Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: 2012



December 23, 2012

Unusual Holiday Job

Caretaker needed for large sulcata tortoise.  Tortoise is an 11 year old, 85 pound with the push and destroy power of high torque Ditch Witch and operates independently from screaming humans who believe they are the operators.

That tortoise stays inside our basement gecko room during winter.

He's there now.

We really want to see our family this Holiday Season.

We need a Frankie Sitter.

Must be able to lift 85 pounds of put-me-down-right-now wiggling dead weight tortoise.  Bonus if sitter has genius, mechanical and/or carpentry skills to create an emergency lift for emergency situations and can navigate over terrain from grass, mud, sidewalks, linoleum, and basement floors.

Must put up with copious amounts of urine and dozens bits of poop trailing from the sleeping area, across the gecko room, and often found in mysterious places that there is no explanation how the poop got there.  Often the poop will be mixed with the urine so must be skillful with a mop and tolerant of wringing a disgusting drippy mop five or six times daily as the amount of output from the rear end of the tortoise can only be described as "amazing."

Must be present downstairs in the gecko rooms when lights automatically come on at 7:00 am to check if the beast has moved around during the night and taken down a couple of chairs or tables or shelves.

Monitor weather daily checking for possible sunny skies.  If there is sun, it will not matter if its 30º F, the tortoise will want to go outside and bask. Even if there is no sun the tortoise will want to "see for himself" and may get lost between the back door and the gecko room.

Since the tortoise has refused any type of hay for 11 years the sitter will need to walk or drive to a chemical free area and pick a bag full of grass and weeds every day.  Okay, sure, buy a couple dozen brands and types of hay, cut them up, and soak them -- the tortoise will not eat any of it.  He wants fresh green grass and weeds.  If he doesn't get his fresh grass he will eat newspaper, socks, wash cloths, plastic, glitter and anything that has no resemblance to grass (except hay) because he's hungry and pissed. 

Be on alert between one o'clock to four o'clock in the after noon because there is no predicting when the tortoise wants to come inside.  He will bump the door a couple of times and if it doesn't open he will ram it;  If the door still doesn't open he will turn around to try the back yard gate which we keep closed so he will  turn around again toward the fenced barrier that "keeps him from escaping."  He will then ram through the barrier to look for someone else to shelter and feed him.  

This is important!  No matter what has transpired during the day, no matter how much poop and pee had to be cleaned up, how often he re-arranged the gecko room, how long it took to find pesticide free grass, how often the 85 pound monster has to be picked up, or how much destruction occurred, you must give him a carrot.

The carrot is not a reward. The carrot is the daily peace offering he expects otherwise he will take down a couple of walls, doors and shelves.

In the late afternoon, after he has had his carrot, and has crawled under his table, pile tons of newspaper all over him so he feels like he is safe in his cave.

There is one easy task:  feed and water the cat who will then attempt to love you to death for feeding and watering her.

Frankie doesn't have owners....Frankie has staff.

It's a lot to ask.  We just hope for the best and feel lucky to get an occasional Christmas with our families.

Dedicated to Julie Maguire, Turtle Rescue of Long Island, who does this every day for dozens of rescued turtles and tortoises. 

December 14, 2012

Nice things do happen

Just a reminder that sometimes nice things do happen. 

Not 10 minutes after hearing about the Connecticut school shooting, Frankie, Greta and I went to the local park to give Frankie some sun and graze time. 

I just didn't want to stop and dwell on the events of the day.  I knew that I would hear about it, non stop, for days.  It was just that kind of heart wrenching national tragedy. I felt it was best to move forward with plans to visit the park. 

I am not sure if anyone there knew what had happen.  I hadn't considered that people may feel uncomfortable around strangers. When we arrived at the park we were almost the only ones there.

Frankie is like a magnet.  People started showing up. 

A little girl at the park with her mom just had to meet Frankie.

Very quickly, an empty park fills with people.....gravitating toward the large tortoise.
Frankie dissolves barriers.  Frankie makes people smile.  Frankie's presence just makes the world seem a little nicer.

Thanks, Frankie, for making my life a little better.  And making the lives of people you meet a little better.


December 5, 2012

Finger Pointing

I want to tell you something.  Something that happen.  But I am afraid if I just come out and say it then it's gonna be misunderstood. 

If I just came out and said 'Frankie bit me' it's gonna sound wrong.

So first, before I go further, let's find some common ground by explore the meaning of some things.

Like "bite'.

Usually when someone says they got "bit" by an animal images of teeth and dripping saliva and blood and ripped skin flashes through the mind. Horror stories are conjured up like the werewolf or Cujo.     
This would be giving you the wrong idea of what happen.

Not all animals bite.  Well, not all animals open their mouth intending to put your flesh between their teeth so they can purposely infect pain and injury. 

Sometimes it's not the animal's intention at all.  It's even very possible that the said-animal never intended to touch human skin at all much less pierce the thin surface and cause bloody harm.

Possibly it may not be their fault at all.  It could be said that said-person knew better than to put their finger into fore-mentioned animals's mouth.

Putting skin or finger or hand into the mouth of an animal who otherwise does not want your skin, finger or hand in their mouth could very well be the fault of the skin's owner.

So, if we are are all on the same page and everyone is thinking is unclouded by previous experiences and notions, I can explain how my finger got into Frankie mouth.

There is not a lot of grass in the yard.  Frankie has to do a lot of walking to find a mere blade of grass over 1/4" long.  As it's colder out there Frankie doesn't even want to do a lot of walking to find a mere blade of grass.  So as it's colder outside and there isn't much for Frankie to graze on I step in to supplement his food by bringing him grass and weeds.

Sometimes I find some grass and weeds in other areas outside of Frankie's yard.  There are a few areas that are chemical free like my garden.  When I clean up the weeds from the garden area naturally I bring those to Frankie.

I found a very small bunch of green weeds mixed with a few blades of grass in the garden.  Not a handful but a Frankie mouth size bunch that I knew he would appreciate.

The small bunch fit nicely on the end of my fingers so I presented it to Frankie for consumption, thumb up, fingers curled under, greenery out front.

