Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: February 2010



February 22, 2010

A Police Action

It's President's day. For many folks, it's a holiday but not for me. For me it's four hours in the gecko room feeding, cleaning and caring for the 200+ geckos, turtles, and reptiles, thousands of crickets, and one big sulcata tortoise – our very own Frankie, our backyard hero who is sleeping indoors because it's winter.

President's Day is an in-between weather day – certainty not cold, dreary and overcast but not a hot, bright sunshine, sulcata-can't-miss day. There is sun with tolerable temperatures for Frankie.

Frankie does his "let me outside, woman, or I will tear down this door." I open the door and he ambles past the stairwell, into the garage and then stops mid-garage because he can now clearly see that it's not a sunny July day outside. He considers his options.

"Come on, Frankie. It's warmer than it looks!" I urge him on.

He gets to the door. Will he or won't he? Like I have to ask.   He will.

Everything is set up for a complete walk to the backyard: the Frankie barrier is up to keep him from taking a right turn down the driveway and on to a Big Walk, and the back yard gate is tied open so he can just walk through without waiting for me.

But he stops on the cement drive that has been warmed by the sun.

"This is as far as I go."  He sits stubbornly with no indication of moving any farther.

I am thinking that after a ten minute warm up Frankie's need to graze will drive him into the backyard. However, he could decide he wants back inside. I could stand here for an hour waiting as he changes his mind several times but I have things to do. I leave the garage door open in case he calls it quits and wants to get back inside and leave the backyard gate tied open in case he goes that direction. I will check on him every ten minutes or so just to make sure he is safe.

And I do check him a couple of times. He remains in the same spot content to bask.

In the gecko room, I eventually get totally preoccupied feeding the geckos. A ten minute check on Frankie is missed, and then another. Before long I am on the last row of geckos nearly done.

Tap, tap, tap…..there is a light knocking on the gecko room door. The hair on my neck stands up. Greg has warned me over and over about leaving the back door open: burglaries, home invasions, kidnappings. I clutch the ten inch tweezers in my fist so I can use it as a weapon. I am not going down without a fight. Cautiously I move across the gecko room to the door. UPS? Postal service? A neighbor? No way. They would knock on the front door. My heart is pounding.

I get to the gecko room door to peer through the window. I am fully alert and alive…these could be my last moments on earth.

First I see a man's dark hair and in the next second I see a dark blue police uniform. I am not sure if I am more frightened or just relieved. The thousands of possibilities of why a police man would enter my house, walk through the garage and tap on the gecko room door flashes thought my mind.

I sort of wonder what my face looked like when I opened the door and he saw me. I should have asked….it could have been interesting to know what he saw – guilt, fear, joy, relief? Heaven knows.

Then I see a second police man in the garage. They both walk into the gecko room.

Just what does a person who is not expecting a "gecko room" first notice: the jungle humidity levels, temperatures like a hot summer day in Florida, basement with windows covered in foil, high-noon bright lights, tons of plants, measuring items....a dogloo.

My heart stops: the police probably think this is a meth lab or marijuana growing room.  These are police officers looking at this room.

At that moment I don't know what the most important thing to say: "Don't shoot, I am not a criminal" or "I raise geckos" or "Is my husband dead?"

The first officer (tall, dark and handsome – yes, I noticed this too) speaks first. "The back door was wide open and the gate was open and there were no cars in the drive way or in the garage, no one answered the door. It looked like a burglary"

Am I relieved or now totally embarrassed? I sputter my explanation as we walk back through the garage and out the door: "Door open for tortoise…..forgot to check….. vacation day….the neighbors know what goes on here……husband works on holidays".

Outside there is not one, not two, but three police cars outside my front house – the whole city police force (we live in a small town) has responded to a possible burglary. Another police officer steps around from the front of the house. A crimson hue of red slips across my face. What will my neighbors think? I repeat over and over to the officers, "I am so sorry, so sorry."

