Frankie Tortoise Tales Frankie Tortoise Tails sulcata care tortoise sulcata husbandry Frankie Tortoise Tails Frankie Tortoise Tails: 2015



November 23, 2015

First Cold Night

It was the first really, really cold night in Mobile this season.  There was no choice than to bring Frankie inside.

Pretty much Frankie has torn up and outgrown his current outdoor habitat.  He couldn't turn around inside anymore so I modified his inside box so he would fit.  Then he tore out the doors so I had to build a new front.
New cover for the Frankie Cave
Adding an oil heater made Frankie's cave good to 40º F and he stayed outside later this year than ever before but when temperatures headed to the 30's Frankie had to come in for the night.

I don't like it.

Sulcata tortoises who live primarily outdoors, where they should be, don't like coming indoors except for some exploration and furniture moving.  He spent the next morning in the living room waiting for the door to open.

Occasionally I would open the door and Frankie would decide if it was warm enough to go outside.  By noon Frankie headed outside but reluctantly came back inside house about two o'clock.  Frankie was greeted by Pepper, our new kitten, who had questions about the large boulder that farted.

Explain this!

There is hope for Frankie.  We are building a new outdoor enclosure for him.  We are very excited but it's not ready yet.  There is nothing like a 100 pound farting, pooping, sock eating, furniture moving, wall gouging, moving bolder in the house to motive two care takers to get the new outdoor habitat ready.

Frankie got a sneak peek last week inside the his new habitat....

I'm excited because there is room for me to sit with a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the morning with Frankie.  I was teasing Greg about adding WIFI and he said, "It's got WIFI.  We can monitor temperatures and watch Frankie on camera."  Alright! Frankie and I can watch The Walking Dead on my computer!

Looking forward to showing everyone Frankie's new habitat almost as much as Frankie is to move back outside.  Until then...

(In Memory of Bob, Maggie's beloved sulcata who brought us all so much joy. Thank you for sharing Bob with us all.) 

September 23, 2015

Coming of Age (Dear Waffles...)

Waffles, you're near your third year and thus far think yourself a mere tot of a tortoise.  Behold, young tortoise, this is the greatest time of your life:  you are discovering who you really are.  I am here to walk you through this special time as you come full into being one of the greatest of all beasts:  the male sulcata.  

The male sulcata, in all his glory, stands in a state of sublime glory, a marvel to behold, and a beast to revere.  Beware to those who would not tremble in our glory for they will see their fences fall.  

Really, when you get big you can tear down their fences.

But I digress from this awesome passing of wisdom from one sulcata male to another.  Until now you have kept secret your great glory of manhood.  You need no longer conceal your true self.  You have brought forth that which was hidden, that which now ever forth may be seen and exalted, naught to be hidden again.

Flash!  The alien is loose!

But first I must warn of a mysterious human behavior that perplex those male sulcata that have tread before you.  Yay, though we celebrate a tortoise’s first issue of its glorious phallus beware of the creepy human exploitation of our sacred male symbol.

Cameras are suddenly everywhere!

Humans will exploit your sacred rites to bring forth and exercise your greatness: to slosh joyously in the clean wet water, to unabashedly explore your untested appendage.  Yay, humans will stalk you as you perfect its methods and practice its sublime techniques.

You get no privacy, ever, ever again.

Your instinctive drive to hump all spherical objects and cry loudly your great conquests brings humans endless hours of shameful voyeurism.   Appallingly, your human will share a parade of images on Facebook, Twitter, and other human social media, your feats of manliness.  

For as long as male sulcata can remember humanoids bringing forth offerings of carrots, hay and hibiscus have we known about this exploitative human indecency.   We are aware of their shame.  There seems no end of our exposure so long as we crave their carrots.  

So fear not your sacred duties to breed those inanimate objects, it is our nature so never be ashamed by the humans senseless fascination of our manliness.   

Go forth, young Waffles and hump.  

Welcome, young sulcata male. Welcome.

P.S.  Here are a few of my favorites.  Feel free to check out the numerous videos of me on YouTube practicing with these beauties. Nope, mom has no shame.

September 10, 2015

Yard Toys

Nothing is more pitiful than a bored sulcata.  Nothing is more scary than Frankie looking for something to ram.

There are things I don't want Frankie to ram.  I am top of that list.  The young Frankie would occasionally bump into me.  Bumping is a very close behavior and ramming is just a few pounds and a much bigger bruise away.

