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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!"

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