Frankie nipped the greens very gingerly.  He wasn't greedy.  He took the greens very calmly, and gently, along with a slightly protruding middle finger.

And there was a very slow tug back and forth between Frankie with a firm hold on a middle finger and the person responsible for puttinng that finger there.

Quite aware of the sheering jaw power of an 85 pound sulcata tortoise my first thought was just how much of a finger nub was coming off the end of my finger.  There was no terror.  I was quite calm.  Surprisingly there was no pain. (yet)

Frankie wasn't trying to bite down hard.  He was just trying to hang on to his greens while bring his head down to a comfortable swallowing level.

Which is why I think I still have my whole middle finger.

A couple of firm spine tingling tugs and my fingernail scraped against Frankie's botton jaw and was free.

Frankie's little bundle of greens disappear into his mouth.  My mouth gaped open in surprise at the appearance of a whole finger  And no blood.

On my right middle finger is a very sinister deep red-purple bruise across the whole finger nail. Looking at it one wouldn't suspect that it had been slammed in a car door.  Except for the odd but telling red striped badge of horror on the nail, the rest of the finger is remarkable undamaged.   ...and it does hurt.

What I am saying is Frankie didn't bite me.

I put my finger in Frankie's mouth where it shouldn't be.

And lived to tell.

November 28, 2012


I was obliged, at 5:00 a.m., to crack open a dictionary to see if could find a word to describe this relationship I have between Frankie and myself.

Yes, long before everyone else is obligated to respond to the dreaded alarm clock, forced to wake and wash and dress, to stumble toward a coffee pot that promises a bolt of bravery, to forge forward to their job or responsibility or school or even just to head toward a day of leisure, I am up to see if my precious Frankie is sleeping soundly, warm and snuggy, in the gecko room, because for some insane reason I can't allow a creature evolved to handle cold nights to stay outdoors in a heated custom-made habitat capable of keeping him safe and sound, and I need to find a word that describes exactly what a sap I am for an 11 year old, 85 pound sulcata tortoise.

I'm not sure there is a word that fits.  "Sucker" was the next word that popped into my mind.

Sulcata keepers often refer to themselves as "Parental unit" but I hardly feel as if I am raising a child and guiding him through the human experience by teaching him hygiene or the alphabet, or hazards of riding a bike, or how to be polite.

Frankie crashes through his life and I find myself trailing behind the wreckage cleaning up after him.

The word "slave" passed before me but along with all the negative, ugly connotations it strongly implies an unwillingness, without-choice, forced service.  No. Not only is my participation willing, I strive to excel, to go beyond expectations or obligations. I volunteered!  I put my hand up begging to be chosen.

Back to the word, "sucker."

But sucker implies being deceived or duped.  Nah.  I knew what I was getting into. I anticipate the next pound.  There is extensive preparation.  I put forethought into Frankie's care.

Sap?  I feel this way sometimes but still it doesn't fit. Gullible? Pushover?

Maybe I am looking at this all wrong.

Maybe 5:00 a.m. is the wrong time to think about this.

Maybe a cup of coffee?

How about just grab a pillow and a blanket, go downstairs to the gecko room and curl up on the chair and watch Frankie sleep?

How about just install an elevator in the house so Frankie can come upstairs and sleep under our bed.


Did I just really think that?

Yes, I did.


November 14, 2012

Not An Experiment

I did a little experiment last night.  I cleaned up the garage, put away all chemicals, stowed the lawnmower's gasoline, and then dragged Frankie's Dogloo into the garage.

My thinking was this:  it's getting cold and there will be some really cold freezing nights.  Heating Frankie's cave outside costs a lot more than letting Frankie sleep in the gecko room where it stays in the 70's all day and all night.  However, Frankie can wreck the gecko room, pull shelves down, poop and pee everywhere, bother the box turtles until they are nuts, and, well, become a shelled-terror in a room full of geckos, lights, cords, and costly equipment.

After six years I oughta know.

But what if Frankie just sleeps in the garage which doesn't drop below sixty degrees.  Sounds like a great place for Frankie to sleep.  I'll just put him out side when he wakes up.

It was a successful experiment until 9:00 am this morning. It's no longer an experiment.  It was a exercise in being a sucker.

At 9:00 am I am down stairs looking at a sleep Frankie.   I am proud that letting Frankie sleep in the garage in his Dogloo works great.

Then I become a big idiot.

I look outside.  No sun and the temperatures are in the 50s.  I decide to let Frankie into the gecko room to warm up while I am doing my gecko room chores.

Frankie get's dragged reluctanly out of his Dogloo.  He sits.  He is not gonna move.  So I drag him toward the gecko room door.

"Come on, Frankie, let's warm up in the gecko room,  Come on.  Come on."

Fine, I drag him into the gecko room.  I am incapable of remember I am over 50 years old when it comes to my precious Frankie.

In the gecko room, Frankie sits just inside the door.  Perfect.  He can sit and warm up.

I get the new box of crickets, set it on top of a basket, gather my tweezers, and pull over a garbage can.  I sit on my chair, pull the box of crickets to my knees and proceed to pick out bugs, dead crickets, and cricket poop and dump the crap into the garbage.  It's a 15 minute job.  I do this several times a week.

Yep. Keeping geckos is glamorous. 

While I am tending the crickets Frankie adjusts his sitting arrangement.  Slowly (he is still cool) Frankie forces himself under my legs and gets between me and the crickets.

Awe.  Frankie wants to be near his mom!  Shell rubs for Frankie then back to crickets.

Then Frankie pees.  A sulcata-tortoise-bladder full of pee gushes around my feet and spreads under the garbage and the cricket container.

Really, Frankie?  Did you save up a weeks worth of pee just for me?  Because it looks that way.

Frankie moves away from me and the, no, gallons of pee surrounds me.

Frankie walks over to the box turtle container, shoves his head over the side to make his presence known to the "ladies" and pees all over the floor a second time.


Fetch three large gecko room towels.  Wipe up the pee covering floor.

The box turtles have all retreated to the other side of the enclosure as far away from Frankie as they can possibly get.  No problem.  Frankie moves away from the enclosure, sloshes through his pee, and walks across the area I just cleaned.  As he passes he leaves behind little brown drops of poopy-pee and trails them across the room.

