. I do my best to keep the vines away from Frankie's reach but he is a clever tortoise. There have been losses. He has developed a taste for garden plants.

Like on the way to a walk he will try to get a bite out of the "Frankie Squash Plant" as he passes through the gate. The plant survived two Frankie attempts to eat it but as I was right by his side, Frankie had too little time to eat much.

Little did I know.

So Frankie and I are coming back from a walk and he is heading toward the gate to the back yard. I needed to set his skateboard and my water bottle down in the garage which I figured would take me less than a minute and then less than another minute to catch up with Frankie and lead him safely into the yard past my garden.

In the first few seconds as I unlocked the garage door, I saw that Frankie was a good boy and passed my garden up (to my great surprise) and instead started to graze the grass just four feet from the gate. I go inside to put down supplies. I take just an extra moment to take off my big Southern Floppy Hat (yeah, I got one of those). I leave the garage, lock the door and head up to the gate.

Two minutes. Maybe even just 100 seconds.

There was no more Frankie Squash Plant.

Gone, zilch, nada. Frankie has finished a squash plant that was about a foot tall and two feet wide in less than two minutes.

Frankie didn't even turn around to say "sorry," or "tough luck," or "what nut would plant a squash plant next to my path to the back yard!"

It was Frankie's plant. I guess he could do with it what he wanted.

July 16, 2009

Proof of Love

Big things were expected from the Dogloo brought it into Frankie's yard last week. The first 45 minutes were exciting as Frankie played bulldozer-the-yard-with-the-Dogloo. A couple of bushes were the only victims of the rampage. Solar panels, fences, posts, kiddy pools and bird feeding stations all went unharmed.

The brief chaos was follow by quiet as Frankie abandoned the Dogloo under a tree. After that Frankie had nothing to do with the Dogloo. All my hard working cleaning this big igloo was for nothing. A vision of a new shelter for Frankie when he wanted to sleep in the yard just went "poof". Posted Image

We owners try many things and need many options to protect our dear sulcata when they do the strange things they do. One of the strange things they do is test our love for them.

Two nights later, a fast moving and dangerous storm struck suddenly in the evening. I made a trip outside as the first drops of rain begin so to be sure Frankie was safe in his enclosure for the night.

Frankie was not there. I had cleaned out his house and left the top open to air the stinky place out. Frankie will not use it when the lid is open. He is outside sleeping somewhere. Thunder begins to get closer and the rain is stronger. Greg is yelling for me to get inside. But I couldn't. Frankie was out there somewhere.Posted Image

I head to the back part of the yard, pressing forward as the thunder is now accompanied by large flashes of light. I see Frankie sitting by the back fence. I am now being pelted by very large drops of rain.

Frankie looks up at me almost accusingly to say, "You left my top open and I am forced to sleep out here in the rain. You don't love me."

I clapped my hands for Frankie to follow me, then I nudge him from behind to "jump start" some movement, and finally just start pushing him four inches at a time. He finally starts a slow walk past the bushes and into a clearing. I thought to myself, "Ten more minutes of this and he will be safely to shelter." I am soaked to the bone.

Once we pass the bushes and trees, Frankie quits all forward motion. He just gives up and sits. Greg is yelling from the porch that we are now under a thunderstorm and flash flood warning. Duh! I beg Frankie to move forward.

"If you really love me, Mom, you'll pick me up and carry me to my house, even if I am 60 pounds. If you love me, you will save me from this dangerous storm."

Oh, for goodness sake!

And I do. Barefooted, completely soaked, shivering, I do it. Frankie is saved. I get a big talking to by Greg. But this is what we sulcata owners do.

Like last night. Frankie insisted on sleeping in the yard. At mid-night it starts to rain and storm. In my night gown I go to the back yard to see if there is any chance Frankie has been smart enough to go into his shelter (the lid is down!). He hasn't. In just a night gown and with no shoes, I refused to push or pick up the 60 monster. NO WAY. Luck is on my side: the Dogloo weighs less than Frankie.

Now complete soaked in rain, I drag the Dogloo from across the yard where Frankie left it a week ago, and place it over Frankie. If he will not go to a shelter, the shelter will come to him. I return inside my house. I remove my soaking wet night gown, dry me and my hair, put on a clean dry night gown and return to bed.

Thirty minutes later I am waken with the thought that the Dogloo has no vent cover on the top and Frankie is probably soaked and is freezing to death.

This time I put on a rain slick complete with a hood. I grab a piece of plastic and head outside. Rain is coming down hard. The plastic is placed over the open vent area. I look inside to check on Frankie: He is sound asleep, dry, and warm to the touch.

When I get back inside it is nearly 1:00 a.m.

I gotta be nuts. I must really love that 60 pound monster.

July 7, 2009

A Mind of His Own

One of my favorite places to shop is on street curbs.  You know: other people's trash. I would be a dumpster diver but my husband strictly forbids its. I am allow to look at what people put out in front of their yard for "big trash" pick-up so I am always on the look out for a free bargain.

Today I passed by a neighbor who had two large dog houses and a large Dogloo out by the curb with a sign that said "Free". Cool! I stop to consider whether the Dogloo was big enough for Frankie.