Frankie amuses himself by a lot of walking but he just gets it into his head to do something more.  Last night, before tucking himself in for the night, he thought it would be fun to push his dogloo into a tree.

Dogloo wasn't doing anything at all, not calling attention to itself, and it certainly didn't cause Frankie to stub his toe or any such indignity.  It just existed in Frankie yard and thus a potential for his special kind of suclata attention.

Last week, Annette, a local tortoise friend who owns a one-pound Frankie-wanna be beast, came to pick up some supplies for "Foots" and got to meet Frankie for the first time.  I forget that possibly I should warn people that Frankie can get enthusiastic about visitors.

At this first meeting, Annette saw a very big, large, hundred pound boulder moving at a very crisp pace directly at her, heads up, and very animated.

Frankie saw a potential carrot giver.

Brave Annette did not want to back down because after all this is just a tortoise.  What could a tortoise possibly do?  Right?  Bruise the shins?  Break her legs?  Knock her down and trample her like a shoe box?

I told Annette to stand her ground that Frankie was just happy to see her.  She chose to move closer to me and let me handle the we-move-much-faster-than-anyone-expects beast.

He just wanted a carrot.

So, no, Frankie is not allowed to ram people and so far he has not hurt anyone...besides me.  I remain an ever vigilant observer of Sulcata Behavior.

Give Frankie toys.  Objects to ram.  Dogloo will do.  Buckets are perfect.

Bucket provides hours of amusement for Frankie.  Even when the bucket gets the upper hand.

Lesson:  Sulcata tortoises move faster than you think.

August 20, 2015

Bucket Buddies

It's ten 'o'clock in the morning, I'm sitting on the couch doing some writing and Frankie is at the backdoor his nose pushed into the glass and his eyes peering into the window wondering when I am going to open the door because it's 84º F and he is getting a little warm.

Warm, Frankie, not hot.  It's not hot until after noon.  Go find some shade!

We've spent quite a bit of quality time together over the last month since his injury.  He's come to expect my attention a bit more than usual.

Since his foot injury early July, and hot or not, I've been his observant companion and caretaker watching his ever move and spending more time with him than almost ever before.

How much time?  Besides the five hour drive to Birmingham and the five hour drive back to Mobile, I follow him whenever he is outside guarding him from further injury.  Every evening I've escort him into the house to sleep, and every morning walk him back outside.

Without fail, I sneak into his sleeping area up to a dozen times each night to see if he is okay and to see how cute he looks when he is sleeping.  I've also discovered that indeed sulcata tortoise sleep restlessly because, due to insomnia, I often sleep in the guest room which is less than two feet from where Frankie sleeps when inside.  I get jump-bolted woken each time he moves around at night.

Last night I woke to what sounded like raccoons tearing up the front porch.  Still in a near-sleep state and not fully aware that I was only dressed only in my over-sized t-shirt (period!), I opened the front door and found no disturbance outside.  The sound instead was Frankie turning around in his newspapers and hay.

Once again I risk indecent exposure to unsuspecting neighbors.  Thanks, Frankie.

I do adore my time with Frankie and he is a good buddy, but I feel like the whole last six weeks were all about Frankie rather than the hubby, the house, my writing, the geckos or even the cat.  It certainly hasn't been about keeping up with needed showers after outdoor time with Frankie in near 100 degree temperatures.

It's nearly noon and this blog has taken HOURS to write because I've been back and forth outside watching after Frankie.

Around two o'clock, Frankie was getting a bit hot so I turned his mister on to cool him off.  The mister felt so good that I sat under the shade with Frankie sitting under my feet.  We lounged around like that for a while and contemplated life.

If I didn't love Frankie so much I would have a lot more free time. 

Yeah, maybe.  But then I would have missed this when I went out to check Frankie around 4 o'clock. 

The last trip outside was very worth my time. Priceless.

August 1, 2015

Birthday Boy is Better

Frankie is on the road to recovery.  Strike that.  

Frankie is doing much better.  Strike that.  

Frankie is making it very plain that he is just fine and quite babying him, Mom! 

I think he knows it's his birthday so I will forgive just about anything.

Almost anything. 

Frankie antics in just the last 24 hours.

Climbing into the box turtle habitat.

Scaling the barrier that's supposed to keep him in the safe-for-foot area of the yard.