There is no experiment about this.  An experiment suggests new outcomes are possible.  No, no, this is all too familiar.  This is how it goes when Frankie is in the gecko room.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

I am not insane because I bring Frankie into the gecko room.  I am Frankie-whooped.

November 8, 2012

Low on the Solar Batteries

It is fall and it is cold.  Been three days since Frankie has emerged from his cave.

I gotta see Frankie daily even if he doesn't get outdoors but I sure miss watching him romp around the yard when the sun is out and the temperatures are in the 70's.  Frankie just walks, and walks, and walks, and walks and walks.  He is a solar powered train chug chuging across the yard from first light until the sun drops below the fence line. 

Since Halloween the temperaures have dropped and the sun is hiding behind clouds.  Frankie just stays tucked up in his cave staying warm and quite.

I miss him.

I can see him by looking at the live camera feed from inside his cave.  It's not so exciting.  He just sits there.  A lot.  All day.  Basically I am staring at a shell.  Frankie is just doing nothing.

I wend to Petco and bought the largest bag of hay I could find.  Took the bag of hay outside to Frankie and spread it around his cave floor.  Frankie can eat the hay.  Frankie can sleep on the hay.  Frankie can dig into the hay and burrow in snug. 

I like the multi-use hay for Frankie.  It's better than the old straw which Frankie doesn't eat.

Hay makes me sneeze and cough and makes my eyes tear up.  What I will do for Frankie.  But it's worth it.

Today it's sunny.  Frankie did not come outside.

I go outside, open up the cave and dig Frankie out from under all his hay.

"Time to get up. Time to go outside and bask."

I was ignored.

I do what I gotta do.

Time to drag the monster outside.

I can't pick Frankie up.  This happens by the inch. 

It took just under ten minutes to scoot Frankie around his cave, direct him toward the door and push him out the door.  After that it was just encouraging him to walk toward the light.

Walk toward the light!

Frankie is not toasty hot.  He is not toasty.  He is warmish.

He is make that Frankie is, no.  Frankie is barely moving.  Well, it's more like snail pace.

He is gonna make it to the sun.  Eventually.

I had enough time to travel around the yard and pick a variety of weeds and green, pick out all the brown stems, arrange the grass from short to long and then mix the weeds within the grass so every bite will be a delightful mix of tastes.

Frankie eventually makes it to a sun spot.

His eight foot walk from the cave to sun spot in the middle of the yard was slow.

Oh!  This is how the people in Do Dah Day Pet Parade picture Frankie....walking so slow that he looks more like a speed bump.  

Frankie is solar powered.  He is a little low on sun.

No doubt Frankie needed the sun.  I am glad I dragged him out.

 I miss Frankie when it get's cooler. 

I just know I'm gonna do something stupid.

I can feel it in my cold bones. 

I am gonna let Frankie inside. 

I am a sucker for Frankie.


October 24, 2012

UFO Sighting

The video of Frankie, aka Unidenfied Frankie Object aka UFO was picked by by Right This Minute TV.

Viral? Maybe!

Click to view Right This Minute clip "Time to Dress Up Your Pets"


The full video of UFO:
Click to view UFO in action

October 22, 2012


An Unidentified Frankie Object.....aka Frankie the sulcata tortoise.

I wasn't even sure the costume was going to look okay.  It looks really stupid....until the lights switch on.  With those lights the costume is awesome.

We took UFO to PetSmart for it's Halloween Costume Contest.  UFO didn't get 3rd....or 2nd....or 1st.  UFO beat by Bumblebee dog.  What can we say?  It's a dog's world.

The dog world is about to be invaded.

UFO looking for a little fuel in the form of treats.

UFO flanked by mom.

Submarine friend licks the UFO to death.

UFO caught on film
The UFO needs to be seen in action. (Click on links below) 

Next week:  UFO invades Petco.  They better have carrots.


UFO costume appears on Right This Minute TV!  

 click to view video clip "Time To Dress Your Pets"

Special thanks to 
Greg Christenson, master technician
Greta Maloney, assistant costume construction

October 12, 2012

We Need A Bigger Boat

It is very true that sulcata tortoises don't stay in their first homes for long. Even before we got Frankie, I knew that 4 out of 5 suclata will be turned over to a rescue group, abandoned or just taken to a remote area and set loose.

Greg and I put a lot of thought into Frankie before we got him.  We got the facts.  We made the commitment.  We prepared ourselves to anticipate every pound. 

As Frankie enters into his "Big Sulcata" phase, I remain aghast that what we thought to anticipate is so very unexpected.

The Year of the Ram continues.

I often sit for hours at a time in front of my computer.  And that occupied computer space looks out a large double window with an awesome view of our back yard and Frankie's domain.  I planned it that way.

So I am sitting at my computer answering e-mails and balancing the check book and I hear Slam, Slam, Slam.   It's becoming all too familiar.  It's Frankie.  He is ramming.  Again.

Frankie has torn up an innocent white pipe that rans from under his cave by ramming it over and over.  I removed the white pipe.  So Frankie began ramming the less than an inch pipe that sticks out from behind his cave.

The tiny bit of pipe is way above his head but it matters not.  Frankie forces his shell up the side of the house so he can ram the pipe end.  The pipe end is shredded.

So I decide that if the pipe is to ever be useful again I needed to need to put something in front of the pipe end so Frankie can't see it.

Frankie just rammed the boards aside till he got to the pipe.

So I put his Dogloo in front of the pipe.

So Frankie rams his Dogloo.  Over and over again.  And one more time for good measure.

I placed a lawn chair up against the Dogloo to block Frankie from ramming the Dogloo.

The chair no longer functions as a chair because Frankie rammed it to pieces.  Pieces of chair get stuck on Frankie's shell so he triumphantly drags chair pieces all over the yard.

Then he goes back and rams the Dogloo.

I thought he liked the Dogloo?

I watch Frankie hour after hour having the time of his life ramming the Dogloo.

What am I going to do?

I think this is one of the days when the owner of a large sulcata decides that one too many pieces of lawn furniture has been destroyed by said large sulcata and something has to be done.

