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January 31, 2010

'To Do' List

I really am not into 'to do' lists but somehow they are unavoidable in today's busy world.

Most of the time my weekly 'to do's' are exactly the same as last week so I don't need to write them down. Occasionally lots of other outside events interrupt my daily routine and I can't seem to get organized without some help. List are useful on these occasions.

My husband doesn't like lists much so I keep his 'Honey Do' list to less than 5 items (secretly I keep another 10 'Honey Do' items in the wings). Without his 'Honey Do,' Greg is likely to spend entire weekends tinkering around with his computers and weather station, catching up with his sleep, and watching TV. His 'Honey Do' list keep me from reminding him over and over that things need to be done (he calls this "bossing").

Frankie's 'To Do' list, on the other hand, is redundant, unchanging, and yet completely necessary because he has the brain of a tortoise - selective memory for only the things he wants to remember. Like his name: he remembers his name when I say, "Frankie, you want a carrot?" but cannot remember his name when I say "Frankie, leave the box turtles alone!"

So Frankie's 'To Do' list is short and as far as I am concerned a reasonably easy list to follow. Frankie doesn't think so.

Frankie's Mom-Wants-Me-to-do List
1. Poop on the paper
2. Pee in the igloo
3. Eat all your hay.
4. Stay out from under feet.
5. Leave the box turtles alone
6. Don't re-arrange the gecko room

As far as Frankie is concern, this is his to do list:
Frankie's To Do List (by Frankie)
1. Pick through my hay and eat the chopped lettuce and shredded carrots.
2. Beg for carrots.
3. Make a poop deposit and drag it across the floor
4. Empty the bladder in the middle of the floor
5. Visit Ms Steel Stella (x6)
6. Re-arrange the gecko room

January 24, 2010

Stink Eye

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, 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.

January 15, 2010

Cabin Fever

Frankie survived thirty of the coldest days I've seen in Alabama....well, sort of. During the last few weeks he didn’t spend a total of ten minutes outside. But for the fist few weeks all he did was try to get outside.

Being inside is just unacceptable to Frankie, having a large yard and outdoor shelter and all. Frankie thinks he can do well outside in all weather.

During the first few weeks of the cold snap, Frankie demanded daily to go outside. The time outside was short as all Frankie could do take a few bites of grass and then head back inside. This is not enough time outside for Frankie.

It didn’t take long before he suffered from the effects of cabin fever. I would go downstairs and Frankie would be waiting at the door. “Get outta the way, woman. I’m going outside.”

"Fine," I think to myself. "It is 16 degrees out there. Let’s see how far you get."

Sometimes he would make it passed the gecko room door and into the garage but never did he make it all the way to the grass. Most days he would turn around inside the garage. Life was looking bleak.

It got to the point where Frankie would have to see sunlight coming through the door before he attempted to go outside. He figured it was worth the try since sun equals heat. But when temperatures are in the 20's, no sun is enough sun for a tortoise.

During the last week, Frankie quit asking to go outside. He knew hay, although not to his liking, would be hand served. If he looked pathetic enough he may get graded carrots and chopped lettuce in his hay. Frankie got good at looking pathetic.

Last weekend he got to go to Petsmart. He was unhappy because he had to go into the cold garage.

Frankie had given up all hope. There wasn't such a thing as warm sunlight, fresh green grass, and acres of land to walk. Nope. All he had was a small gecko room. a miniature obstacle course, a heated igloo and a silver dome girlfriend named "Stella": Frankie spend so much time with Stella that I was starting to wonder if I was contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

So today I had the opposite problem - I couldn't get Frankie outside. And for the first time in a month, outside is warmth, sunshine, and a little fresh grass. I have to drag the big-shelled-lump out. I have to drag him to the grass, and I have to lead him to the backyard.

He is out there basking. Four hours now. He looks toasty warm. It’s getting late. I don’t think he wants to come back inside. I think he has strapped himself to a tree.

It will be in the 30’s tonight.

He’ll be knocking at the door before the sun goes down.

January 5, 2010


It’s cooooool outside. Frosty cold doesn’t even describe it or even icy cold. It’s crunchy cold! Yep, that describes it. That is how your bones feel and your fingers and your nose when outside. Crunchy is how everything outside is: crunchy garbage can, crunchy car axles, crunchy grass, crunchy water crystals in Frankie’s outdoor pool. Crunchy weather is not sulcata weather.

Whether or not Frankie has adjusted to time inside is critical. A bored Frankie turns destructionator in an instant.

Supplied with some distractions like Steel Stella, a walking maze through the gecko room, regular shell rubs, daily carrots, Frankie is some-what adjusted to indoor living.

Except for food. Too cold outside for daily grazing, Frankie has to accept what I give him. This just isn’t working out that well. Frankie has one idea of his indoor cuisine and I have another.

Offered: Oxbow Orchard Hay
Frankie wants: Bag of Spring Greens and Heart of Romaine

Offered: Hibiscus flowers
Frankie wants: The whole hibiscus bush

Offered: A daily carrot for a snack.
Frankie wants: Apples, bananas, strawberries, and cantaloupe.

Offered: Small amounts of hand picked nut grass and winter weeds
Frankie wants: Dandelions, rose pedals, plaintain and other favorite summer weeds

Offered: Shredded carrots in hay soaked in warm water because Frankie refuses to eat dry hay.
Frankie wants: To go outside and graze on fresh green grass for two to four hours.

This is the big conflict between what Frankie wants and what I allow him. Consequently, while indoors, Frankie eats very little. I get somewhat concern that he may be on a hunger strike for which there is just nothing I can do. What fresh grass existed outside during November and December has turned crunchy brown in January. Frankie can’t spend two hours looking for what green grass is hiding outside without turning into a crispy critter himself.

Today, like clockwork, Frankie demands to go outside. It’s 24 degrees F. outside. I expect Frankie to make it as far as the garage door before realizing that NO sulcata needs to be out in this weather and he will turn around and go back inside. But surprise! Frankie not only proceeds outside, he heads up to hunt down the last remaining green grass. He spends fifteen minutes outside grazing as much as he possibly can.

I almost expect to find a frozen Frankie statue outside but somehow he manages to get what grass he can and heads inside to his waiting warm igloo.

Well I am amazed. Frankie would rather face the crunchy cold than eat the hay I have lovingly provided.

…..hmm. Maybe I am missing the point. If he only eats a little everyday yet remains healthy on a this more slender diet then there is less poops for me to pick up. I guess I can continue to be concerned about his diet but I can appreciate the other side of the coin. Nothing wrong with a little less poop.