Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: July 2007



July 30, 2007

Bad Frankie

Frankie has been a very bad boy. He has started to dig a tunnel next to the house and under an air conditioning unit. Very bad Frankie. I was in the gecko room and could hear his digging. I have put a roll of fence in the hole for the time since I was barefoot and just dressed to go out on a few errands. Frankie looked depressed at the object in his hole, but oh, well.

I think this is a housing issue again. I think that he doesn't like that his house is empty inside with nothing to "dig" and snuggle in. Today, unless I forget, will be picking up some hay to put in his house. Since I don't use any heating devices in the summer, hay will be safe.

July 26, 2007

The "P" Word

Oh, yes, its time to talk about the "P" words again. Now we (meaning sulcata owners) are very fortunate that our beloved tortoises poop a nice cylinder looking shape object that is capable of being flung 20 feet in order to tidy up around the sulcata yard. Unlike dogs, that poop can't be flung. We are lucky. That makes cleaning up after Frankie pretty easy. Open his night house, fling out the poop and for the most part, nice and clean. Same goes with poop around the house - fling and be gone.

But, sometimes Frankie, and this is not often, decides to poop or pees in his pool. I do hear that many sulcata do this very often but Frankie is mostly a gentleman and keeps his pool clean. We got a small drought going on around here so when the pool is filled up with rain water I give a little "yippy!". Yesterday, the pool was filled with fresh rain. This morning, Frankie decided all that rain water, filling his pool as full as possible, was suitable not only for a little pee but some poops, too. Yuck. There is no poop flinging possibility now or in a few days when poop has been watered down this much. The pool, when full, is also difficult to spin around to empty and I usually get my feet wet with pool water (in this case, poop water). Again, yuck, and I just finished taking a shower an hour ago.

Frankie enjoying a pee and poop free pool

July 24, 2007

Elisive Safety

Weather is very nice here and Frankie has spent a lot of time walking around the yard. He does not have to spend as much time hiding under the porch to keep cool. Even the box turtles get around their enclosure a bit. After all the rains, even Frankie's yard needs mowing. He just can't keep up with all the growth.

It is time to pick up Mattie's shell. I am ready. I have not mentioned it to Greg although I am sure he will be okay. He has a way of walking forward without regret or discomfort.

I have worried a lot about Frankie's safety since the story about Bob the sulcata started. Bob was taken from his yard and mutilated. As hard as keeper's try, it is difficult to guarantee the safety of our turtles. Because turtles are unique, I think they draw more curiosity than the typical dog in the yard. I have yet to decide which is safer: making the neighbors aware of Frankie so they can watch out for him, or to keep him a secret so no one knows he is around. The apartments behind my house are the greatest security risk. So many people that it increases the likelihood that there is a animal abuser among them. I think a great deal about how to protect the back fence.

July 19, 2007

Mushrooms Galore

It has rained so much the last two weeks in Alabama that everything has turned lush and green. Also popping all over the place is a menu variety of mushrooms. I counted seven different types in our front yard and in the backyard. I went around Frankie's backyard area because several have that very attractive orange color that Frankie loves. Just this morning, I had to race Frankie to a batch of orange mushrooms he was ready to devour. At least I had a carrot to give him to make up for not allowing him the mushrooms.

I know only a little about mushrooms. I have a mushroom identification book that helps. But, to be safe I just crumble them back into the ground just because I can't be sure if Frankie would get sick eating them.

Box turtles are especially fond of mushrooms but I didn't offer them to my boxies just because I don't know enough about the mushrooms in this area. Better safe than sorry.

In three years I have not seen so many mushrooms.

July 16, 2007


Enough time has passed that I was able to remove Mattie's shell from the wrappings our veterinarian made for it and to put the shell out to be cleaned. Who Mattie was and my feelings for her spirit are very much separated from her shell. The shell is more like a photograph, or a reminder of days together. Greg has not spoken of Mattie since a few days after her death. This is Greg's normal way of moving on. He is quicker to separate time and feelings.

On other subjects, I have been keeping up with the story of Bob the sulcata from Ventura, Ca who was kidnapped from his home and mutilated. He was recovered and his chances of a full recovery are good. Had I written about this days ago, I don't think I could be as matter of fact. I think that I have found every mentioning of him on the internet.