Many sulcata tortoise keepers swear by the Dogloo: Mostly keepers in good climates. Keepers hang heating lights inside for heat and add plastic doors to keep the weather out. Yes, Frankie already has a nice outdoor enclosure but I was looking at this Dogloo as a extra something up by all the trees. Frankie could sit in the Dogloo under in the shade or sheltered from rain, and still enjoy the world going by.

Into the car goes the Dogloo. Frankie has a new shelter.

Frankie, however, makes up his own mind about things put in his yard.

For instance, several years ago, Frankie decided that a flat plastic container lid that covered the poison I put on a fire ant mound was instead a slide. He would get on the slide and attempt to walk up to the top and then slide back down. He would do this for twenty minutes at a time. Eventually he got so good at walking on this plastic lid he used it as a tread mill. If you don't believe me I have videos.

Certainly the Purple Pooper Scooper and the Old Bale of Wire learned they had very different roles than they expected when they showed up in Frankie's yard.

So I haul the Dogloo (which comes into two parts: flat bottom and the igloo top) into the yard. The igloo bottom I place near the porch and the igloo top near the gate. I return into the house to change into causal clothes.

When I return about ten minutes later the igloo bottom is still near the porch but the igloo top is now in the middle of the yard and seems to be moving by its own volition,  farther away from the porch by the moment.

You guessed it: Frankie is inside the Dogloo and is pushing it around the yard. He thinks the Dogloo is a tank. What would Frankie know? He doesn't know tanks have forward looking windows. Frankie is maneuvering wherever and is completely blind. I dash in front of the moving Dogloo tank to save the lawn sprinkler from ultimate destruction.

"Frankie!" I yell.

The Dogloo tank comes to a halt.

Bang! Slam! Bump! Frankie emerges from the Dogloo's open side.

"What!" Frankie looks at me incredulously.

I shake my head. What does Frankie know? I shrug my shoulders and return to the porch.

I just hope he doesn't take out the solar panels.

(Note to readers: There are days I wonder if I can come up with something to write for Frankie's Tortoise Tails. I shouldn't worry. With Frankie, things just happen.)

June 24, 2009

Beat the heat

Hello. Frankie here with some cool summer tips.

First, humans complain way too much about the heat. Humans have build in "weather regulators" to cool their bodies where us "cold blooded" tortoises can't sweat. Our tortoise bodies don't have anything built-in to fix body temperatures, so we use our big sharp brains to stay cool. We're not as dumb as humans think.

We sulcata tortoises love the sun. The sun helps us digest our food, warms our bodies, helps calcium absorption, and most important, supply light so we can walk everywhere and put away a lot of grass. When the sun goes down we just can't do these things very well. Our shells are hard but we can really bump our heads running into tree stumps in the dark. We are just day creatures.

But that sun can get to be too much. After a while the sun gets us so hot that we could be come crispy tortoises on the half-shell. Try to avoid this at all possible. I have quite a few things to "keep cool", so here are my favorites to stay cool when its hot.

Get a good sized kiddy pool. We need a space cut out so we can get in otherwise we let out all the water climbing in. I like my kiddy pool in the shade. After a couple of hours in the sun the water gets hot and that just defeats the purpose of getting into the water. If I wanted to be boiled, I'd been born a shrimp! Get into the pool and kick some water over the shell and enjoy the cool. Help yourself to all the water you can drink. If you just can't help yourself go ahead and poop or pee in the water: just be sure to call out the human to clean it out and fill it up with some new fresh clean water.

As long as you got the human outside, have them turn on the hose and spray down the old shell with some water -- remind the human that spraying in the face is just not all that funny. A cold spray of water over the shell goes a long way to cooling off.

If you are lucky, you got a mud hole somewhere. Now this is heaven on earth for a sulcata. Get in and splash some mud all over yourself. And it's just too bad that human has fresh laundry hanging just within the mud zone. Don't give it a second thought: Just sit there for a while splashing mud everywhere.

For those really long hot afternoons, find a nice large green bush to sit under. This is one of my favorite ways to pass the afternoon. Trees do just fine too. Take a snooze, count the birds or watch nature in action.

My personal dream is to dig a big hole into the ground about 8 to 12 feet long. These make for some super cool places to hang out during hot days. Poop and pee keep tunnels nice and humid so don't be shy about laying some around. I selected a real nice spot for my tunnel but my human put me into "time out" when she found me digging under the air condition system. Now I am not allow any tunnels. Instead the humans supplied me with a big outdoor house. Yea, just wait until they go on vacation again.

Outdoor houses are nice but some humans don't realize that sunlight can turn these things into ovens. Make sure your human puts your shelter under some shade. My human has a tent over my house and it keeps the house nice and cool. Still you can't beat a big tree.

In my yard I happen to have a big pile of leaves in a shaded spot under a tree. I dig under the leaves until I get to the cool soil underneath. This is about as nice as it gets.

Well good luck you fellow sulcata. I hope you got a good human who keeps a big yard for trekking around in the morning with lots of spots for kicking back when it gets hot. While you are out grazing try not to eat all the bushes in the yard: you may just need these for some nice cool shade.

