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?