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.

 

 

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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!

 

 

The Geronimeter. (Desert tortoise update!)

Now toward the end of summer, we’ve learned yet more about our Geronimo as we’ve continued to observe his patterns of behavior this first cycle of seasons with him. The main thing we’ve discovered recently is that we have a personal meteorologist who has a built-in Doppler Radar. Geronimo tells us when it’s going to rain. We have a Geronimeter.

Monsoon season began in July, as monsoon season does. We were in the backyard when the first dust storm rolled in and dropped the temperature along with it. We looked over from the patio and saw Geronimo’s little nose poking out of his burrow. The wind picked up as the sky darkened. A wealth of mesquite pods swirled into space and landed in our yard. (Thank you, neighbor.) The rich scent of creosote saturated the air… classic indication of imminent rain in the desert.

Geronimo readied himself at the entrance of his burrow as we stood on the patio in the blowing dust, all three of us watching the storm unfold. As soon as the rain began to fall, he came out and marched all over the yard, up and down along the back fence, patrolling his perimeter with a joie de vivre unlike any we’d seen in him before. He was clearly in his element.

He’s since settled into a routine of coming out at night to crawl into the mass of verbena along the side fence, walking his back-fence path when he wakes up in the early morning (eating any hibiscus flowers and buds he can find along the way), and retreating to his burrow to escape the daytime heat. He’s back in his burrow by around 8:30am. The storms usually move through at dusk or later, and he comes out to revel in the rain. That’s Geronimo, living his best monsoon life.

I wish I had pics of him in the rain to share here. Unfortunately, cell phones and rain don’t mix. Monsoon winds blow the rain onto the patio; nowhere remains dry. I have a few general pics of him, though (actually screenshots from video clips).

On a typical early-morning before the day heats itself into oblivion:

 

Hello, post-storm world.

 

We’ve stopped soaking him and instead have placed his bath/water dish on the ground in front of his fence. He has fresh water in the dish every day, and he knows where to find it. If he needs it, he clambers in. If he doesn’t, he goes around.

We’ve seen him squirting water through his nose more often than usual, maybe to hydrate his nasal passages.

 

Nasal-rinse

 

This dish is actually a large plant saucer (I can’t remember whether I’d mentioned this in previous posts).

 

Things to do, places to go…

 

That’s all I’ve got for this update! Next month, Geronimo’s vet will notify us to bring him in for their annual pre-hibernation clinic and screening. It’s unreal that the summer’s almost over.

 

Geronimo’s hot summer. (Desert tortoise update!)

A quick Geronimo update is in order! We’re in the swing of summer now, and Geronimo has gotten with the program.

Geronimo’s daily summer pattern is to chill in the dark depth of the cave he’s dug out for himself, and…

well, that’s his pattern.

But he does come out to bask in the sun for a little while at least every other day (usually in the late morning), just for a quarter of an hour or so. Then he goes right back into his burrow and disappears in his cave.

Every once in a while, we’ll see him cruise around the yard eating grasses and low-hanging hibiscus flowers.

He’ll sometimes emerge from his cave to sit in the patio part of his burrow, facing out. He likes it when he does this and we sit with him on the outside. He enjoys our company, even if he’s out of reach. How do I know this? He told me. A mother knows.

 

Geronimo in the summer

 

Once a week, usually on the weekend, Geronimo comes out and we’ll soak him for as long as he’ll lets us, which is pretty much just as long as he needs to drink water.

He has a drinking routine; it involves sticking his whole head below the surface. He blinks his eyes underwater a few times and squirts water through his nostrils when he comes up for air. It’s like he’s rinsing out his eyes and nose, which is probably exactly what he’s doing.

Have I ever mentioned that his favorite part of soaking day is the Romaine lettuce he gets for his after-bath treat? And then we’ll pull some hibiscus flowers from the top branches of the hibiscus bushes and hand-feed them to him. His favorite!

Geronimo and his flowers.

Geronimo Shovelhands. (Desert tortoise update!)

All has been business as usual around here, and then one day I saw dirt flying out of Geronimo’s burrow. Next thing I knew, Geronimo was gone.

(Spoiler alert: he didn’t stay gone.)

For being such slow creatures, tortoises have a way of making things happen fast. Ours does, at least. I don’t know why this surprises me anymore. I just… when Geronimo started digging out the back corner of his burrow, I didn’t know he was going to dig until he was out of sight! He dug deep enough to get under the cinder block walls, and then he dug straight ahead, still at a diagonal, carving out a tunnel. I suppose that’s the definition of an actual tortoise burrow. Duh.

In my moment of alarm, though, I went to Facebook to freak out, because that’s what Facebook is for. Also, I have tortoise parent friends who would possibly offer comments or insights (and they did – thanks guys)! My freak-out went something like: 1). Where is Geronimo going? How far will he go? Where will he end up? Will we ever see him again? and in the comments and a few DMs: 2). Isn’t it dangerous that he’s dug beneath the cinder block structure of his burrow? Now there’s a mountain of packed dirt on top of cinder blocks supported by nothing! How is this possible? What if the blocks cave in? Will they crush Geronimo? Will they trap and smother him? GAHHHHHHHH

When we built the burrow, we thought that Geronimo would just chill at the back of it, and he did, for a while. When the days started heating up, he built his real burrow. Turns out that all we built was a semi-enclosed porch… which is fine. We’re pleased that Geronimo loves his burrow enough to feel that it’s a good entrance to the lair he’s digging out for himself.

Meanwhile, Callaghan started the process of securing the burrow’s cinder block walls to its plywood ceiling with construction-grade metal brackets, performing the necessary contortions in defying the laws of spatial limitation. I, myself, can barely fit my upper body into the burrow. Callaghan has to reach in and maneuver a drill in the far-back upper corner!

I don’t know how Callaghan does it, exactly, but he does. I know that his process involves lying on a couple of large tiles. Consequently, each time he finishes fastening a bracket and clears out for the day – only one bracket can be done at a time – Geronimo goes back to his burrow and gets mad because the dirt inside had been flattened out; he has to dig at the burrow floor in order to fluff it up again.

This guy!

 

Geronimo digging. You can just see his little back elephant leg behind the spray of dirt.

 

Long update short: Geronimo spends his nights (and most of his days) deep in his new digs (literally). Also, he’s adorable. Nothing new there!