He climbed over the retaining wall blocks of the the box turtle's outdoor area.  He has never done this before and it's been there all summer.  He seem content to sit there so I left him alone.

20 minutes later I found him digging a hole.  Caught him before he dug deep enough to escape.  Notice that the grass and leaves are completely covered with dirt.

 So, he is fine.  The Brat.

 Happy Birthday, Frankie.  14 years old and 101 pounds big!

July 30, 2015

Birthday Boy!

Happy Birthday, Frankie!

14 years old, 101 pounds

August 1st 2001 - 2015

Creating chaos and love for over a decade.

Comments and birthday wishes welcome!

July 22, 2015

Dr. Super Sleuth and the Case of the Wobbly Frankie

A good veterinarian needs the skills of a super the category of Sherlock Holmes or Poirot....given that most of their patients don't speak.  The super sleuth veterinarian must draw on excellent skills of observation and deductive reasoning to figure out what is wrong with their patient.

Owners need the same super observation and deductive skills.  Regretfully, my skills were slow to notice that something was wrong with Frankie.  In the last few weeks I was slow noticing what was going on and wrongly deduced the situation.  I mistook Frankie's lack of "getting around the yard" to mean "it's to hot to walk around the yard."

Frankie wasn't getting around the yard much and it was defiantly hot outside.  Frankie would find a cool spot in the yard and stick there for most of the day.  That I noticed.

The bigger clue that got me thinking something was wrong was Frankie wobbled when he walked.  Still, I just watched.

It was cooler outside one evening so I took Frankie for a Big Walk.  He walked, slowly, down four houses, sat on the neighbors lawn, and then sat to grazed eating only the the grass that was within "head reach"

The walk back to the house, took an soooo long and Frankie kept stopping to rest.  I started adding up everything I'd seen in the last two weeks and came to one very sure result:  Frankie was having mobility issues.

Frankie's local veterinarian was unable to do an x-ray saying his equipment was not appropriate for large tortoises.  He suggested I find a horse veterinarian to have them do the xray on a portable machine.

The equine veterinarians I called would have this very long pause when I explained that I needed an xray of a 100 pound sulcata tortoise.  Only one would consider doing the x-ray and it would be another week before they could see Frankie.

I had a sense of urgency that Frankie needed to be seen SOON, and I needed a very confident veterinarian could do the job.

So I drove four hours to Birmingham, AL to see the best turtle doctor in Alabama:  Dr. Alvin Atlas.

Yes, I did.  Just Frankie and me, in the car, for four hours.

At the vet's office, they sent staff to help me get Frankie out of the car and into the building.  It took some time to get the limping Frankie inside.  Just walking into the examination room was painful. Unlike his last visit to see Dr. Atlas, Frankie just sat there.

This is far enough.  Not walking another step.
When Dr. Atlas came in to see Frankie all I told him was Frankie was having mobility problems.  Dr. Atlas sat on his stool and he and Frankie just stared at each other.

Dr. Atlas said, "That is unusual."

"You mean Frankie just sitting there?"

Atlas said, "Exactly."  

We discussed that the last time Frankie was there he did endless laps around the examination room the whole time.  Not this time.

Atlas and Frankie stared at each other again.  After a minute or so, Atlas asked his technician to get Frankie's weight and ordered x-rays. Since Frankie was not in a mood to walk a pop up animal stretcher was brought.

Frankie getting a ride.

 Frankie got several xrays.  This is his good foot.

The xray of the other foot showed some oddities around the digits.  Here is what his left foot should look like:
Normal left foot.

How the injured foot looked at the veterinarian's office.

Shows where the digits are separated and the torn scales.

Frankie had stepped on something that forced his third and forth digits apart and tore up the scales in between.  Ouch!

I hadn't even noticed the injury at all.  Dr. Atlas' keen observations discovered the exact spot where Frankie was hurt.

The undignified upside down pose.
Frankie's wound was cleaned and bandaged.  Poor Frankie had to get into the tortoise on back position to get fixed up.  Frankie hates being on his back!

All finished, Frankie was wheeled back to his room to await further instructions. 

Home orders:  clean the wound daily, keep bandage clean and dry, limit Frankie's movements, and give plenty of carrots.   

After we left we stopped by for a rest and gave Frankie a few minutes of grazing.   

Box turtle friend, LD sneaks up behind Frankie. Greta supervises.
Back in the car and four hours later Frankie and I were home in Mobile.

