Indisposed. (Desert tortoise update!)

It’s a mini-update, actually.

Life did that thing where it throws a hundred thousand things at you and you fail to catch them all and next thing you know, you’re waist-deep in misses and all you have to share in your blog is a few pics of your tortoise… but Geronimo pics have been requested, so it works.

These are from today:

 

The relentless flower-hunter. Capture and kill.

 

(These next three are screenshots from video clips! I was going to post a Geronimo video today, but they came through mangled and unwatchable, for some reason.)

 

Camo artist at work, complete with a leaf in his mouth.

 

Heading home!

 

Taking the back path to his burrow

 

We haven’t seen much of Geronimo lately. He’s been digging more. We suspect he’s constructing a network of tunnels beneath our lawn, as we’ve heard his kind are wont to do. If we ever achieve snaking a little camera through, I’ll take you along!

 

 

Shellebrating World Turtle Day! (Desert tortoise update!)

Today I come bearing a few throw-back pics of my scale-baby, because today is Geronimo’s day! May 23 is World Turtle Day, sponsored annually by the American Tortoise Rescue.

 

 

In the year and a half that we’ve had him, our rescued native (Sonoran) desert tortoise has brought bottomless love and joy to our lives. I never would have imagined that I could bond with a tortoise, but here we are.

 

Snuggled up to mommy’s leg

 

How it happened was simple: Geronimo joined us when a friend said he had a desert tortoise who needed a home.

We love animals. We have a large yard that’s geographically and botanically diverse in all the right ways for a native tortoise. How could we not take him in? Callaghan brought him home, and I completed an official adoption procedure through the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Tortoise Rescue Adoption program. Geronimo has since taken complete ownership of our yard, which is now his yard and which he patrols on the regular.

 

Hello.

 

We got Geronimo during hibernation season, and we didn’t know the first thing about tortoises, much less non-hibernating tortoises. Our crash course came courtesy of his doctor, the coordinator of the tortoise adoption program, and the internet. None of those resources could teach us about our particular kid and his personality, though. He taught us about himself over time. In tortoise time, that would be overnight.

We had to keep him warm in the house the first two+ months; it was like baby-sitting a toddler 24/7. We turned our entire dining room into a pen for his winter home, and so we learned that desert tortoises are climbers. It was all of the toddler clichés: he got into everything; I couldn’t turn my back on him for a second; he peed on me; he was a picky eater (until we learned what foods he loved); I was exhausted trying to watch him all the time; I’d sit down to work on my novel and then immediately have to spring up at the sound of something crashing to the floor. Every day was an adventure in keeping Geronimo safe and out of home-destroying trouble.

At sundown, we fluffed up the hay in his big wooden crate and tucked him into bed. We melted as we watched him gather up the hay and snuggle against the rolled-up towel we’d given him.

We learned that Geronimo is rambunctious, loving, gentle, and hilarious.

 

Hello.

 

At 21 years old, he’s just a baby!

 

First soaking after hibernation!

 

All we had to do in the yard was construct his burrow. Geronimo did the rest. We didn’t know that he would dig himself an underground burrow at the back of the burrow we made for him. So many moments of alarm and is this normal? Is he going to be okay?

We learned.

Geronimo’s favorite things: Romaine lettuce and fresh hibiscus flowers. Our outdoor laundry room. Summer rainstorms during monsoon season. Us, and people in general.

 

Spring grasses and weeds

 

Above all, Geronimo is ancient desert magic… he has an instantly calming effect on everyone who meets him. He is a true son of the Sonoran desert, and we feel privileged to be able to care for him for the state. Arizona celebrates you, kid!

 

 

The eye of the tortoise. (Desert tortoise update!)

Again, I didn’t plan to post about Geronimo so soon after the last time. If it seems that I’m obsessed with my scale-baby, it’s because I totally am.

 

All clear in the laundry room, mommy. You’re welcome.

 

It occurred to me recently that our sweet, funny little dinosaur looked familiar. He reminded me of someone famous, an idea that became a matter worthy of serious investigation. Geronimo has a celebrity doppelganger! I must find out who! An image came to mind, and from that, a suspicion. I dug around online and confirmed it. Either Godzilla (1998) was deliberately created in the likeness of Geronimo’s kind, or the likeness was a coincidence. It’s that distinct shape of the face… the nose, the chin, the slope of the mouth, nearly everything!

 

Godzilla 1998 was inspired by someone, it seems.

 

Geronimo’s eyes are prettier, though.

 

Eye of the desert tortoise.

 

To use a well-worn cliché, I believe I’ve waxed poetic about Geronimo’s eyes before. They’re stunning. They’re green – often greenish-gray in appearance, depending – with black accents and a luminous white ring around each pupil. Geronimo’s eye looks like a total eclipse, and I do feel like I’m falling blindly into it when I stare too long. Gazing into Geronimo’s eyes is like an astronomical experience.

 

Eye of the desert tortoise

The eclipse that sees all.

