Frankie was soooooo sick. Having a sick sulcata is a mom's worst nightmare. First and foremost, it's mom's fault -- mom is responsible for providing the correct diet, temperatures, space, safety, amusement.....you know what I mean. And I have to feel particularly guilty because I am supposed to know what Frankie needs and take pride in helping other sulcata owners take good care of their sulcata.
So if Frankie gets sick just what does that say about my own abilities. Well, enough of my guilty feelings....just what steps are taken to figure out what's wrong? Oh yeah....The Sulcata Mom Diagnosis Check List.
Does he move? Yes, when proded, Frankie will still give me "stink eye." Double "stink eye" because he is not feeling well. Frankie eyes open and bubbles don't come out of his nose when his sneers "death to mom."
"Gads, mom. I feel bad enough. Do you have to poke me?"
"Oops. Sorry, Frankie. Just had to check if you are alive." He is alive if he can give me attitude. Really, this is a good sign. No obvious signs of upper respiratory infection and Frankie is alive. Really, my top two concerns are eliminated.
Offer Frankie Hay Test. I prepare a handful by soaking it quickly under hot water and present the steamy hay in front of Frankie. He ignores it. Frankie not eating hay isn't really a bad sign. He hates hay anyway and only eats it if he is starving. I can eliminate starving.
The next test is a big one: The Favorite Snack Test. I offer him a carrot.
Frankie doesn't even bother to look at the carrot -- this is a really bad sign. A carrot offering should cause him to alert immediately and charge out of his igloo lest the carrot offer suddenly be revoked. He isn't interested in the carrot. I am cringing.
I double the offer by cutting the carrot up into smaller, bite sized bits and put them so close to his head that he will barely need to move more than three inches to eat them.
Frankie's pathetic look at his favorite treat offered in such a way that only a completely paralyzed tortoise would pass it up just tugs at my heart strings. Maybe I should go get a piece of banana. But I hold out a bit longer. The time that passes between such an offer and Frankie's inability to pass up a carrot says a lot.
There is a 20 second war between Frankie's need to eat the carrot and his sickness. I am sweating like a woman in menopause. Frankie caves in and starts to eat the carrot. This is a good sign. He is not on his deathbed if he finally gives into temptation and eats a carrot.
So, I've learned that he will eat but just doesn't want to get up out of the warm igloo to find a good meal. I am narrowing this illness down to a stomach ache. But the next few hours will say a whole lot more.
After the initial small carrot snack and more time in the igloo, Frankie emerges long enough to make a very slow effort to see if there is any more carrots in his feeding trough. On the way back to his igloo, he poops.
Now the real scientific examination begins. I pick up the poop like its a fallen $100 dollar bill. Ever so carefully holding the poop in a paper towel, I examine the contents of the poop with a tooth pick. Hmmm. The color is much brighter than one would expect in the middle of winter. And the smell is a bit too "green" for the middle of winter. I suspect Frankie has eaten something he shouldn't.
He spent the previous day outside as the temperature was really warm and the sun was out. He roamed all over his yard. With so little green grass Frankie could have been tempted to "sample" some evergreen bushes that he otherwise ignores during the summer. Or some evil person could have thrown something over the fence and Frankie ate it. Or some cat is making deposits in the yard which Frankie can detect at 20 feet. Or, or, or...who knows!
Sulcata will taste test anything. As far as sulcata are concerned food could be hiding anywhere. Sulcata suspect everything is potential food!
So I spend an anxious morning watching Frankie. I note his lack of interesting in walking around the gecko room. I note that there are no visits to Steel Stella. No pestering the box turtles. He is spending more time sleeping than getting under my feet while I am working in the gecko room.
At noon I call the Frankie's veterinarian clinic. I ask if Dr. Atlas will be in the office tomorrow and if there is any open appointments. The office staff assures me that Frankie can be seen tomorrow even if I don't make an appointment.
Anxiously, I anticipate giving Frankie The Favorite Snack Test first thing in the morning.
It is a long day.
It's a long night.
I suspect that if I wake Frankie up one more time he is going to throw something at me. Frankie attitude is always a good sign. At 3:00 a.m. I know Frankie isn't getting worse because he wakes up long enough to give me "stink eye" again.
At 7:00 a.m. I am downstairs again to check on Frankie.
Frankie is at the front of the igloo staring at me impatiently.
"Where is my carrot, woman!"
Big sigh of relief. Frankie is going to be okay.
Yes, Frankie is in full recovery.