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June 24, 2010

Ride In The Car

Anyone who has been in a car traveling with a large sulcata is fully aware of the dangers involved. No, it's not that the sulcata will crawl out of his container and start tearing up the car (he will try) and it's not that a sulcata will never rest until he gouges a hole in what ever container he is held against his will (he will never rest) but that passengers will be forced out of the car by even greater horrors.

Sulcata owners soon learn that car drives are laxatives for sulcata. They will nearly every time relieve themselves in protest over being in a strange place and often in a small container. And the aroma is not pleasant, as you have heard.

Frankie was just as bad. The trip from Oklahoma to Alabama was filled with aroma from mile five to mile 700. And unprepared means putting up with the smell.

I learned to take lots of extra towels and newspapers and garbage bags.

Frankie did get used to car trips. In his early years (and pounds) most of his car trips were to the park to graze and hunt down dandelions. As he got older, cars to him to Do Dah Day and other "Big Walks". During the winter, cars take him to PetSmart and PetCo.

Frankie has something to look forward to when we say, "Want to go in the car." Except for one recent trip to the veterinarian which included his first ever shot, car trips mean fun.

As Frankie approaches his ninth birthday, he rarely poops in the car.....he saves it all for when he arrives.

I would suggest that everyone who does own a sulcata to get their tort used to car rides...yes, I do absolutely, and when they are small. Get your sulcata used to car rides while the poop and pee output is minimum. When they get 75 pounds, sulcata rear-end output in a compact car is early deadly.

June 16, 2010

Bad Mom

I feel like such a terrible sulcata mother. Frankie's outdoor living arrangements are just not ready for this terrible heat. But really, it's all the rain's fault: three weeks of rain and I had hardly a chance to get him set up.

Usually, during May, I set up the patio so Frankie will have plenty of shade and space underneath to stay cool. Six different drapes collected over the yeas from garage sales to people's garbage's (yes, I dumpster dive) keep the sun from baking him all day.

A old brightly colored outdoor table cloth is draped above his night shelter. This decorative table cloth keeps the morning sun from turning his shelter into an oven.

An outdoor green and white canopy picked up at a garage sell for $5 serves as a shade around the patio so the sun doesn't get underneath where Frankie spends the majority of hot sunny days.

Then there is this monster yellow umbrella from a patio table (dumpster dive prize) that I drape under the stairs as Frankie likes to sit here in the late afternoon. Since the umbrella is rainproof, he can sit under it when it rains without having to retreat into his night shelter.

And his night shelter....the completely Hubby-furbished, electrified, insulated, plastic strip door, easy-to-clean-poop-out-of, that is nearly five years old is now too small for Frankie to turn around. And he still uses it. This is where I am the "bad mom".

Frankie can get inside alright. He only scrapes the plastic only slightly when entering the cut out door area covered with plastic strips. He must come in the cut out area straight or he can't get in at all. Once his head is in he has to maneuver a 45 degree turn into the shelter to get cozy. Entry is manageable but there is no easy turn-around for exit for the ever growing beast.

In the morning, I can hear him negotiating a backward, forward, backward, forward movement as he attempts to turn around in a space that no longer allows him to turn around. His shell has gouged into the insulation a half an inch so he can accommodate that turn. Sometimes his "bump and turn" will just cause the two front opening doors to burst open. And they don't open enough for him to then get out. They are open enough just to help him complete the turn, negotiate the 45 degree turn back though the plastic covered opening.

Daily, as I sit at my computer by the window which is six feet above his enclosure, I hear the crash bang of a sulcata who may just be intentionally making louder noises than necessary to get the message across that he needs a new shelter.

Hey, Hubby, remember that neat Frankie enclosure designed three years ago that you were going to put in. Well, it's past time.

The guilt is knowing that Hubby and I are heat-haters. It has to be below 80 degrees FÂș, and full cloud coverage before we wander outside for heavy duty yard work.

And as I type, a thunderstorm with flash flood warnings approaches quickly. I am never going to get done unless I finish while it is raining. Tent city is just going to have to wait like Frankie.

June 8, 2010

All Wet

Frankie has had a rough few weeks. Not the "mansion-living" rough, it's the what-happen-to-perfect-sulcata-weather rough in Alabama. Most of the time, during the spring, summer and fall, sulcata tortoises like Frankie have the best of it down here in the South. Alabama isn't co-operating. Frankie is not happy.

This morning is the first morning in nearly three weeks that the sun is shining and there is not a cloud in the sky. Frankie likes this. The temperature will get up into the high 80's and Frankie can live with that. He is out there now walking all over the yard. No need to bask…ambient temperatures have him the perfect temperature. There is plenty of grass which Frankie is sure to start grazing before it gets too hot.

What he has been annoyed about is lots and lots of sneaky, unusual rain.

Alabama is making up for the drought of two years ago. Mother Nature has a timing problem because our lakes are full. No water rationing here. The trees and grass are green and happy.

But Frankie complains. For the last two weeks, we've been getting 70%-90% chance of rain every day.

Frankie is usually un-bothered with the non-stop kind of rain: He just hangs out in his shelter and waits for mom to bring him hay and carrots. Frankie is bothered when he is lured him out of the shelter with sun, settles himself in for a bask only to have clouds move in just as he gets comfy. He sits patiently as the clouds dodge his sunlight.

After waiting endlessly for enough sun to get through moving clouds, he is warm enough to begin his walk around the yard. But then the rain will start. Frankie will stop and sit wherever he happens to be in the yard expecting the rain to stop in just a few minutes.

The rain starts begins as a light shower and then in a few minutes changes to a major down pour. To late to change his mind about shelter, Frankie has no choice but to sit out the big rain. Poor fellow has been in the middle of the yard, next to a bush, by the back fence or even half way down the hill when all he can do is stop in his tracks. He hates it when rain gets in his eyes, so he sits there and is miserable.

Many of these down pours of rain will turn into a huge storms with lightening, thunder, and high winds. Frankie sits in place through it all because at this point, Mom can…well, would like to help, but due to Frankie's ever increasing size, can do nothing to save him.

On one occasion, Frankie was in an area low in the yard which quickly began filling with water. Between Frankie's refusal to move and his stubborn "it will pass in just a moment", the water quickly rose above his head. Much as Frankie thinks he can swim, he cannot. A panicked mom (by now you know this is ME!) threw caution to the wind (thunder, lightening, buckets of rain) and ran out to somehow save Frankie.

Because of his size, the best mom could do was sit in the water with Frankie and drag/push him out of the water and to the higher side of the "river". Mom got no thanks or anything…instead Frankie acted as though he expected to then be carried inside, dried off, given a dozen carrots and a heating blanket for his near death experience.

Soaked down to socks and undergarments, Mom said, "That is the best I can do. You just got to learn to come in out of the rain, Frankie."

When the downpour finely subsided, Frankie went back to the task of mowing the yard. Of course, after three weeks of hot steamy Alabama weather, Frankie will never be ahead of the growing grass. As always, mom will have to mow despite Frankie's insistence that the backyard is his domain. River or no river.