 

Also, Geronimo is a much cuter monster than Godzilla, in my admittedly biased opinion. Godzilla wouldn’t love hibiscus flowers, now, would he? We would never see Godzilla devouring flowers. Hibiscus flowers remain Geronimo’s favorite food. Behold this video from today:

 

 

Geronimo’s continuing with his daily spring pattern: he emerges from his burrow in the mid-morning, eats, and retires back to his burrow for a nap at around noon. He comes out again in the late afternoon, often just to sit on his patio before going all the way in for bedtime.

 

Calling it a night in the early evening

 

He sleeps through everything, including theatrics such as yesterday’s: a micro-burst hit our neighborhood and felled our neighbors’ mesquite tree, the broken part of which ended up partially on the pavilion covering Geronimo’s burrow.

 

Fallen mesquite

 

That was a strange and magical bit of weather; we were surprised to have our first mesquite tree weather casualty as early as April. I have a feeling that Geronimo’s going to be ecstatic when this year’s monsoon season arrives!

 

 

 

Who loves obstacles? Geronimo does. (Desert tortoise update!)

It’s trivia hour! Did you know that when a ceiling is torn down, it sends a thick cloud of white dust and bits of plaster and old insulation throughout the entire house? Including in the rooms whose doors were closed? Including underneath the things that were inside the closet whose door was closed? I didn’t know this until two hours ago. I’m that much more knowledgeable now! The next thing I want to learn is why a person tearing down a ceiling wouldn’t seal off the area with sheets of plastic or something. Even the burners on my flat-surface stove are barely discernible beneath the layer of ceiling dust. Everything in every room in our house is coated in dust, and it was just the ceiling in the hallway that came down.

ANYWAY, that’s all very topical and in-the-moment. I come to you like a phantom passing through a veil of fog, you see. My fingers on the keyboard leave prints in the dust. May I reiterate that my office door was closed when the hallway ceiling was coming down.

Ah, well.

So here we are, and I’ve got worthier matters at hand: the following moments captured in pics and a video. I wasn’t going to present a Geronimo update this week, but I happened to have my phone with me yesterday when I went out to spend some time with him.

Sonoran desert tortoises have long legs for climbing, and Geronimo does love to climb! He tries to climb everything. We leave beams of wood and bunches of branches laying around just for him.

I don’t think I’ve yet shared this pic of him from March 6:

 

See bench. Must climb.

 

Geronimo has been climbing over my outstretched legs since Day 1, when we had to babysit him indoors because we rescued him during hibernation season and he couldn’t go outside. You don’t know a restless tortoise until an active desert tortoise lands in your house during hibernation season, by the way.

I sat against the back fence yesterday afternoon, and Geronimo got to climb my legs over and over and over as he walked his laps along that straight line. This adorable little dinosaur is tireless.

 

 

He also loves to cuddle, which involves getting as close to me as he can and stretching out his neck to rest his head on my leg. Yesterday, I finally had my phone with me to capture it.

 

Mommy!

 

This guy is too sweet and cute. I can’t deal with it.

 

Never thought I’d melt into the eyes of a reptile.

 

Geronimo’s been enjoying more of his hibiscus flower dessert as the days get warmer. He loves the flowers from budding to blooming.

 

Hibiscus flowers: candy for Sonoran desert tortoises.

 

We’re thinking of putting together some kind of climbing tortoise playground for Geronimo. Geronimo enjoys the challenge of obstacles. I want to be like him when I grow up.

 

 

Geronimo does laundry, part 2. (Desert tortoise update!)

We’re still learning things about our beloved desert tortoise. Last week, I learned that Geronimo has a keen memory. Apparently, he recalls events that happened last year.

Remember when Geronimo trashed our laundry room? (If not, go ahead and click that link to read the story.) He’d gotten himself into a precarious position when he reached the spot he wanted in the room, and he relayed his displeasure in no uncertain terms as he huffed and puffed and stomped back to his burrow after I removed him and set him outside. As friendly and lovable as he is, when a tortoise as expressive as Geronimo gets cranky, he makes sure that you’re aware.

Geronimo remembers that day in the laundry room, and he made sure that I knew it last week while I was doing laundry.

He was on the far side of the yard when I went to put the clean clothes in the dryer, but I found him approaching quickly when I turned to glance through the open doorway behind me. (Have I mentioned how shockingly fast he is for a tortoise?) My heart laughed with joy at the sight of him, but I slipped in an affectionate warning with my greeting: “Hi Geronimo! Are you coming to help Mommy do laundry again? Don’t raise hell in here this time.”

He already knew what he was going to do. He had a plan. He entered the laundry room and walked around the perimeter, wrestling himself between my feet as I stood at the washing machine. Then he crossed through to his spot, sat himself down, got back up, ripped an impressively long, loud fart, and left.

That was how I learned about his memory. That he’s smart and highly expressive, I already knew. He took it to another level with that fart, though.

I guess I can’t blame him. He’d been so proud and happily hunkered down in that spot last year when I extracted him from the wreckage he’d created.

Here’s a few shots of him from today:

 

Geronimo walking tall.

