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February 26, 2015

Frankie Trail

After so many days inside (Frankie being forced in by the weather) I've established a ritual of care for him.  When Frankie was much younger....and significantly smaller.....and weighted less.....that indoor care was really pretty easy.  A box, a heat lamp, substrate, and lots of hand picked weeds mixed with hay was all he really needed.  At 100 pounds, things are just tougher.

The ritual of care is not just about Frankie, it's about protecting indoor things.

First thing in the morning right after he wakes up Frankie poops.  Maybe one or two poops, but they are definitely bigger than my fist. Second thing he does is sit on his poop.  Thus poop will remain unreachable until Frankie he gets up.  Eventually he gets up.

When Frankie does decide to get up I make a mad dash to his backside with as many paper towels as I can hold so I can un-stick the poop from under his shell as soon as I can before he smears that poop all over the floor, making what I call a "trail of poop."

The upside to this is the removed poop goes outside to the front flower garden and I am guaranteed some spectacular blooms in a few months.

We use more paper towels in the few months Frankie spends indoor during the cold weather than we use in the kitchen during the entire year.

Back to the trail of poop.  Sometimes Frankie insists on seeing the weather himself regardless of how much I explain to him it is freaky cold outside and he will not like it.  He just doesn't believe me.

There is a very good reason there is no carpet in the area Frankie hangs out.   The path from the gecko room bathroom through the hall, and through the living room is covered with carpet. What ever poop remains under that shell of his, or is clinging to those feet, or any poop drip leaking out his back end is gonna hit that carpet.

I have tactics for that.  I cut up an old carpet so it runs though the hallway.  If there is any hidden poop it will revels it's presence on the old carpet.  I just follow him with another handful of paper towels to wipe away those hidden treasures.

After his five foot walk through the hall Frankie steps onto regular carpet that regretfully isn't the color of sulcata poop.  If there is any remaining poop stuff I have to clean it up while its fresh.
Frankie Trails by Greta Maloney

Now this is the most important bit of this Frankie Tail.  Poop stain that comes from a sulcata who eats primarily hay and grass can be complete cleaned from carpet with not a trace left behind.  I strongly recommend using Oxy-Steam Carpet Cleaner with Oxygen Cleaning Boosters.  I know it's for steam carpets but it works.  I put a mix of it and filtered water in a small spray bottle and follow behind Frankie on his walk through the house immediately spraying any poop smear or droplets, rub it in and come back in 30 minutes to make sure its done.

I buy four big bottles at a time. 

I remember the good old days in Birmingham when the walk from the gecko room where Frankie slept when it was cold to the backyard was through a garage that I worried little if there where a small trail of poop along the way. 

Indoors is just complicated for sulcata tortoises like Frankie.

February 10, 2015

It's hard owning a sulcata

It's winter. Cold and overcast seven days a week: Very unsuitable for a outdoor loving sulcata. Frankie sits in the bathroom designated his winter stomping grounds. Those dark round eyes that follow me say “I hate you. Mom”

Just like the cold-gripped Northeast bundled with snow, there is little venturing out for Frankie OR me. Say what he wants about how he is the injured party here, I want to go outside and walk just like Frankie. I am wearing out our living room rug pacing back and forth.  I am depressed and Frankie is depressed.

There was a utterly heavenly glimpse of a day with sun and temperatures in the high sixties. What a blessing. I went into the bathroom and announced to Frankie we were going outside. Frankie did not hesitate. He may not be able to see the sun or feel the warmth but somehow he could taste it because it was a mad dash to the back door.

I desperately tried to stay ahead of the charging beast as he crashed through the hall knocking over a basket of dirty clothes and sent the cat scrambling up the cat pole. Frankie was hot on my heals as I moved the coffee table and the lap top to a safer destination.

There was a brief pause to the 50 yard dash outside as Frankie spied my colorful Solmate mismatched socks and he decided to see if it was bite worthy. This pause gave me time enough to catch up to Frankie, toss aside two pair of shoes and save both Solmate socks from his greedy little I-am-freaking-starving-winter-appetite.

I managed to open the full-length-window back door before Frankie crashed through. Of course this involved the rarely attempted risk-your-life maneuver of sitting on Frankie to get him to stop walking. It's dangerous because I know some day he is going to pull that mighty ram maneuver and I will tumble off like an old-lady-rag-doll to the floor.

I envision a future visit to the emergency room where the triage intake worker will laugh so hard that she will fall off her chair as I explain how I fell from the back of a turtle. Not looking forward to this so I do all I can to avoid that scenario.

It's no picnic owning a full grown sulcata tortoise. There is no class preparing you for all the behavior quirks unique to the sulcata. Go ahead and check PetSmart but they don't sell any lifts, habitats or heaters suitable for the 100 pound plus sulcata tortoise. I've checked!

Frankie and I delight in our 70ºF sunny day. He strives to eat as much winter rye grass as he can (so generously sown last fall and one of the smartest things I've ever done for him). Frankie and I both sit and bask in the sun till he is hot to the touch and I actually start sweating. Wow.

As temperatures hinting that the night will be cold I return to Frankie's indoor room and clean out layers of poopy cardboard (the indoor castle materials for sulcata shelters.) that stinks so bad only I can venture into the room without revolting. The bathroom floor may be ceramic but it looks to be made of straw. That too is raked up. The room still is not presentable for any human guest but it's habitable for Frankie.

Yeah, that chore took longer than it should. Oh, boy to what comes next, and my guess is on the nose, will not be easy.

Outside I find Frankie has weasel his way into his outdoor shelter that an hour ago was blocked off by a wooden board forced into place so nothing can knock it away, only Frankie has knocked it aside and he is now deeply burrowed inside under loads and loads of hay.

Frankie has grown a bit since we build the indoor cave four years ago. He now has difficulty turning around inside. If I am going to get him out of the cave before dark I will need to turn him around. It's a life threatening (my life) task that involves possible loss of fingers and severe back and arm injuries. I have to do it. It's that or I find a Frankie-sicle in there tomorrow morning.

Injuries to my self were minimal. Frankie was one very pissed tortoise. I shoved and push him out the cave and beg and plea for him to follow me indoors. Through the living room, past a pair of colorful socks, two pair of shoes, computer cords, past the cat post (complete with draped cat eying the tortoise from above), through the hall and back into the winter quarters (now clean) of one very large sulcata tortoise.

Frankie is quick to tunnel into his cardboard cave, digging deep into the corner (probably scraping up the wall board – that is a whole different story), and falling into a deep sulcata sleep that begins at 3:00 pm and ends tomorrow at 10:00 am. Yes, Frankie will sleep 19 hours. For him it's perfectly normal. 

I'm going to fall face first onto the couch and hope for a 30 minute nap. I need more. Frankie has utterly exhausted me.

I love my cat. She is an easy pet to care for. Frankie, well, not so easy. But I love him.