Your friend, Frankie

June 19, 2009

A New Nemesis

Frankie has faced a number of foes in his days: Objects of such strength, vile, and cunning that Frankie was nearly unable to overcome the odds to beat them. Such is the life of an ordinary backyard sulcata tortoise.

As a baby sulcata, Frankie's first true nemesis was the "Half Log". An innocent enough looking item found in most pet stores, it's a very useful shelter for turtles and reptiles. Decorative and simple, it's a hollow log cut in half so that a turtle can crawl under to seek a little privacy and sleep.

In the case of Frankie the innocent log turned into a fierce foe for the first time warrior. The first trial was initiated when the curious young Frankie approached the log from the side and attempted the climb-over-the side-of-the-log. As he put his two front feet up onto the log Frankie quickly found himself flipped over in the undignified turtle-on-back position.

Without the skills of a long necked turtle, our young Frankie was left humiliated and vulnerable on his back until a screeching and panicky human owner (that would be me) found him and turn him over on his feet. Defeated but not broken, Frankie would not give in. Frankie would go back and try again.

The quest to beat the log and successfully traverse over the wooden nemesis would be a endless. Time and time again our hero attempted the treacherous climb. Time and time again Frankie would end up on his back.

Unbeknown to our determined Frankie, the keeper was very tired of finding her precious sulcata on his back. Fearing suffocation or heat stroke (real terror) the dangerous half-log was secretly removed from his enclosure. Frankie found his foe the the half-log vanished one day.

Much later of course there was the "Old Bale of Wire". A curiously tempting  yet harmless looking thing in his yard, the Old Bale of Wire caught Frankie more than once in his clutches causing Frankie life long scars on his shell ever reminding him of battles gone by. The Old Bale of Wire too was not to be beaten but Frankie got the satisfaction of knowing the Old Bale of Wire would be recycled into soda cans.

His recent foe, Purple Pooper Scooper, looks like one nemesis that has met his match. Brought to the yard to assist in cleaning Frankie's outdoor enclosure, the Purple Pooper Scooper was much appreciated by the keeper (me again) as it helps scoop out poop in hard to reach areas like inside Frankie's outdoor house as well as keeping human hands off wet and dry poop alike and then to move poop near the house to a better place -- like away from the house.

One day the Purple Pooper Scooper was doing its "doo-ty" removing smelly scant from under the porch. Unbeknown to the operator (me) the foe was being hunted from in the middle of the yard.

Perhaps it was the color of Purple Pooper Scooper, perhaps it was it's shiny metallic finish, perhaps Frankie just preferred his poop to lay to rest where it was deposited and not moved to another location. What ever the reason, Frankie had it out for the Purple Pooper Scooper from first day he lay eyes on it.

Frankie stalked the Purple Pooper Scooper for a moment and then at full out sulcata jog (a very frightening sight when one assume these gentle monsters move at a snail space), the Purple Pooper Scooper faced an all out attack from a 60 pound sulcata male who had two front ramming scutes and knew how to use them.

The unprepared Purple Pooper Scooper went flying out of my hand as I had no idea what was going on. Had I known I would have saved said Purple Pooper Scooper from said 60 pound charging sulcata but it was too late. Frankie went back for a second and final trample. No longer would Frankie be outdone by anything challenging his authority.

I am here to report that the Purple Pooper Scooper survived and is still operational. But that Purple Pooper Scooper has learned its lesson. It is NO match for Frankie our hero. If that Purple Pooper Scooper wants to return to duty then it will just have to watch his back. That's right: do your poop scoop when Frankie isn't around to witness injustice done to his poop.

Let this be a lesson to any potential back yard nemesis. Frankie RULES!

June 2, 2009

A special Frankie mud

I can't help but share this as many keepers are in knee-deep discussions about our sulcata's mud area.

This last week with the ground being a bit muddy and all, Frankie has really enjoyed sitting under the porch during the heat of the day and watching the squirrels, chipmunks, cats and birds go by. He spends hours there.

Anyway, I usually put on a pair of old beat up sneakers when I go visit him especially when it's this muddy. When I get back into the house I take them off at the door to prevent dragging mud into the house.

On Monday evening it was a bit drier so after dinner I got a carrot and ran out to give it to Frankie before he turned in for the night but I skipped putting on the shoes. I sat on a chair under the porch for just a couple of minutes with him while he ate the carrot, then I came back into the house careful to first wipe my feet before going back into the living room to watch TV with Greg.

A couple of minutes passed while I was sitting with Greg watching TV when we both simultaneously looked at each other very accusingly wondering who was guilty of the particularly foul smell.

"Don't look at me!" He says.

"Well, don't look at me either!"

So we both thought for a moment and Greg looked down to my bare feet.

"Did you wear shoes outside when you gave Frankie his carrot?" Greg asks.

Then it hits both of us. The stinky sewer smell was my feet after walking over the Frankie peed-on mud. I may have "wiped" but the Frankie peed mud aroma had stuck on my feet.

Oh, yuck! Foot bath, please!

May 27, 2009

A break from the rain

Alabama has been plenty wet here with daily rains and very little sunshine. Frankie has coped with it the best he can. I am thinking about letting him inside today to get out of the wet and into the dry and warm gecko room. Hmm, what do I need to get ready to do this?