The story about Bob has made me come to realize how very much I love Frankie. I think I can say that I have really loved only three pets in my life: Kitty, Zooter and now Frankie. I have loved other pets but just not to the depth that I have about the three mentioned. I do think often of Zooter's and Frankie's welfare in almost the same level of concern that I think about Greg's and mine.

So, there are my heartfelt admissions toward my pets. It’s a good thing I cook, clean and maintain the house for Greg or he would think I care more about them than him. Of course, he knows better.

July 12, 2007

Visitor to the yard

Unbelievable - to my surprise, a groundhog (you heard me right) decided to move into our yard! Groundhogs are no small rodents, not small like squirrels or chipmunks or moles, nope, groundhogs are like big cats! My first thought in coming across this guy (screaming my head off as I had no idea what it was thinking first it was a badger) was the turtles. Groundhogs are vegetarians which may be one reason he was attracted to our yard -- lots of good grasses and weeds to eat. Still concerned about the turtles, Greg and I decided to turn this potential yard resident to a day visitor. We found some nice country real estate for him, about five miles away, to relocate him.

Now for a picture:

If you can't appreciate the size, it fit tightly into a cat carrier.

Nice to have you for a visit, groundhog. Hope your new home is just as nice. The yard is all yours again, Frankie & turtles.

July 7, 2007

Caught in a downpour

Leeds had a major downpour yesterday, over 2" in less than an hour. I realize this is nothing to our friends in Oklahoma City or Tulsa and a few other places where flooding is serious, but Alabama hasn't had this much rain in months!

I didn't think much of the downpour as I didn't see any of the turtles of Frankie walking around in it -- all was quiet. After 30 minutes, I thought too quiet. I put on my rain slicker and went out to check. Frankie had been caught in a "river" of water and was sitting unmoving. His eyes were shut and water was pushing over his face. Briefly I thought he had drowned! But he responded to me touching him but was just too cold to get moving. I tried to put him into his outdoor house but the rain was coming down so fast that he just wouldn't move.

I lifted him (ugggh) and brought him into the house. I didn't have anywhere ready for him. The biggest box I had was just about big enought to get his head inside. So his head was in the box and rear end sticking out. Good enough for Frankie who seemed tired after the ordeal.

Oh, but then we lost electricity at 4:30 p.m. No heat for Frankie, no air conditioning for us. Both miserable. We got electricity at 1:30 after midnight. Greg and I slept in until 9:00 am, forgetting that Frankie was probably wrecking havic in the gecko room. But, when I got downstairs, he was sitting sideways in his box resting and relaxing.

It is still raining outside, lightly.

July 5, 2007

Clouds make it cool

Frankie and I have taken two long walks around the block this last week. He really enjoys it especially when the sun is out during the day making it too hot for him to really get around the yard. Luckily, nearer the evening, the clouds have moved in several nights making it possible for him to walk with me.

I tricked the box turtles yesterday and mixed lots of vegetables in with their favorite foods (cat food, bananas, corn) and they ate some of the veggies attempting to get to their favorites. This may finally be the way to get them to eat their veggies.

I have been spotting more grasshoppers in the yard. My box turtles really ate lots of grasshoppers in Oklahoma and they really like them. Since this neighborhood was all new construction, many of the bug habitats were displaced. Having them move back in is helpful to the boxie food supply.

July 2, 2007

An explanation and something to hold onto

Dr. Atlas preformed an necropsy (autopsy for reptiles) on Mattie on Sunday. He found that she was suffering from a fatal liver disease that we could not have done anything for. The condition said several things: Mattie was older than we thought, probably at the end of her normal lifespan; that she did not die from husbandry errors; and, her fatigue, lack of appetite and slow demise were very much part of the disease progression.

90% of reptile deaths occur as the result of husbandry error. I knew this and over the weekend felt very guilty that I was the cause of her illness. I am relieved to know that her care was good and that everything I was doing for her in her last few months were in her best interest and comforting in what was probably a very painful condition.

Dr. Atlas was so kind to arrange for us to keep her shell. At the present, it is wrapped and refrigerated. We will have it cleaned by a preservation specialist. For now, neither Greg or I are able to open the wrapping to look at the shell. We don't think we will be ready to see it for a few months. We are grateful to have a bit of Mattie with us, a little bit of her to hold onto.

Thank you to everyone who has extended comforting words to Greg and me.