I made a commitment.

Where would one pick up one of those One Man Football sleds?

September 26, 2012

Frankie Boost

I am really fed up with the world....really, really fed up.  My tolerance meter is busted, I've lost all patience with people, I am sad, unhappy and thinking another 20 years like this makes me want to scream.

Who doesn't feel like this every now and then.

I need a re-boost.

I head outside to spend some quality time with Frankie.

Frankie is already inside his cave for the night but since it's not even 5:00 pm I take the chance my friend is still awake.

I lean over and pull back the plastic strips that cover his door keeping drafts and rain out of the cave.

No sooner than I peak inside that I see Frankie get right up and head right out the door to see me.

My blood pressure just drops like a 50 pound weight tossed off  a tall building.

Frankie is just ecstatic to see me.  I head up to the central part of his yard where recent lawn mowing has trimmed it down to a nice soft coosh of  green softness.  I sit and watch Frankie walk directly to me.  It's a visit of buddies.

Frankie gets up to my tennis shoes.  A quick whiff confirms it's me and he settles right next to me for a firm shell rubbing. 

Best friends.
Satisfied from a thorough shell buffing, Frankie strolls past me and then turns around and walks straight back to me.  I know what this is about. He is coming back for a second round of shell rubs but this time he wants equal time for the other side of his shell.

What's sup?

He repeats the drive-by shell rubbing all the way past my feet, turns around coming back for more.  This time Frankie adds a little grazing as he receives a third round of shell rubbing.

Satisfied that I've done a good job, I sit up on my knees and walk (on hands and knees) beside him as Frankie grazes a few bites of grass.

A little walk together.
Frankie and I continue our side by side stroll around the yard.  If I see a particularly nice patch of grass I pat the area with my hand and Frankie obligingly grazes that bunch of Leann-selected greenery.

This goes on until a very rude fence stops our forward progress to greener grass.  I stand up and ask Frankie if he wants to walk around with me.  Frankie could well just have been a dog as he quickly turns around and joins me at my heals to walk back across the lawn.

When we reach the other side of the yard we both sit again.  I oblige him with another shell rub.  We sit just contemplating a world that feels a little less hostile and a whole lot more quiet.

After many, many moments of peace sitting next to Frankie who has brought my world back to a  manageable, happy place I ask him if he is ready to go in.

I am absolutely certain that Frankie has not learned a lick of English but he responds to my question by turning about and walking down the hill and straight to his cave.  Frankie pushes past the plastic strips covering his door and into the recesses of a hay covered bed. 

I watch as Frankie disappears for his beauty rest.

Rejuvenated and relaxed, I head back into the house with my patience, love and tolerance levels filled to the brim ready to be contributing part of my family and friends again.

Frankie is worth his weight in gold.


Dedicated to Michelle Renea Wales who knows exactly what I mean.

September 14, 2012

How to be a Healthy Turtle (Without Even Trying)

Frankie went to see Dr. Atlas for his annual veterinarian check-up.

There really wasn't much to it. 

Clean from the day's previous bath and well rested following fourteen hours of sleep, Frankie was swept into the car before he got a good bask or even a decent yawn.

Never take Frankie anywhere and expect him to behave if he's basked to toasty hot.

Frankie behaved himself in the car.  There was a little rumbling from the back seat but well within reason.  Frankie walked directly into the office with little fuss.  There was a short wait in the front waiting area and Frankie acquainted himself with the whole area by walking the entire space.

Frankie knows what a door looks like even when it's closed.  At each door Frankie would pause as if to see if it would magically open.  Eventually one opened for him and he proceeded to the examination room. 

The examination room is an awfully small space for at large Frankie. Greg and I moved all chairs and stools to the center so Frankie could pace along the wall.

He was like a robot sweeper or Roomba.

Frankie would walk along the perimeter of the room until he bumped into a wall.  He then manuever himself around the corner and then walk along the next wall until he got to the corner where he would again bump bump bump until he was sure the wall was not going to move out of the way.  Again he would manuver the corner and proceed along each wall and the entire room perimeter...about 60 times.

Greg and I stayed in the center of the room watching Frankie pace around all four walls.  Occasionally we would put a chair against the wall.  Frankie would either walk under it or drag it around with him.

Luckily, the Vet-tech came and Frankie got to walk the back area of the office so he could weigh in on the Big Animal Scale.

  He last weighed in at about 70 pounds.  I was betting he weighed about 100 pounds.  I was wrong.

Weigh in.
Frankie weighed in at 84 pounds.  I am thankful for the 16 pounds less than I expected.  It's still 84 pounds too much.  I can't pick him up.

We returned to the examination room to wait for Dr. Atlas.  Frankie did another 20 laps around the room.

Then Dr. Atlas came in.

Frankie on the table.  Dr. Atlas checking Frankie over.

Eye see you!
Any nasal discharge? No.  Eats well.  Poops well.  Drinks lots of water.  Lives outside.  Walks alot.  Sleeps.  Basks.  Grazes in a large yard.  Diet is 99% grazed grass and weeds, 1% vegetable treats.  No fruits.

Let's do a fecal check.  Did we bring a fresh poop?  No?  Okay.  Let's take a direct sample.

Good luck with that.

Very undignified.
So Frankie can retain some sense of dignity, we decided to forgo details or close up photographs.  

Fecal float revels Frankie has been a very good turtle.

Results of the visit, examination, fecal check:  Frankie good to go for another year.

"What ever you're doing works.  Stay with the same formula," says Dr. Atlas, "Frankie is one healthy tortoise."

Whooo hoooo!

What can I say?  Frankie loves to see Dr. Atlas and the whole staff at Riverview Animal Clinic.  They love to see him.  They even put him on their Facebook page!

When you're a healthy tortoise a trip to the veterinarian is a great adventure.

See you all next year!

September 12, 2012

Here Comes The Sun

Fall signals a whole new routine for Frankie.  Gone are the long hot hours of harsh sunlight, hiding from the glaring sun and the heat.  In the fall, Frankie changes from The Hider to The Seeker.  

The September sun is lower in sky and no longer shines direct on Frankie's cave.  Nights are cooler so Frankie sleeps deeper inside.  It's a balmy 70º range all night in the cave which is more than comfortable for him.