Clear out all the plants on the floor so Frankie doesn't eat them.
Move all the plastic containers so Frankie does not push them around.
Set up barriers next to all tables that Frankie tends to try to get under.
Get out four big towels for the inevitable Frankie pee.
Bring in Frankie's pooper-scooper to move inevitable poop outside.
Make sure I have paper towels for floor clean up.
Have the mop ready.
Get out Frankie's heat lamp that I have stored away in the closet.
Put up the barrier between the bath room and the gecko room.
Place the anti-Frankie scratch board against the wall next to the door.
Clear out the bottom shelf of the gecko rack so Frankie can walk in and out of it.
Drag out the big cardboard box that Frankie naps in and fill it with newspaper.
Wedge the cricket container with wheels into a corner so Frankie does not push it around.
Move the potatoes and cricket food off bottom first shelf so Frankie does not try to eat them.

Oh, goodness. Maybe I should just hope for sun so I don't have to bring Frankie inside.

May 16, 2009

All wet at Do Day Day

The forecast: 90% chance of rain starting at 10:00 a.m. At 9:15 p.m. during our drive to Do Dah Day it was raining CATS and DOGS! It was raining so hard that cars were pulled over to the side of the road hoping the rain would lighten it. Greg and I looked at each other in the car. The question hung in the air: would we or wouldn't we? Good old Frankie was in the back sitting quietly anticipating The Big Walk.

We arrive at 9:30 p.m. and it's still raining. Greg and I don't say anything. I guess we decide that if we don't mention it then it will go away. Worse yet, there are not dogs lines up to start the parade. Usually there is a line of pets and people down Highland Ave. Not a good sign. Then a good sign. Fox 25 News gets out the cameras (covered for rain) and a few dogs gather. The rain lightens up. There is hope.

At 9:45 p.m. it is just sprinkling so we brave the elements, defy the forecast and pull Frankie out of the car. We are armed with "walk supplies" and two umbrellas. Frankie starts walking.


The cameras turn on Frankie, the 20 questions begin, children are dragged over to see Frankie, dogs pay attention: Frankie's Do Dah Day is on! Half way around the first corner the sprinkle ends and we have a full go!

Frankie old fans are there: "Go, Frankie! Go!" Frankie wins new fans too.


The only bad thing: rain chased away nearly 2/3 of the normal number of parade walkers. The parade much shorter than previous years. Frankie doesn't even get to walk to the first Do Day Event location before the the last cart of the parade announces "end of the parade." But we decide to walk Frankie to the location anyway.

Frankie decides on a short cut which would be up and down the very steep and muddy park slopes. Nevertheless, his fans follow. We emerge muddy.

At Do Day Day people who had seen Frankie in previous parades ask why he was not in this parade. I explain that with less people in the parade we didn't get to walk the whole route. Poor Frankie got less than the Big Walk. But we make it up with his walk through the park and the Do Dah Day Event itself.

Frankie, Greg and I are there for two hours before we decide to call it a day....okay, Frankie could go on for a few more hours but Greg and I need a NAP.

When we get home the sun comes out. Frankie goes directly into his yard for a sun bask and a breakfast of freshly rain washed grass.

It was a great Do Dah Day.

May 10, 2009

Typical mom

I don't have too much more to add on to the Mother's Day celebration but I do have a quick story.

You all know I act mom to Frankie and treat him like he was my kid. I could talk about him all the time as you all well know.

On Saturday the door rang and two gentlemen from the Mormon Church were on rounds to share the Word. That's okay. I always say thanks for the visit and that I appreciate their enthusiasm to share the Word then send them gently on their way.

However on this occasion one of the two recognized me. This one gentlemen had seen Frankie, my friend and me a few weeks earlier at the Creek Bank Festival. He told his partner that "this is the lady I told you about that had the big tortoise." Of course, the 2nd gentleman had to see Frankie and being a proud "Mama" I could not resist. We proceed through the house and to the back yard.

Suddenly my normal "thanks but please move on with your mission" turned into a "let me show off my kid." Frankie wowed them with his massive size, his gentle nature and his insistence for a carrot treat for his time.

These two men who are very well trained in the art of turning a conversation into talk about the Word never once went beyond the typical twenty questions about Frankie.

Greg jumped into our Frankie discussion and reminded me that we needed to get to the store soon. I brought the two gentlemen back though the house to the front door. Out of courtesy I asked a simple religious question I knew had a simple answer. They obliged with a quick answer and were on their way.

Typical mom: all conversations no matter how distant or unrelated eventually make their way back to the kids.

May 9, 2009

Spring Antics

Spring is definitely here. Flowers are blooming, grass is green again but there is another distinct sign of spring: Frankie is practicing his sexual prowess. Tortoise owners accept this annual (and sometimes year around) parade of sexuality much better than human parents do with their kids. Human parents hesitating to explain the birds or bees would be much less accommodating with sexual experiments of their children. Tortoise owners deal with it and often in a big way.