Then I glance over and see Frankie just sitting there. He hasn't moved. He is watching the circus come to town. Frankie looks like he is smiling, maybe even laughing.

To completely clear up everything, I introduce my huge tortoise to the police officers and explain the reason all the doors and gates are open. Yes, they saw Frankie when they approached the house. Really, they didn't know what to think about the huge thing. Then I take them on a tour of the gecko room so there is NO misunderstanding as to what is going on in the basement of my house. It's all legal, there is complete records, I am a known keeper....that WHITE STUFF isn't cocaine it's Frankie's calcium…yes, I buy calcium by the pound.

Oh, gees. What could these guys think?

After a dozen more, "I'm so sorry," the City's Police Department departs from my house.

I walk back to where Frankie is still just sitting there. He is enjoying all of this.

Frankie has managed to bring the whole city police force to my door and into my house.

First thing I do before going back inside is to take down the sign by the backdoor that says "Warning: This House Is Protected By A Killer Tortoise".

Yea, right.

February 14, 2010

Frankie Loves Rosie

Frankie came up to me Sunday and said, "I haven't got anything yet for Rosie for Valentine's day. What can I get for her to say I love You." (Note to readers: Rosie is a female tortoise owned by Marcus O. )

I said, "How about a Valentine Card?"

So Frankie and I went to the store to look at all the Valentine Cards. He looked and looked and looked.

I said, "What's wrong, Frankie? Can't you find a good card for Rosie?"

"None of the pictures on the card look like me! How will she know the card is from me if my picture isn't on it?"

"Okay, Frankie. How about going home and making your own Valentine card for Rosie?"

Off we went home. I got some pink construction paper and crayons for Frankie to use. I left him for just a moment to get some scissors and glue. When I got back he had eaten the pink construction paper and was about to start on the crayons. I took the crayons away so he couldn't make a homemade Valentine card for Rosie.

"Let's go outside and pick some dandelions for Rosie!"

Frankie was very excited about this idea. We got a basket and went outside. Frankie searched the whole backyard while I searched the front yard. There were only a few dandelions around. We found about eight. But Frankie was very happy.

When we got inside I checked inside Frankie's basket for the eight dandelions.

"Frankie, there are no dandelions in your basket. What happen to them?"

"I ate them."

"Well, that's okay. How about we cut up some carrots for Rosie?" Frankie loved this idea.

So we got some carrots and cut them up into small bite sized pieces. I fetched some pink tissue and a box to put them. When I got back I looked for the carrots.

"Frankie, where are are the carrots we cut up for Rosie."

"I ate them."

"Okay, Frankie. Now what are we going to do for Rosie?"

"Can you just sent my Rosie an e-mail telling her how hard I worked all day to say I love you?"

"Of course, Frankie. I will do that right now."

Dear, Rosie,
Happy Valentines Day.
I love you, Rosie.
This romance stuff is hard work.
Yours Forever.

February 13, 2010

Frankie vs. Tigger

Frankie has crossed paths with many dogs during trips to pet stores, visits to the park and walking in pet parades. In general, he just ignores them.

Frankie's general disinterest in dogs suits me just fine. When either takes notice of the other, something passes between the dog and Frankie that just doesn't look like friendship.

Dogs react one of several ways when meeting Frankie. Some dogs take a sniff and then move on as if they had seen a rock or cement block. What ever that was, it's not worth a thought for the rest of their doggy lives.

Some dogs take a look at Frankie, tuck their tails, whimper and move as far away as possible hoping never to encounter such as oddity of nature again.

Occasionally a dog recognizes Frankie as a super-sized chew toy. Those dogs act as if they have hit the doggy-toy-jackpot. Dogs of this nature would love to eat Frankie. They would love to eat him now. They love Frankie the way the Cookie Monster loves cookies.

When it comes to dogs and Frankie, there is just no predicting the outcome in advance. It is a watch and see situation.