When morning comes Frankie must exit the cave for more warmth.  He wants his shell temperature to rise up to the high 80's.  That will take some sun. Frankie seeks a spot in the middle of the yard.

Fall also brings more cloud coverage.  One moment there is sun and the next POOF and it's gone.  The Seeker needs patience to catch the sun. 

Waiting for the Sun

Oops!  Got caught yawing.

Fell asleep.

There's the Sun!

September 4, 2012

Like the First Morning (Spring Pace)

Frankie wakes.

Frankie wakes not because sun streams into his eyes.  No sound has roused him from his slumber.  Frankie wakes because he's had fourteen full sleeping hours to restore his beauty. It's just time to wake up.

He doesn't stir.  Eyes still closed, his first waking-world swirls through his nose.  He inhales nose-flavored air mixed with hay and a dash of tortoise poop.  The scent is not's familiar and comforting, like an old country horse barn, the warm scent of home.

Frankie is comfortable in his snugly place.  The warm cave temperature mixed with humidity soothes his scales just as water soothes a fish.

Frankie's legs are close to his shell like a hug, his head rests on a slightly extended front foot.  Frankie stretches the leg from under his chin in an quiet under-breath yawn and stretch.

His awareness grows as he feels his bigness in a warm, shadowy, moist and snug space:  it's everything that makes his cave Home Sweet Home.  

His eyes are still closed yet in his waking state pupils-under-cover sense light slipping in from the front cave entrance, defusing around the corner and into the spot Frankie rests.  The daylight gently knock-knock-knocks on Frankie's translucent pink eye lids.

Frankie lifts his head for a first full taste of the morning.  

Eyes open to the inviting light confirming to Frankie it's time for a bigger body stretch accompanied by a wide open mouth yawn.  Frankie's body yearns to move so he does a compact feet tucked under shuffle-about turning away from the corner and toward the cave opening. 

The busy sounds of the early bird streams into the front entrance enticing Frankie to boldly lift up and stomp resoundingly to the cave's entrance.

Frankie looks out from his threshold to see all that the day offers.

This morning has been the very best favorite part of Frankie's day.

Frankie hasn't even stepped outside yet.

It's gonna be an adventure!

Written for and dedicated to Spring Pace who died August 25, 2012.    Spring slipped off the tight shoes of a human life and returned to the universe sparking bits of star dust.

August 20, 2012

Enemy of the State

For several months now Frankie has been trying to dig under his enclosure....or so I thought.  Evidence of this is displaced dirt and a displaced white drain pipe.

This white drain pipe goes under Frankie's enclosure to a French drain on the higher side of his cave and it keeps rain from building up and seeping into his front door.

Regardless of the French drain, sometimes it rains so hard and so long that water rushes past the French drain and into the front of Frankie's enclsoure.

The white drain pipe has gone unnoticed and untouched by Frankie until just recently.
Unnoticed, a drain stands silent.
 Lately I can hear Frankie messing with the area by the drain and now I find that it is necessary to run down and tell Frankie to "Stop digging!"

He tore off the longer part of the white pipe and after numerous times replaceing it only to have him dig it back up I simply removed the pipe and only put in on when it's goning to rain.

And since this is day two of occasionally raining, yesterday I put the while pipe back so it could do it's job.

Until about an hour ago.

Bang.  Boom, Bang.  Crash.

Frankie's digging again and I head outside to see what's happen.

I arrive to this:

 Frankie has gotten under the white pipe and dislodged it from the buried pipe.

I yell at Frankie. 


And I take a couple more pictures.

Then I think, I'll try the nifty new movie feature on my camera.  While innocently filming my silly tortoise, the reason he is really over in the corner becomes all too apparent.

After my second, "Are you done?" and the filming is complete, Frankie ducks his head down and gives the old while pipe another Frankie lesson.

We are going to have to bury the pipe.

(If you could not see the video, please go to Click to see video on You Tube.  )

August 10, 2012

It took a village

Frankie has been bothering me quite a lot about taking The Big Walk.

Last week Frankie was quite clear when he pushed though the gate and headed down the street by himself that it was quite time for A Big Walk.  Lucky for me Camden, a very alert young neighbor, saw Frankie as he walked alone down my driveway and knew he shouldn't be walking without clear permission from mom.

Young Camden came up to my door and pointed out that Frankie was on the march down the street.  It's a big hint.

Once I went to a water park and went in to see the killer whale show.  I was in tears during the show and not because I enjoyed the showmanship displayed in the show.  I was heavy hearted watching a magnificent beast doing parlor tricks.  I just hated it.

But then the whale decided he didn't want to play anymore.  After ten minutes of trying to get the whale to obey, the trainers announced that the show was cancelled.  When a 10,000 pound killer whale doesn't want to play, you can't make him play.

When a 100 pound sulcata tortoise named Frankie wants to take a walk, it's time to take him on a walk.

I've not quite recovered from my chest cold.  I can't lift Frankie anymore.  I needed some help.

I called Greta who is a friend with a box turtle who wants to go on a Big Walk sometime.  Greta is finishing dinner but says that she will catch up with Frankie and me. 

Next I ask my nephew Ryan to take the walk with Frankie and me.  My nephew has never been on a Big Walk and doesn't know what to expect but I tell him that we can manage.  My sister, Kelly, decides she will come along.

To the yard to start the walk!  Frankie doesn't need to be told twice and he heads to the gate at a fast trot and heads down the drive way with Ryan, Kelly and me in tow.

Two houses down and our young friend, Camden, peeks out his front door.  "Frankie!  Where you taking, Frankie?"

"Frankie is going on a walk around the block.  Would you like to join us?"  Camden disappears into his house to gain parental permission.  He reappears just as Frankie walks past his house.

Frankie's entourage has grown to to four persons.

At the bottom of the street a new neighbor who has never met Frankie before stand astonished in their yard.  The family of four joins us for half a block as they take photos and ask a dozen questions.

Our little group moves on and a couple of houses later Greta catches up with us. 