Whether Frankie was a boy or a girl I just didn't know when I first got him. Sex determination of a young tortoise even fools the experts: most suggest waiting two to three years before trying. So Frankie was given the name "Frankie" because "Frankie" could go for a male or a female which ever Frankie was.

Frankie's sex was guessed to be a boy about his third year. On the bottom of the shell in the back (there are scientific names for all this but why alienate anyone) part of the shell sticks out -- in the same position as the tail. The chutes (individual shell parts) on a boy look like a "V" and the chutes on a girl look like a "U". It seemed pretty evident that Frankie was a boy.

Within a year he proved it.

On this particular day Frankie was soaking in a large bucket of water. While I was watching him soak he stood up on all four of his legs stretching them as far as he could until he was on his tippy toes. I kid you not. What happen next was something out of science fiction.

Some horrible purplish pinkish thing came flooding out of his vent (rear end) like the monster who jumped out of the huge eggs on the first Alien movie. I nearly screamed. But being a long time reptile keeper I have seen a lot of strange things come out of vents. It's just this one did look like an alien. [:eek]

Frankie, whom I would assume to be in massive pain from his guts spilling from his rear end instead seemed to be having the time of his life. A prouder tortoise I have never seen.

A few seconds of complete horror turned to sanity and I was able to reason out what was going on. Really I had been warned but the warning was not graphic enough to explain what I just seen.

Frankie was a boy and he was displaying for the world to see his (grimace - do I dare write it) penis.

So let's return to the current spring season and an animal's natural interest in "the birds and the bees". This last week Frankie's spring fever has taken turned his interest for potential "mates". I don't have any large female tortoise for Frankie and have no intention of introducing him to any mates. But that does not stop Frankie. He explores the yard for potential substitutes.

So far he has selected a large bolder, a log, a plastic dish and a large section of bamboo for his afternoon romps complete with loud grunting. Luckily these items are normally out of direct sight from our weather camera. Otherwise Frankie would be entertaining the world with his antics.

But it doesn't stop him from embarrassing me in front of the neighbors and their children. No doubt Frankie's exercise in manhood later brings up questions when the kids return home. I just don't know how a parent could ever explain the reproductive organ of a male tortoise. Maybe they just tell their kids that along with geckos and turtles the nice lady down the street (that would be me) also keeps aliens.

April 29, 2009

Bittersweet Spring

Late spring has arrived so it is that time of the year....Frankie is outside all the time instead of inside most of the time. Frankie outside instead of inside is bittersweet for many, many reasons.

Frankie poops and pees outside where tortoise poop and pee should be.
But I still have to scoop poop from his night shelter because he poops in it every morning.
But no more cleaning and moping inside one to three times daily.
I still get to compost the poop!

No more waking Frankie up every morning and singing him the "good morning Frankie" song.
(Yes I sing to my tortoise.)
Still it's wonderful watching him walk all over the yard all day enjoying the sun and grazing.
But I still have to walk the yard perimeter daily looking for "Frankie hazards."
But it's fun to have Frankie run up to meet me in the yard.
(Yes he is hoping for a carrot).

But we had to install security cameras to protect Frankie.
Still I can watch Frankie while I am on the computer.
Buying the security cameras did cost money.
But Frankie costs less to feed during the summer
I don't have to buy him hay since he can graze all summer.

Frankie's yard looks better than the front yard due to all the "Frankie compost."
Grass grows like crazy.
But I can't put in flowers or a garden.
Frankie eats anything I plant and grazes endlessly.
But I still have to mow even if Frankie grazes since he selectively eats certain areas.
But at least I don't have to landscape Frankie's yard.

I do miss spending time inside with Frankie.
But I don't miss him tearing up the gecko room.
And I do love walking around the yard with Frankie
We like to sit under the porch together.
And he likes it when I splash water over him in his pool.
Mostly I love that he loves his yard.

April 19, 2009

Creek Bank Festival


Frankie had a lovely time at his first social event of the year. On Saturday he put in an appearance at the Creek Bank Festival in Leeds, Alabama.

Frankie, Jane (friend and assistant) and I arrived just before the opening to avoid a long walk with Frankie to get into the festival. We parked just across the driveway so we only had to cross the parking lot. Of course, getting Frankie out of the car and across the parking lot is an event in itself: cars pull over, people gape, Frankie goes the wrong way...well everything as expected.

Frankie was excited as ever for "a big walk"Posted Image. There was a crowd around him at almost every moment. Being an expert at this I bring "The Frankie Survival Kit": a skateboard, hand-out sheets covering the top ten questions, a camera (Jane's), Handi-Wipes, and a bag of carrots. Frankie's needs were met.

What I forgot was a human survival kit: water, cash for food, sunscreen, hat and two spare human assistants so we could take breaks. There is no break from Frankie's endless walk. Posted Image

Really you would think that walking with a tortoise that has a pace of an older lady with a walker would be an easy task. But no.

There are endless course corrections (use foot), the picking of dandelions, the tossing of carrots, the lifting of children to pull them from harms way as Frankie stops for nothing, Frankie constantly stepping on my toes, answering the same 20 questions over and over, handing out fifty Frankie information sheets, constantly looking down, walking backwards so to keep an eye on Frankie, and the constant regret that there is no food or water for humans.