About that nice clean bandage that took Dr. Atlas 20 minutes to put on, Frankie tore it off in the car.  As ordered, I cleaned the wound and put on a new bandage....and then covered it in duct tape.  That bandaged lasted 24 hours.

Frankie is home, recovering.....a very long recovery.  Tortoises are slow to heal and having an injury on a foot is just more complicated.  He is restricted to the back porch and the bathroom.  He wants to walk but it is evident he is hurting.

I am nurse to a grumpy 100 pound sulcata tortoise.  He wants food, NOW!  He wants to walk, but can't get around easy.  It's cold in the house and very hot outside so he can't decide where to hang out.

Really glad I bought that hot steam rug cleaner.  And it does floors without rugs!  Lucky me!

Frankie is ready for get well cards and well wishes, gifts of hay, carrots, and hibiscus flowers.

Will keep everyone updated on his recovery.

June 21, 2015

The Bissell Pro Heat Carpet Cleaner

When the summer heat index reaches 109ºF it prompts me into immediate action to keep Frankie cool.  The temperature is actually only 92º which isn't really all that hot (having spent years in Phoenix, Arizona) but when the humidity is 65% then it's hot.

Frankie doesn't sweat and he is cold-blooded which for anyone deprived of an honest high school biology class that just means that Frankie is the temperature of the area he sits for more than 10 minutes.  For anyone desiring a moment of intellectual stimulation, Frankie is poikilothermic:  an organism that is incapable of thermal homeostasis.  

During these really hot days Frankie, and all other cold blooded animals, will do what is required to be somewhere cooler and more comfortable.  The sulcata tortoise will do this:

Frankie, and other sulcata, will dig a huge tunnel into the cool earth.  A tunnel up to 12 feet long and deep enough that one could convert it into a cistern when not occupied by said large beast.  Never to allow Frankie to dig again I pledged to do one thing:  accommodate Frankie's need for security and comfort in his preferred temperatures zone.

Thus began the ten year quest of the perfect outdoor habitat for Frankie.  We've done well. We've invested much money and effort.  Sometimes it works.  The extreme temperature is most challenging.  Once temperatures begin to rise above 92º F it often required serious Frankie temperature intervention.

In the past Frankie has been happy to sit and soak in water.
For some reason this year Frankie is afraid of his kiddy pool and will not go inside willingly.  I am tired of dragging him inside the pool only to get trampled as he runs back out.

As I do every summer, I try to make cool areas cooler by adding shade cloths.

Yesterday I took a hand towel, seriously dampened it (wet would be a disaster) and put it into the freezer for 30 minutes.  I then took the frozen towel and placed it over Frankie's shell.  About eight minutes later it softens enough to comform to Frankie's shell providing him with coolness for an hour or so.

These simple techniques seem to fall short today.  I checked in with Frankie and he was just looking miserable.  Hot and miserable.  So I do the one thing I shouldn't but those sweet black eyes just looked so miserable.  I let Frankie come inside for a cool down.

Frankie was prompt to come inside and polite enough to just sit in the hall waiting for his shell to absorb that cool 74ºF indoor air.  He got restless about 30 minutes later so I put up a few Frankie barriers so he wouldn't start walking aimlessly, and destructively, through the house. 
It's very important to re-look at the above photo of Frankie relaxing in the living room because five minutes after this photo was taken all hell broke loose.

Frankie first set upon the rug to the top right and proceeded to eat the white fray which I immediately pulled out if his mouth.  While I took the rug and moved it off the floor Frankie decided to test the barrier that was keeping him from going into our bedroom.

The bench looks like an inadequate barrier for Frankie but indeed the barrier held has he plowed into it and jammed into the door frame.  I am hear to say that that barrier was going no where and Frankie was not getting through.

From zero to 100% impossibility scale, zero being easy to overcome and 100 to being impossible, that bench was 100% impossible to push aside.  When faced with an immovable object in the 100% impossible scale Frankie will simply break the object.

I didn't really like that bench anyway. 

The "missing" in this photo was what Frankie did while I tried to un-assemble him from the wreckage of the bench which was to poop on the rug.  What the heck, right?  He pooped and then backed up over the poop so it would really rub into the carpet.  Right?

Frankie, being cooled down to turn completely mischievous, was promptly turned outside where he was cool enough to graze in the hot sun for 30 minutes before his shell temperature reached 85º and so then headed into the shade before he reached the current outdoor ambient temperature of 92ºF which is uncomfortable for any sulcata and for Frankie.