The navigation of Frankie gets easier as he is surrounded by Ryan, Camden, Kelly, Greta and me.  It's like a fully loaded river barage guided through the water by hugging tug boats.

Around the bend and up the hill, we turn on the next street greeted by four elementary age kids who line up at the edge of their yard, jaws wide open.  One of the kids whispers to the others, "Tortuga".  The rest of the kidos still don't move. 

I interpret their reluctance to move a muscle at the sign of the large tortoise, "This is Frankie.  He is not a snapping turtle, he is a tortoise.  He doesn't bite.  He is a vegetarian.  It doesn't eat children."  The children break out in smiles. 

Frankie moves on down the hill carefully supervised by Ryan who looks for cars, Greta and I who clear tempting food looking items from the path, Camden who is learning all the answers to the top ten Frankie questions, and at the perfect pace for a physically challenged sister who can only walk  slow.

Around to the next busy street a dozen cars pass safely by...most which slowed to a snails pace so to gape at the large turtle accompanied by near a half dozen walkers.

When we get near the end of the walk at the bottom of a very steep hill, the power of the group comes into play.  Sulcata love to walk but they really like to walk in more or less a straight line.  Corners and turns are very challenging for an animal who fixes direction on a single horizon spot.

As Frankie fonders and looses his forward direction, his entourage gathers closer and surrounds him on all sides.  Frankie is moving in a pack and walks more confidently up the long hill.

Just as we get to the top of the hill Frankie recognizes his house and picks up the pace.  We all see Greg sitting on the front porch with Newt the cat anticipating our return.

At the top of the hill one more neighbor joins the final steps.  Our neighbor told his fellow workers that a huge turtle walks around his block and no one believe him.  He takes a couple dozen photos with his camera to prove Frankie exists as he walks past his house and in front of home sweet home.  

Greg and Newt walk to the driveway to greet the neighborhood travelers.  Effortlessly Frankie walks up the driveway and into the back yard.

Frankie's little group grew to a final walking number of six:  Frankie, me with Ryan and Kelly, and soon  joined by neighbors Camden and Greta.

This walk was one of the easiest walks ever with Frankie.  I didn't have to pick him up or fuss along the way.  The number of walkers made the Big Walk and Easy Walk.

Sometimes it takes a village.

July 31, 2012

Year of the Ram

What's bugging Frankie?  Really?  What is up with him?

Maybe it's the heat?  He can't decide if he wants to sleep outside under a tree or under a bush, on the side of the yard, in his cave or half in his cave and half out his cave.  This evening he had his front end hanging out of his cave with his front feed dangling in mid air.

Looks peaceful enough.

He wasn't that way all day.

I heard a huge thump this afternoon.  Ran outside to find Frankie upside down under the porch.

What the...?

This was the second time this week.  I just can't have Frankie turning himself upside down all the time.

Maybe he was after the umbrilla stand that's sitting on top of the cinder block.
I took the umbrilla stand off off cinder block and put it on the ground.

Frankie promptly rammed the umbrilla stand four times.  Then Frankie mounted the umbrilla stand and..well....he humped it.

After Frankie had his way with the umbrella stand he headed out from under the patio.  On his way out he came upon the lawn chair innocently sitting adjacent to the patio.  It's my nice green patio chair that I sit on when I am visiting Frankie.

Lucky for me I am not sitting in my lawn chair.

For some reason that the lawn chair offended Frankie and he decided that it must be rammed.  And so the lawn chair was laid over on it's side by the 100 pound Frankie sulcata.  Maybe it just looks better that way.

Frankie then proceeded to check if the yard gate was open.  He knows the gate swings open for lawnmowers and me and various other items.  Frankie knows that sometimes the gate opens for him. The gate is not open.  I have no intention of opening the gate.

Frankie decided to ram the gate open.  At 100 pounds, a sulcata can open a gate.

A few days ago, I heard a knock on my front door.  It was one of the kids down the street.  He wanted me to know that Frankie was taking a walk, again, alone.

On Wednesday, August 1st, Frankie will wake up and he will be 11 years old.

And a solid 100 pounds of solid sulcata ramming power.

I've placed a wood fence in front of the gate.  And a lock.  Hopefully it will hold.

I am going to have to disagree with the Chinese calendar that says this is the year of the Dragon.

This is Frankie's year of the Ram.

Happy 11th Birthday, Frankie!

July 23, 2012

And then there were a thousand

Just popped in this morning to check Frankie Tortoise Tails and was greeted with 10,005 page views...that would be unique visitors to Frankie Tortoise Tails. 

Frankie's old blog location at, which started in May 2005, hit 5,000 visitors in October 31, 2008.  Still the number ticks forward and today runs past 62,000 hits. 

What that says about Frankie Tortoise Tails?  Due to a huge ego this morning, I don't think I can be objective.  Whooooooo hooooooo!

There has been dry spells with few posts.  Some may even say I hit a low note in my cry-fit over the loss of Frankie's participation over Do Dah Day Pet Parade.  I've been real with myself and my feelings, I've let loose how I feel.  So I did when mom died.  To thine own self be true.  I've been sincere about my joy and love for everything Frankie.

Frankie Tortoise Tails is commercial free and advertisement free with the exception of recommended items at Amazon which to this point no one has bought through me. Isn't it refreshing to go somewhere and not be inundated with commercial, ads, videos, pop-ups, or overlays that show up on your screen/video. 

I don't profit from Frankie.  Never will.  Even if I get off my duff and publish Frankie Tortoise Tails as a book I will not make a fortune.  I have a small personal income that keeps me fed and warm.  I don't need to be rich.  I've been very poor before so I appreciate what I have and share when I can.

My riches are simple:  Greg, our families, geckos, a cat, turtles, a garden, a house that is in a purpetual state of need-to-be-cleaned, a large yard and Frankie.  Frankie is a reward all by himself.

Frankie's birthday is on August 1.  He will be 11 years old, over 100 pounds and a complete back yard terror.  

It's a pleasure to share him with you all. 

July 10, 2012

Too Hot: A Pictorial

OMG It's Too Damn Hot
Searching for green grass that is not there.

Best just to stay indoors.

This looks like a cool corner.

Sitting under the porch.  Mom, spray me with the water hose!