There was even a booth giving out free water but regretfully it was not in Frankie's path. At one point I spared Jane long enough for her to grab two samples of simply heavenly cinnamon bread.Posted Image It is entirely possible that the cinnamon bread was the worse ever in the entire world but to us humans it was much needed sustenance.

And Frankie trekked onward.

We did stop by the City of Leeds police booth -- or maybe I should say Frankie plowed through via a back table.Posted Image The four officers were delighted that Frankie stopped by until he decided to pee in the middle of their booth. Posted Image I could do nothing but apologize (he peed on the grass so there is no clean up), place a chair over the incriminating wet area Posted Image and get away before they realized how stinky tortoise pee is.

And there was the incident when Frankie headed straight for the performance stage. As cute as a 60 pound tortoise would be stealing the spot light from a talented young boy belting out his church song resume, I thought it best to steer Frankie clear. Best I could do was divert him into the crowd of spectators. He still upstaged the young singer but at least Frankie didn't plow him off the stage.

We made it twice around the festival before I came to the complete understanding that Frankie could do this all day but Jane and I was about to drop dead of exhaustion. A few more hundred course corrections and we make it to the car. We put the struggling 60 pound tortoise who wants to stay for another six hours into the car and drove home.

When we got to my house and put Frankie in the yard, Jane and I went straight for a couple of chairs and collapsed. We chatted for a while but what I remember most about those moments were how completely exhausted I was and how much I desperately needed a nap, some food and water. Posted Image

Keeping up with Frankie's social calendar is hard work!

April 6, 2009

Frankie's Secret Problem

I think Frankie has a problem ......with newspapers. An serious newspaper eating problem.

Frankie had his first taste of newspapers when he was an about five years old. He used to get old blankets put over him at night but the blankets were being torn up left and right. Still a substrate was needed that he could burrow under and sit on safely. So we turned to newspapers. Newspapers were crumpled and put in his indoor enclosure. With fifteen to twenty pages of rumbled newspaper Frankie had an idea substrate to dig under. Newspaper was free, and its easy to compost or trash.

Did this innocent act set Frankie on the downward spiral of newspaper addiction?

Sometime during a cool night Frankie must have chewed on a bit of the newspaper. Perhaps he was bored and gave it a bite. Maybe it was an accidental ingestion during on of those "big Frankie yawns." Or a bit of grass was mixed in with some of his newspaper and he ate it.

That "first" bite was the beginning of the end for Frankie.

The eating of newspapers seemed to started innocently enough with cartoons. He was naturally attracted to the color and amusing stories. Then Frankie casually turned to the classifieds. Now he has moved up to eating the daily news. Will Frankie hit "rock bottom" if he starts eating national newspapers like the New York Times?

Once Frankie starts eating newspaper he doesn't seem to be able to stop. Newspaper put in his enclosure mysteriously disappear by morning.

If he can't get newspaper from me will he start stalking the newspaper delivery guy? Will issues of the Leeds News start disappearing from the corner news stand?

I wish Frankie go "cold turkey." He has tried substitutes like paper towels. Thank goodness he has stayed away from toilet paper. But once addicted there is no suitable replacement for Frankie's newspapers.

It's a sad, sad day.

I've looked around for treatment options in my community but no one around here has anything for newspaper addictions. Maybe I should start a Newspaper Eater's Anonymous Group.

If your sulcata tortoise has a problem with newspapers, contact me. Maybe your sulcata and Frankie can help each other beat this thing.

March 23, 2009

A Trip to the Veterinarian

Frankie went in for his annual veterinarian check today. It was an eventful visit.

Number of people who turned off Highway 280 when they saw Frankie in the veterinarian parking lot so they could take a picture of him with their cell phone: 2.

Number of carrots eaten by Frankie in the waiting area: 48.

Number of dumb dogs who wanted to take on Frankie in the waiting area: 2.

Number of victorious dogs: 0.

Number of feet off the ground that the veterinarian house cat jumped to get away from Frankie: 4.

Number of cell phone pictures taken by the veterinarian staff: 14.

Number of veterinarian technicians it took to pick Frankie up and carry him to the large animal scale: 2.

Number of pounds at weigh in: 60.

Number of times Frankie farted during his physical examination: 2.

Number of times the veterinarian technician was blamed for the farts before it became obvious Frankie was responsible for the unique aroma: 1.

Number of poops Frankie presented in person to the veterinarian: 4.

Number of parasites in Frankie's fecal check: 0

Number of times Frankie peed in the veterinarian office: 1.

Like I say, very eventful. He is so very cooperative. Most important, Frankie got a clean bill of heath.

March 21, 2009

My Social Calendar

Yea, I have a social calendar. Don't all good-looking, single dude sulcata tortoises have a social calendar? ;)

Here is where I will be:

Earth Hour - March 25th. I think I will sleep through this one. As long as I get a good bask in the sun before Mom and Dad turn off the electricity for an hour then I am okay with the whole "save the earth" thing.
http://www.earthhour.org/home/

Creek Bank Festival, Leeds AL - April 18th. Entertaining children and adults while walking around the annual festival.