The potential risk crossed my mind when a neighbor asked if I would take care of her dog for three days while they were out of town......take care of the dog at my house.

Enter Tigger. Tigger is a medium sized, Boxer/Pit bull/Dalmatian dog mix, weighing in at 65 pounds and standing three foot to the top of his shoulders. Tigger is spoiled (momma loves her Tigger) but a personable, well behaved dog.

As I expected, Tigger would not be left alone when I went to the gecko room for my daily three hour job (watering, feeding, caring, cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning). As long as he was well behaved, Tigger was invited into the gecko room.

Tigger was overwhelmed by a sheer aromatic rapture from 200+ geckos and lizards, and turtles and crickets by the thousands. Tigger wandered about the room exploring sights, sounds and smells never before experienced. Eventually, Tigger came across the most curious of creatures ever: Frankie.

Enter Frankie. Frankie is an eight year old sulcata tortoise, weighing in at 65 pounds, and nearly a foot tall. Frankie is a bit spoiled (momma loves her Frankie), friendly but capable of bulldozing large pieces of furniture.

Due to freezing weather, Frankie was sitting in his igloo, anticipating breakfast, looking forward to a boring day roaming the gecko room, getting under Leann's feet and banging on the door to go outside.

Frankie emerged from his igloo once I set down his breakfast of damp hay mixed with shredded carrots. As hoped, Frankie took one look at Tigger and immediately looked past him like he had just encountered a tree branch - Tigger was of no interest, no consequence, and no bother.

On the other hand, Tigger stared at Frankie as if he "could not believe his doggy eyes." With great fear and exhilaration, Tigger approached Frankie. Keeping his back feet anchored as if on a safety line, Tigger stretched his head and lengthen his body, inching his front feet toward the occupied Frankie.

"Tigger," I gently warned, "behave." Instantly Tigger scrambled backwards and hid behind a near shelf lest he become the monster's next meal. Yet Tigger could not resist this thing, this rock, this whatever!

Mesmerized, Tigger stood intrigued as he witnessed the huge shelled thing walk passed him. Tigger snuck behind Frankie to get a closer look at the igloo -- perhaps the igloo itself had answers. Tigger again anchored his back feet on the ground and lean in this time close enough to put his head through the igloo door to get a big sniff of what ever evidence was left behind.

Only a few times has Frankie giving serious attention to a dog. Once at a pet store there was this black Labrador with raised fur assertively sniffing Frankie. Taking offense to this show of male dog dominance, and without any warning, Frankie lunged toward the dog to show him what was what. Had the dog not has his eyes glued on Frankie, there could have been serious damage to the dog's front legs. Luckily the stunned dog managed to jump to safety. No doubt that dog learned who was boss in Pet Smart.

In the instance of Frankie verses Tigger, Frankie was not trying to show Tigger who was boss in the gecko room, but Frankie clearly wanted Tigger know that the igloo was a Frankie-only-area. With that unexpected and amazingly fast sulcata-ramming-speed, Frankie ran between the igloo and Tigger. Tigger scrambled safely away but still showed intentions to re-investigate should the opportunity arise

Having made his point, Frankie returned to finish his breakfast. Tigger was lucky. Frankie could have taken him out in the surprise from-the-back-sulcata-attack

For the next three days, Tigger was torn between obedience of a law laid down by Frankie and a never ending curiosity of a creature that scared and fascinated the daylights out of him.

It was a draw in the battle of Frankie verses Tigger. Neither had established complete dominance yet neither caved in. Frankie was willing to share space but there were places sacred to him. Tigger took any opportunity when Frankie's shell was turned away to investigate Frankie, the igloo or any Frankie artifact.

Who ever first wrote the words "dogs and turtles don't mix" probably saw the aftermath of what can happen when a dog quits seeing a turtle as a turtle and instead sees a turtle as a chew toy. For now, Tigger and Frankie exist peacefully in separate yards: exactly where they should be.