Retreat under a cool bush.

You woke me better have carrots.

Trying to stay cool deep in the cave. Mom has not cleaned up.  Notice the UPS brown paper?

Too hot to sleep inside, too hot to sleep outside.  So I am sleeping half-in, half-out

Tent city got an upgrade this year.  We're color coordinated. 

Crappy pool. 

Why is there never any water?
Sleeping in a pile of leaves......

....dreaming that I am a water turtle.

July 4, 2012

Fight is Proof

Years ago a friend of mine found a large turtle walking up her driveway. My friend was not a turtle person so she called me and asked what to do.

I advised her to put it in a secure place and I would come out and ID it for her. It was a very large adult sulcata tortoise.

We took pictures and began to look for an owner while the tortoise was kept in a temporary pen.

I posted "Found Tortoise" notices in the area.

After a couple of weeks there was no response to the missing tortoise posters.  I contacted a turtle rescue group to get the sulcata placed in a suitable home.

Week three later, after the sulcata was placed in a new home, a call was made from a person claiming the tortoise was his.

The guy said the tortoise pushed under his chain link fence.

I asked him to describe the sulcata: coloring, size, unique markings, sex.

Answer: big, brown spur thigh tortoise. He thought it was a a boy (right). He could not describe any unique features.

Just to be sure, I asked him to produce any photos of the tortoise as proof. He said he had no photos of his sulcata. I said I did not believe him to be the owner. He was pissed and hung up on me.

This guy who claimed to have owed this suclata for over ten years (saying he kept the giant it in a chain link fence) yet never took one single photo of his sulcata, wasn't sure if it was male or female, could not remember the significant damage to a part of the shell, did not recall that it had a very unique color variation (I called the sulcata Goldie), or mentioned that this particular sulcata had a particular behavior that I would say is very endearing.

I never heard from the guy after that phone conversation.

I believe he was not the owner. Why?  He couldn't describe the sulcata very well.  He did not have one single photo of his dear tortoise (nearly unbelievable!).  But what really struck me about this guy is he did not fight me to get the sulcata back.

I would have put up a major fight if that had been Frankie.  I would have moved the Chahaba River and dug a canal to the Gulf with my bear hands to get Frankie back.

Even after all these years I've kept my ears open for anyone who talks about missing a very unique sulcata.

Goldie now lives in a new home in Alabama.

It's a good lesson for us. Owners can prove ownership one way or the other but most of all it's true that an owner will fight for their baby.

June 20, 2012

UPS Man Cometh

Today I got a package delivered by good-ole UPS.  I was expecting this package.  I didn't expect that the box it came in would be HUGE .

Someone decided a roll of outdoor fabric needed something extra special to help keep it safe on it's journey to my house. The small roll of outdoor fabric was cushioned with yards and yards of brown know that UPS brown paper wrap?

I have this small roll of outdoor fabric, a huge box (that is quickly claimed by Newt the cat) and yards and yards of UPS brown paper.

Not wanting to waste all the UPS brown paper, I decided to take it out to Frankie's cave to use it as bedding.  The UPS brown paper tears easily, it doesn't cause me to break out in hives like hay and straw, and after Frankie poops all over it the UPS brown paper can be composed.

So I went outside with the huge armful of UPS brown paper and I set it down by Frankie's cave. 

Frankie saw me come down the stairs so obviously (to him) I must have a treat and he wasn't about to be late for a treat.  Frankie's speedy sulcata shuffle-trot brought him to my side in an instant so he could claim his deserved treat.

Only I don't have a treat.

My purpose was just to get the paper into Frankie's cave and there were yards and yards of it so I had no available hand to bring him a treat too.  He was disappointed but quickly became distracted by the pile of crumpled UPS brown paper sitting on the ground which I was planning on tearing up from one very long piece of paper to lots of shredded paper.

Frankie has seen this kind of paper before.  He has slept many delightful nights snuggled in UPS brown paper. 

But this is Frankie's backyard. 

Frankie can decide if something is allowed, or if it must be given the "Frankie rules". 

The pile of UPS brown paper was going to get the Frankie Rules.

Frankie first decided that the pile of paper needed to be rammed.

Set squarely up against the pile of paper and his head pulled back into his shell, Frankie did a complete forward shell ram. Frankie dove deep into the pile of paper with such a force that had that paper had bones they would have all been broken.

The paper played smart and just laid there and accepted it's doom.

Frankie then decided that the UPS brown paper must then be trampled...several times.

All the while I am tearing up the paper into smaller sheets which are better sized for burrowing.

When Frankie was finished tramping and tromping all over the UPS brown paper he went about rewarding his excellent demonstration of how-it-is-in-Frankie's-yard by grazing on some local green grass.

Ya' gotta smile.

[This is dedicated to Frankie's dear friend, Spring Pace]

June 4, 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Devoured

Greg and I were about to run errands so I thought I would set aside my shopping list to check on Frankie before we left.

I got outside and noticed that Frankie had finely gotten up out of his cave and had been in his pool.  Evidence of the pool visit was three poops now swimming in the kiddy pool water.

Good Frankie...I need poops for my Miracle Frankie Poo Garden.

So where is Frankie?

I take a walk around peeking under the patio even though I don't expect him there on such a warm and overcast day.  I proceed to the West side of the yard.  No Frankie.  I head up o the top of the yard and the wooded area.  No Frankie.

Maybe he is by the back 40 fence.  I walk into the wooded area and then walk the whole back fence.  There are trimmings still on the ground from my earlier trip to the back for wild berries.  Onward I go toward the East side of the fence and Frankie's favorite pile-o-leaves.  No Frankie.  I proceed down the fence into the open area of the yard.  No Frankie.

Hmmm.  Maybe I overlooked him.  Back to the kiddy pool to check the cave.

Holy shells!  The gate is open.  My heart drops.  How long has Frankie been out?  How far down the street could he walked?

I run through the gate.

To my great relief I spy a large Frankie shell butt on the drive.  GOOD Frankie!  He hasn't gone far.

Oh, shells and turtle tails!  Frankie is in the miracle garden and he is grazing!

BAD Frankie!

I rush to him to find he is happily munching on pumpkin leaves.