Walk for Autism, Birmingham AL - April 25th. Donate $5 for me to walk! My second time as a special invited guest.
http://www.firstgivi.../frankiesulcata

Do Dah Day, Birmingham AL - Mary 16th. My fourth time! One day I am going to run for Do Dah Day King!
http://www.dodahday.org/
Do Dah Day Video: Frankie at Do Dah Day (first three minutes of video only)

Leeds Downtown Folk Festival, Leeds AL - September 19th - 20th.
http://www.leedsfolkfestival.com

March 9, 2009

A Perfect Turtle Day

The weather has been absolutely perfect for turtles! In the lower 70's, clouds and sun, and very little wind. No turtle or tortoise could complain. So Frankie and the box turtles all spend three great days outdoors.

This is the first time the box turtles were outside in their pen but I believe they were ready. For the last week they have attempted various escapes from their indoor enclosure. Very unusual for the usual content box turtles who only wish for super worms and daily soaks in clean water. This winter was completly uneventful for them. Getting outside was probably a great break in their otherwise boring routine.

And Frankie was in heaven. Non-stop walking from 10:00 a.m. through four in the afternoon. Time for basking and grazing as needed. Watching him I believe it was the walking that he enjoyed the most.

I had time to get outside and straighten up everyone's outdoor area. The box turtle area as cleared of dead grass and large weeds. Places were set up for them to tuck safely away in piles of leaves and under brush.

Frankie's wooded area is clearing fast of ivy that used to keep him from walking around. He now can thread through the evergreens and trees and bushes. This area will be great this summer for him.

Each night I bought everyone back inside. Only one of the three nights was really warm enough but its not quite Spring enough for the bunch to sleep outside.

I so enjoyed watching all the turtles and Frankie enjoy such perfect turtle days.

February 26, 2009

Who Are You?

Frankie Tortoise Tails has received an significant increase in traffic over the last week and I just got to ask myself "who are these people visiting Frankie's blog?" I have been guilty of pushing family members and friends to read the blog so they know "what in the turtle tails" I have been up to. My mom (and mom's are supposed to do this) reads Frankie's Tortoise Tails faithfully (Hi, ya Mom!). Is it all family and friends visiting?

When I post things on Turtle Times my signature includes a link to Frankie Tortoise Tails. But that accounts only for the usual traffic this blog has received over the last three (or is it four?) years. Frankie's web site has a link. www.daygecko.com has a link to Frankie's web site which has a link to Frankie Tortoise Tails. Hmm. Does that account for the new readers?

At this moment I am reminded that I should apologize to readers of Frankie Tortoise Tails for the numerous English and spelling errors that you've probably come across. I have always said that English must be a second language for me as I hardly have a grasp on English in its written form. For that fact, don't expect me to be incredibly skilled verbally in person either. I either talk too fast or not at all. At least with writing there is a backspace key. There is no backspace key in real life. I also don't have the pleasure of employing an editor. My life would look so much nicer with an editor. Don't you agree we would all be much better humans with our own editor? Enough said. Apology extended, mercy applied for.

As for Frankie, he has fans. I know this. His most ardent and adoring fan sent him a bag of California dandelion greens and broad leaf plantain. Thank you, Farmer: Frankie is still smiling. Farmer also designed Frankie his own stone cave sign. It says "Frankie's cave". Farmer is very aware of Frankie's deep desire to dig under my air conditioning units. Thank you again, Farmer, for encouraging this. When he is done with my AC unit I am sending him your way. Thanks for the pictures of your new house. He knows where to dig. He is leaving Alabama on Thursday: I estimate he will be there in four years.

So who are you, readers of Frankie's blog? Yes, I really want to know. This blog accepts comments. See the button below? But perhaps you need to be a member of Turtle Times to leave a comment on a blog. If so, here is an alternative: send Frankie a "saw you blog and I loved/laughed/puzzled/was confused/accidentally came across/got sent from XXX/etc. so Frankie knows who you are. Really, do it.

Waiting for your notes, English corrections, or "We understand. We own a monster too".

February 22, 2009

Caught Again

Frankie got into a bit of a bind again.

It was warm outside but certainly not idea tortoise get-around weather. Best Frankie could do was bask some and do a small amount of grazing. Move around too much and the wind would get him cool. I was outside too and feeling the same as Frankie. I was fine in the sun but the wind could give me a chill. While Frankie was doing his bask, I was cleaning the truck.

I was keeping an eye on him but once I got vacuuming inside the truck I wasn't as watchful. When I finished vacuuming about thirty minutes later I stopped and went to check on Frankie. Since it was nearing 3:00 pm I figured he would be near the back gate ready to get inside and get to sleep. But he was not there.

I checked in his outdoor enclosure and no Frankie. I started a walk around the yard. First stop is his pile of leaves. A favorite place for Frankie to dig under. But he was not there. I continued around and saw no sign of Frankie. I even looked for signs of digging near the air condition unit. Where I failed to look was on top of the pile of stuff next to the air conditioning.

I guess Frankie was thinking to repeat his dig under the air conditioner but I had cleverly put cement blocks and boards and various object to block this activity. So Frankie tried another route - over the items. Regretfully, among the items blocking an excavation was the old nemesis: The Old Bale Of Wire.

