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



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.