At least hasn't started eating the pumpkins yet!

I have to get the BAD Frankie outta the garden and back into his yard.

I'm not picking him up!  I'm just getting over my last back pain from last week.

Luckily, my car is ten feet from Frankie and I and I know I have a Frankie lifting strap inside.

Eight seconds later and I have the strap over him before he can finish off another pumpkin leaf.

"Help! Greg!"  Will Greg hear me?  This will be less painful for me if Greg could help get Frankie back into the yard.

Using the Frankie lifting strap I spin Frankie around off the pumpkin leaves.

Frankie starts moving.  Oh, no!  The zucchini squash, tomatoes, peas and cucumbers!  What a huge disaster if Frankie grazes he through the garden on his way back to his yard.

Surprisingly,  Frankie walks briskly toward the gate.

I stand for there for several seconds in utter amazement.

Okay, I stood there for several more seconds because I was completely astonished.

Frankie walked past the garden full of tomatoes and didn't attempt to eat a single one.

I was prepared to sacrifice my back, hands, arms and all to keep him from those home grown treasures.

Frankie keeps walking toward his yard not stopping at all.

I stood for a few more moments with my jaw wide open.

Good Frankie.  GOOD Frankie.

As Frankie ambles back into his yard without me pushing, lifting or crying, not a muscle strained in my back, only one little turn with a strap, and he looks happy to oblige me by returning to the yard all by himself.

I look back at the garden.  I-am-huge-mister-Frankie could have devoured three months of home grown yummy vegetables in ten minutes, yet only ate five pumpkin leaves. 

GOOD Frankie.

The garden goes UN-devoured.

Someone pinch me.  I must be sleeping.

What could possibly possess Frankie to be so good?

June 1, 2012

What a Pain in the Back

That is it.  I am never going to pick Frankie up again.

Yes, I should have tried giving up picking Frankie when he was 45 pounds but instead I just started to get clever and invent ways to pick him up.

This morning I woke up with such a back ache that I would gladly have traded it in for a migraine headache.  Forget snuggling with hubby.  My back was so wrenched that I didn't even want to move so my back would be snuggled against Greg-the-living-heating-pad.  Oh I love to have my back against his toasty body.

I just couldn't move.  I grumbled.  "Don't touch me!  My back is in so much pain!"

Curses that my beloved sulcata is now tipping the scales near 100 pounds.

I ran into Dr Atlas, Frankie's veterinarian, last week.

"When is Frankie coming in for his yearly check-up"  (his office loves Frankie)

"Well, Dr. Atlas," I returned.  "As soon as I rent a Knuckle Boom Truck."

Go look it up, Knuckle Boom Truck. Articulating Crane. If you own a small sulcata you will want to start saving your $$ now.

Frankie's next trip to the veterinarian will involve a minimum of two people.  Two to load him into my Toyota Prius, two to unload him at the vet's office and the same two person to repeat this procedure in reverse.

Yea, amazingly, Frankie still fits into the Toyota Prius.

If he can get lifted into it.

A ramp.  Sure.  Got an hour to wait for Frankie to do a ramp.  Bring lots of carrots and that time could be reduced to a mere 30 minutes.

All I did yesterday was move him a little.  Off my toe.  When he nearly ran me down for a carrot.

If I had known then that the pain in my toe was trivial compared to the pain in my back today I probably would have ignored him.

Or thrown a carrot.

Always bring a spare carrot.

Leann's 2012 Christmas Wish List

May 23, 2012

Yard Rules By The Pound

Frankie's yard needed mowing this morning.  I hoped the whole event would go by without Frankie noticing but as I pushed the lawn mower into his yard Frankie was already sitting in his morning basking spot.

He sees the lawnmower.  As the lawn mower got closer to his favorite basking spot Frankie slowly pulled his head back under his shell without the slightest "hisssss."   He never took his eyes off the slowly moving metal object.

Of note is Frankie and the lawnmower are evenly matched in size and weight.

The lawn mower rolls slowly by Frankie.  Frankie’s head is nearly tucked under his shell yet Frankie's stretched out feet don't move.  Frankie is "sitting" his ground in the famous (yet headless) "Superman pose." 
Some precaution is exercised with the head tuck.  Or is it?

The mixed message doesn't escape me. Frankie's not afraid.  Frankie could pounce.  That head-pulled-in-the-shell is a great ramming pre-pose.

Frankie pulls his back feet straight under his shell.  Oh, shells and tails.  Precautions look like preparations for a full out strike.

I proceed cautiously and choose to push the lawn mower twenty feet farther away before I start it.  At the right spot I move to the mower's side to activate the choke.  I glance over to where Frankie is sitting.

Frankie's head is out full.  One false move and Frankie will set the Frankie Yard Rules in motion.

I pull the start cord.  The lawnmower comes to life.  Frankie's state of alert is unchanged. I gently squeeze the throttle and the lawnmower creeps forward.

Frankie lowers his head just a bit:  "I'm watching you."

I am going to start at the far end of the lawn....just in case.

The backyard is a 20-minute-lawn.  There is a big grassy clearing with a maple tree, two solar panels, a weather station tower, a Golden Rain Tree, Frankie's kiddy pool, and an on-the-ground-bird-bath.  The other half of the yard is full of trees and bushes so that the only required mowing is around the sides.

The yard is not flat.  It's like one big gentle slope. Luckily the lawnmower is self-propelled so I don't kill myself getting it up the slope.  The slope is steep enough that the lawnmower runs fast dragging me on the way downhill.

Maybe the reason that Frankie tolerates the lawnmower moving from left to right over and over is its funny watching mom get dragged by the mower as it speeds down the slope.

Not once does Frankie cease watching the lawnmower.  He is allowing the lawn mower to mow.

Once finished I drag out the hose and wash the lawnmower.  Frankie watches.

I push the lawnmower out of the yard and Frankie finely turns his head the opposite way to resume basking.  I lock the gate and return the lawnmower to the garage.

The job is done.  The lawn is mowed.  The lawnmower lives another day.

One of these pounds Frankie isn't going to let the lawnmower be.

I can feel it in my bones.

There will be a reckoning.