Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: November 2009



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 (

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.