I found Frankie once again tightly bundled within the bale of wire. To make things worse, a wire had made it around one of his legs and across part of his face. A potentially dangerous situation. Had Frankie been a horse, this would be disastrous as horses fight to the point they will cut themselves deeply. When Frankie found himself in ultimate danger he did the most prudent thing: wait for Mommy to save the day.

I, on the other hand, wisely call for The Husband to save the day. I cannot lift Frankie to safety but Greg can. Greg calls for a wire cutter to carefully move the wire from across Frankie's face. Once Frankie is free of the wire, Greg lifts him from the jaws of The Old Bale Of Wire.

Emotionally Frankie is devastated. Caught again by the evil Old Bale Of Wire. Foiled of a dig into security. Forced to be rescued again from the clutches of death. Ghastly scratches over his shell. Totally disgraced, Frankie walks the slowest I have ever seen him back home into the gecko room.

Frankie does not re-emerge from his comfortable pile of newspaper until late into the evening when I do my routine gecko room check. Poor Frankie gets a badly needed carrot and chin rub.

"Don't you fret about that mean old Bale Of Wire." I tell Frankie. "It goes to the recycling center first thing this week."

February 15, 2009

Take A Walk

Frankie took his first walk around the neighborhood this year. Up to now he has been limited to walks around the gecko room, to and from the side yard, from the gecko room into the back yard and recently it's been warm enough for Frankie to actually walk around his yard.

Physical limits to Frankie's "get around" can make Frankie cranky. It does worry me when Frankie seems to accept his limited walking time and his limited space. I know it's time for "The Big Walk."

Frankie really likes The Big Walk. The Big Walk means getting out of the house and out of the yard and walking around block in our neighborhood. The course is routine. We go down the drive way, turn left on the street, continue down the street, make a slight left turn at the bottom of the street, and continue up the street. After that it gets a bit tricky. Without me he would end up in someone yard, garage, or other places I don't want him. Regardless of what he thinks, he needs my assistance. And I insist.

So on the day of The Big Walk the weather is exceptionally warm. Frankie had been in his yard grazing and basking since 8:00 a.m. The time is 10:00 p.m. and I completed all morning chores. I decide to take him on The Big Walk.

"Want to go on a walk?" I ask Frankie. This is a phrase I absolutely know that Frankie understands. No matter what direction he is facing or what he is doing in the yard, this question will cause him to turn on a direct course for the gate. Occasionally he will look at me as if to say, "You aren't teasing me, are you?" I repeat the invitation to walk and the reassured tortoise starts his steady walk in the correct direction.

As Frankie walks from the yard to the gate and down the drive way, I gather essential supplies: a bottle of water, a skate board, and a handful of straps stuffed into a messenger bag. By the time I have the alarm set and door locked Frankie is half way down the drive and ready for the first left turn.

Frankie's pace is not as quick as a dog: a large dog, small dog, or even a three legged dog. A eighty year old grandmother could out walk Frankie even if the lady had crutches. I would say that Frankie has the pace of a three year old child. I have learned to take the steps of a three year old child which is about one-fifth the stride of a small woman in orthopedic shoes. You would think we would get no where but don't count Frankie out.

The legend of the tortoise and the hare is based in reality. Frankie is one serious walker. He is concentrated, persevering, steady: a tortoise with a mission. Nothing stops him. . . . . . except perhaps dandelions and carrots. Children, parked cars, pot holes, piles of leaves, garbage cans, and even my feet are all things to plow through. Frankie walks a straight line and pity the object in his path. This is another reason Frankie needs me as a guide: to get him safely around obstacles.

This being the first Big Walk since last year, I wonder if he will remember the normal course we always take. Frankie answers this with seeming complete knowledge of said path by requiring no course corrections. . . . .up to the regular point where Frankie and I always disagree as to the direction we are go proceed. He would like to go straight forward, over a curb and into oblivion which is a short bit of weeds and then a twenty foot drop into an undeveloped area of the neighborhood. I have been so tempted to let him discover the foolishness of this so called desired course of his but the "mom" in me always insist on forcing a turn.

Forcing a turn means blocking his path with my legs and feet. He will bump, step on and attempt the basketball fake on me to proceed his intended direction. The fight for control over the direction is as brutal as any professional sporting event. If I start loosing the battle I bring out reinforcements: the skateboard (you were wondering about the skateboard weren't you).

If Frankie refuses to quit fighting and take my direction I put him on the skateboard. The skateboard has a pull rope attached so once he is loaded up I pull the skateboard and him back to the desired path. The straps are for extreme situations. I will wrap the straps on so Frankie can't slip off. I can pull him up steep inclines without him falling off the back. The skateboard has saved me many, many times. Once I get Frankie re-orientated to my direction, I will take him off and we will proceed with The Big Walk.

This day being the first Big Walk of the year and first in several months, we only go half the route. We return exhausted (okay, I return exhausted) and Frankie is ready to hit the back yard for some serious grazing. I can't wait for a nap.

We've been gone for thirty five minutes. It's a walk that I can do all by myself in eight minutes.

It's not called The Big Walk for nothing.