Which goes back to the title of this Frankie Tail and why I drove to Costco and I am now the owner of my very own steam carpet cleaner, my first ever, because the poop of a ten pound sulcata or even the fifty pound sulcata is nothing like the poop of a one hundred five pound sulcata.

June 10, 2015

Frankie's Magic Poop

Frankie has brought together three of my favorite topics:  Frankie (of course), poop and mushrooms.  Patience please if you haven't read all 470 Frankie Tails and don't know that poop is a favorite subject.  Most pet owners are not fond of their pet's poops.  If you own a sulcata tortoise, poop is not an avoided topic.

Compared to any other pet with smelly gut-wretching poop, the poop of a suclata is nice.  It smells much less repulsive, it can be flung great distances (day old sulcata poop), makes the best compost, and as I have found, has other useful purposes. 

As of yesterday, Frankie poop is big.
Yep, biggest poop yet, and there were four of them.  Not dried yet enough to fling.  Think I will wait until this one is really dry before I see how far this one will fly but I bet it makes a "thud" when it hits ground.  This and the other three were scooped with the Purple Pooper Scooper.

A bunch of last week poops were set in a place where rain is washing out all of Frankie's grass.  Again, Frankie poop is useful:  while decaying and providing lots of good compost, poop is holding back rain water.  Ha!  Useful Frankie sulcata poop.

Bringing me back to the third topic of mushrooms.  Yes, I am fascinated by mushrooms and have been for years.  Okay, I'll confess, when I was young I dated a guy who took me to a Grateful Dead concert and talked me into eating a magic mushrooms and I came to an understanding why people like Grateful Dead music and I danced in the aisles but so did all the other mushroom dropping concert goers and that is my only experience with magical mushrooms (and the Grateful Dead).

That is not why I think mushrooms are cool.  They are cool because they seem to appear from no where, they come in all kinds of strange forms and shapes, and because they are cool.  While on my wanderings in the wooded area looking for turtles I find lots of interesting mushrooms. I take pictures of mushrooms when there are no turtles to be found.

Mushrooms are now even cooler because they now make appearances on Frankie poop.  Yep, Frankie poop occasionally produces mushrooms.

The first time mushrooms appeared it was just a freak thing, "Cooool!"  The second time was like "Wow, man!"  Now its like, "Ooooo, far out! They're back."

I already checked.  None of them are psychedelic.  Magic mushrooms don't show up on turtle poop.

(These are not the shroons you are looking for.)

Pile of poop and white mushrooms.

Bit of compost poop and some brown mushrooms.
Once, on a very hot and humid day, inside the compost bin, the Frankie poop inside was covered with white mushrooms.  Just blew my mind.  Should have taken a picture but I was so freaked out by all the mushrooms.

I Promise.  They are not the Psilocybe magical mushrooms.  They are Frankie's Magical Mushrooms!  

May 13, 2015

Frankie Animation

Spend Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday laid out on my back with excruciating back pain and muscle spasms.  I was so seriously incapacitated that I was unable to pick up socks from the floor because if I was foolish enough to lean over involuntary screams could make my neighbor think I was being murdered by some intruder.  I've taken to sleeping in our guest room because I groan and gasp so loudly every time I move in the night it wakes my poor husband who has to get up early in the morning.

You know that Frankie has to be responsible for my latest injuries, right?  He is now so remarkable large and heavy that simple tortoise maintenance like washing his shell or throwing out hay for him is bound to be a dangerous task, right?  Well, this time Frankie is not the direct or indirect cause of my back injury.

I hurt my back raking leaves off the drive way and washing my car.  Welcome, Leann, to your mid-fifties.

Remember back when you could pick up Frankie?  Remember when you used to pick 50 pound bales of hay off the ground and throw them in the back of a pick-up truck?  Remember when you could crawl over a chain link fence or climb your way over an eight foot picket fence?  Yeah, I remember those days.  I'm missing those days.

These days, or the last few days, strength and mobility are not part of my life.

Yesterday I was laid out on the living room recliner, heating pad under my lower back, a pain killer finely kicking in, and I am not going anywhere for nothing because it could cause my back to spasm again.  I'm sitting there trying not to move, breathing shallow when suddenly I notice out of the corner of my eye the lawn chair walking by the back door.

