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.