 

Geronimo camouflaged. Where’s Geronimo?

 

And here’s a video clip of Geronimo walking toward me, to give you an idea of how quickly he walks! I actually had to move the phone (camera) back in order to keep up with him, because he was barreling straight for it, and he would’ve head-butted it in no time.

 

 

 

 

Happy Friday Eve, all!

 

 

 

Guess who came out of hibernation?!! Hint: it starts with GERONIMO. (Desert tortoise update!)

Last week Thursday afternoon, the last day of February, I was walking back into the house from the laundry room when I saw something out of the ordinary from the corner of my eye. Something on the rocks. Something large. It was dome-shaped, lumpy, and vaguely dappled in dusty earth tones. It looked like…

GERONIMO.

It was Geronimo!!!!

Who knew we’d see him again as early as February?! Well, it was the last day of February, but still. We were thinking he’d emerge in late March, maybe early April.

For some reason, I’d envisioned him stepping out of his burrow as if on a red carpet with trumpeters on each side to herald his return. He would march out to reclaim his domain in full Geronimo fashion.

Instead, I found him sitting still on the rocks, covered in dirt and nearly blending in, as desert tortoises are wont to do. His manner of return was perfect.

I went running to him, of course, and his adorable little face poked out of his shell as he blinked “hello” at me. He stretched out his neck and tilted his head up when I petted his nose. I stroked one side of his neck for a while, and then he turned his head in the opposite direction so I could get the other side.

I flew back into tortoise mom mode. A good soaking was in order! Geronimo needed to be hydrated after his long sleep. Hot water gushed from the garden hose for a few minutes before it gave way to the lukewarm temperature Geronimo requires. He sat in his bath and drank water and squirted it through his nostrils.

He got his second soaking today. He likes to soak in the shade, so I propped a parasol on the ground to make an awning over his bath.

Six days post-hibernation, he’s still moving a little slowly; he’s not quite back to his tall, robust, rowdy self. He’ll walk a little, plop down and doze off, then wake up and walk again. He shuffles hither and yon in search of snacks, which are everywhere. He eats the spring grasses on the lawn and the weeds in the rocks with impressive appetite. When he’s not eating, he spends most of his time near his burrow, on and around his burrow’s terrain. He also naps in the entrance of his burrow. At sundown, he goes all the way back in for the night.

THIS GUY. IS SO. CUTE.

Geronimo’s been coming out of his burrow for six days now. Of course, I’ve been taking all kinds of pics. Here he is in all his 2019 glory. He’s 21 years old now!

Geronimo says “hello.”

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello and good night.

 

Hello and good morning.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Good-bye.

 

Good-bye.

 

Good-bye.

 

How I missed his little elephant legs!!!!

 

 

Good night and good luck, Geronimo. (Desert tortoise update!)

Let’s talk about Geronimo one last time in 2018!

Geronimo has left the building. I mean, he’s gone into the building. He’s gone into his building. He’s gone into his burrow. He’s gone… for the rest of the year, and for the first few months of next year. Our beloved Sonoran desert tortoise has gone into hibernation. We won’t see him again until April or May.

The last time we saw him was November the 7th.

This is absolutely natural and expected, and it’s uneventful as such. However, I’m a new tortoise mom entering our first hibernation cycle, and as such, the next five months are going to go slowly. I’m not used to having animal babies who leave for five months. I miss him already! He’s spoiled us with his robust energy and affectionate personality, his always wanting to be with us and loving to be hand-fed and getting pets and scritches on his head and neck and under his chin and on the sides of his face and the tip of his nose. He loves human company and he loves to interact, so his absence is palpable.

It was interesting watching him progress to this point… to watch him gently fade away.

He ate with great appetite throughout the summer, growing more voracious as September gave way to October. Our yard – his yard – is a bottomless buffet of grasses, hibiscus flowers, hibiscus leaves, and weeds. He loves it all. He continued eating heartily throughout October, but with the last ten days of the month came cooler nights, and he slowed down with his eating. He hung out in his burrow more, even though daytime temperatures still registered in the 80’s. Sometimes he’d come out and bask in the sun for a little while before going back in.

Toward the end of the first week of November – last week – we’d look in and talk to him as he sat in his burrow. He wouldn’t come out. He sat just inside, toward the entrance, but not down at the bottom. Then we’d see him at the bottom with just his face visible. He’d take a few steps out toward us, then turn around and sit with his back to us.

On November 7, I looked in and saw his little face. He was looking at me. He blinked as I spoke to him, as he seems to do as a way of interacting with us. And that was it. He’s turned the corner at the bottom of his burrow to snuggle in for the winter, completely undetectable.

Here are some pics from mid-October:

 

Making his way up the path to his burrow…

 

Geronimo in the early fall

 

This guy will be so missed during hibernation!

 

It’s a relief that he’s been deemed healthy to hibernate and he can now do his natural thing, but of course I’m wringing my hands just a little. As I said, I’m not used to having animal babies who go away for five months out of the year.

See you next year, Geronimo!