The chair walked the entire length of door and came to an abrupt stop as it collided with Frankie's outdoor shed.  I couldn't have turned my head to see the fate of chair or shed even if I thought I should.  To my relief the chair did a very slow bumpy like turn and headed the other way.  Just as the chair exited my view it suddenly reappeared as it tipped over and fell on its side.

The chair laid on it's side for a while with no more animation.  That was good.  Then the blue folding ladder that was set up against the fence about ten feet from the back door started to move to a new location.  The ladder did fairly well moving for about fifteen second when it started to wobble.  The front section lifted and the heavier top section stole away the forward momentum causing the whole ladder to topple over on the grass.

Still, I couldn't do much but watch from my peripheral view the moving objects in the yard and hope no real harm was coming of it.  I am also very sure that in-animate things ARE moving in the yard.  It's not the muscle relaxer I took four hours earlier nor is it the non-narcotic pain pill I took 30 minutes ago causing me to hallucinate. 

I can be perfectly sure that all this IS happening because the 105 pound Frankie lives in my backyard.  In fact, I believe if I am going to sit in that recliner for another day I WILL see the bird feeder topple over because Frankie loves the grass that grows around it. 

This is my life.  Ten years ago I probably would be out back there chasing all these moving objects and setting them back up and putting them away.  I would want to make the yard safe for Frankie.

Today I know Frankie is perfectly safe.  Now I worry about those objects.  Actually, I've just given them up as Frankie toys.  It's too late to save them. 

I did manage to get outside to see Frankie today.  He was in his cave so I had to "request" that he come out and see me.  He wanted to see me, for the carrot.

Frankie got himself sorta jammed up in his getting-too-small-for-Frankie shelter.  He got his back chute and front chute perfectly caught up on the front and back wall.  Poor Frankie.  He was stuck.

I stood there with the carrot in my hand and all I could do was urge the beast to use his massive strength to force his way out of his jam.

"Come on, Frankie!  Push!  You can do it!  You want the carrot, right?  Do it for the carrot!  Push!"

Yeah, I am reduced to Frankie's cheerleader.

Tomorrow, laid up again with massive back pain, I'm gonna look forward to that bird feeder coming down.

"Get that bird feeder! Get it, Frankie!"   It's gonna come down.
Frankie toy still sitting there.  I'll pick it up when my back is better.

(Comments are always welcome!)

April 15, 2015

Serious Injury #27

Frankie is a one-hundred and five pound potential disaster when ever he sets himself in motion....or refuses to get into motion.  Frankie targets are walls, buckets, ceramic pots, door steps, cricket containers, boxes, and regretfully, more personal objects like my fingers, toes, shins, back, muscles, tendons, etc., or in general, ME.

I sport numerous Frankie related injuries.  I once dropped Frankie on my middle left finger crushing it so bad that neighbors now know the extent of my cussing vocabulary.  I ripped four inches of shin falling over a Frankie barrier one winter.  One summer, Frankie dug those hard front leg spurs into my bare skin when attempting to reach a carrot leaving me with a vampire like scar on my leg.

Believing myself a clever person, I continually attempt to find better ways to transport and move him without the risk of injury.  I've bought four different and varying sizes of carts as he grew but they are completely useless as it requires that Frankie be placed on top which I cannot do without a second person to help me lift Frankie.

I have considered marrying a second weight-lifting husband but multiple husbands is still against the law in Alabama.  Drat.

Recently I started using straps especially when walking Frankie in case I need to "redirect" Frankie in the right direction.  Frankie has a very bad habit of deciding his own direction regardless of potential risk, like walking in the middle of a road.

The strap goes under his front shell just behind his two front feet.  The strap works pretty good as I can lift Frankie to rotate him left or right with just a little bit of effort.
Add caption
Good turtle friends, Michal and Greta, stopped by here a few weeks ago.  Like to say they wanted to visit me but let's be honest:  Frankie is the big personality here at this house.  They wanted to see Frankie and headed to the back yard within five minutes of arriving.

On the agenda was taking Frankie on a Big Walk.  Frankie has not been on a Big Walk in a long time.  It's just too hard for me to navigate the ever growing Frankie by myself even with the strap.  Three people taking Frankie on a walk sounded oh-so-easy:  three navigators, three to watch for cars, three to pick up Frankie in a pinch.

Frankie did not oblige our guests.  First thing Frankie did once down the drive way was to stop and eat grass in the front yard and he wasn't going to stop eating grass because he hadn't seen that much grass since Fall.  Frankie wasn't going anywhere.  No Big Walk.  Frankie didn't care.  Frankie stuffed himself at the front yard salad bar.

Oh, getting him to return to the back yard was near impossible once he discovered where all the grass was.   Even three of us couldn't get him turned back toward the back yard.  Not while there was grass to be grazed.

Out came the strap.  I slipped it under Frankie's front shell, behind his front feet and rotated him toward the backyard.

Frankie wasn't going anywhere.

He dug those front feet into the asphalt drive and said, "Good luck getting me to the back yard.  You are going to have to drag me."

And I tried.  I pulled on that strap dragging Frankie about twelve inches, when something in my left elbow went 'pop' saying, "Should have listened to Frankie."

Poor Michal and Greta.  They came to spend time with Frankie.  They did not expect a wrestling match between a 105 pound shelled monster and a 135 pound already Frankie-damaged woman.  I did win.  Frankie did end up in the back yard.  But there will be no Big Walks for a while.

I ripped the tendon in my elbow.  It was fun explaining how I did that to the doctor.  He thought it was so funny that I got two shots in my buttocks.

Always wear nice underwear.  You never know when you may have to drop your drawers for a doctor and bare your butt.

It's been weeks since the incident.  Still Frankie.....and so is the elbow.

Lesson:  Sulcata owners should always wear nice underwear. 

March 12, 2015

Tortpocalypse 2015

Outside it's finely warm.  I've been released from house arrest.  I was getting pretty tired being stuck in a bathroom, living inside a cardboard box and surrounded by masses of UPS brown paper.  My only form of sustenance has been hay with the occasional carrot to tease me.  There they will be payback for this incarceration.

That's right, I have joined my fellow turtles and tortoises for TORTPOCALYPSE 2015.  Prepare to meet your doom humans.  Waffles,  a fellow sulcata tortoise from Canada, may just be a pint sized fellow but that tort has some smarts in that noodle of his. As soon as I heard of the all out initiative to eliminate mankind I said where do I sign up!

Last night I stayed up and planned out my offensive for the lower 48 states.  These are my plans so far:

Day 1:  Take Whole Foods Grocery Store hostage until they surrender all organic carrots.  As soon as the carrots are freed, ravage the store and leave no shelf standing.  Spend the rest of the afternoon basking, grazing and eating carrots to build up energy for Day 2.

Day 2:  Ram PetSmart and free all captive tortoises and turtles.  Stock pile cuttlebones and bagged Orchard Hay.  Take only the Orchard hay.  All other hay taste nasty.  Annihilate the remaining PetSmart facility.  Recruit freed turtles and tortoises for tort army active duty.  Check out back lot for dandelions.

Day 3: Reenact this--

Day 4:  Lay waste to all government buildings in downtown Mobile just because we can.  Spend latter part of day accepting gifts of surrender from humans. 

Day 5:  Level airport all except any one plane that will fly us to Canada to meet Waffles. 

As soon as we arrive in Canada, Waffles and I and thousands of turtle minions will join together as a whole shelled arm to continue our take over of the world.

Okay.  Sounds spectacular.  I have enough time today to ram the side of the house until mom comes out with carrots and hay.  This will be my final meal served by a free human.

We should spare any human capable of service to turtles and tortoise.  Mom is pretty good at that.  I think I shall recruit her for tortoise servitude.

Tortoise are so brilliant.  We deserve to rule. 

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.

January 18, 2015

Inside Outside

 Frankie has been indoors almost every day since Christmas.  He is not happy with me. 
"I hate you, mom."

His indoor space isn't very big so he is very annoyed.
"Something in this gecko room is coming down.  Plastic barrier is not going to keep me from ramming garbage can or the humidifier."

It's all I can do to keep him occupied and amused.

 "Hello, Steel Stella.  I've missed you."

 Newt joins Frankie at each meal and Frankie doesn't mind sharing at all.

 Playing footsies under the door with Frankie is going to get that cat in a whirl of hurt.

 Frankie gets my constant attention....including 10:00 pm for bedtime check. 

 "Get outta my way! It's sunny and I am going outside."

Poor Frankie turned into an unmoving shell sculpture outside in his backyard. He was so cold I had to get help to carry him back inside. Frankie refused to move for thirty minutes.  Sorry Frankie.  Sunny and 40ºF is too cold for tortoises. 

We'll try to get outside again in March.  Just sit here and warm up.