The Geronimo updates I’ve been promising. (Desert tortoise update!)

It’s mid-June. I say “Where’s Geronimo?” More than I ask “Where are we going, Geronimo?”

Because we’ve reached the point in the desert summer where he’s scarce for days at a time, entombing himself deep in his burrow in order to stay cool. He was nowhere to be found all last week. On Saturday afternoon, my daily peek into his burrow was met with Geronimo sitting inside, just at the entrance. At long last!

He didn’t look good. My sweet reptile son was listless and encrusted with mud, and it seemed that he could barely open his eyes. He’s obviously dehydrated, said my maternal instinct. Perhaps severely. I leaped into mommy-emergency-mode.

Geronimo has access to the “watering hole” (the large dish that we keep filled with water for the wildlife as well as for Geronimo and Salem), but – to my consternation – he never goes in on his own. I quickly dumped it, rinsed it, filled it with fresh water just cooler than lukewarm, and ran back to Geronimo’s burrow. I snatched him out and hurried him back to the watering hole.

I put him in the water nose-first. That’s how he realizes that he’s thirsty… water touching his nose. When I set him down, he submerged his head and kept it underwater for a good long minute, just drinking and drinking. I’d never seen him hold his head underwater for that long, or drink so much water all at once.

Mud swirled around him. I waited for him to surface before I lifted him out to rinse and re-fill the dish. He promptly dunked his head again and drank and drank and drank as I poured water over his head and back.

I’m not exactly a helicopter parent, but I admit to being the hand-wringing sort. In this case, I had good reason to wring my hands. What if I hadn’t checked on him? He was just sitting there. He wasn’t coming out to drink the water that he so clearly needed.

Geronimo’s eyes were wide open when he climbed out of his dish. He was beautifully clean and smooth! I hoped that he would stay out and walk around so he could dry off, but he went directly home to his burrow, of course. Straight back into the dirt, soaking wet.

The next day, Sunday, I found him at the entrance of his burrow again, predictably covered in mud. His eyes were open and he looked a little livelier, but I repeated the soaking process. He held his head underwater and drank as if the day before hadn’t happened. He blew bubbles through his nostrils as I rinsed him all over. Callaghan joined the party. I held Geronimo up, and Callaghan hosed off his undercarriage.

That time, Geronimo went around the yard and ate, starting with the kale I brought out for him. Have I mentioned that kale is his new thing? He still loves Romaine lettuce, but kale is his favorite treat now! He happily ate kale, hibiscus flowers and leaves, grasses and weeds. He doesn’t eat the verbena, but he likes to sniff them.

 

Hello.

 

I’ve got a few video clips, if you’re interested. In the one where he’s walking back to his burrow, I’d gotten in front of him to retreat at his pace with my phone recording his walk. He’s faster than he looks. Before that, there was a lot of “Where are we going, Geronimo?” happening all over the yard as he foraged.

I love to walk him back to his burrow and tuck him in.

 

 

 

 

That’s the latest, my friends. Geronimo’s favorite time of year is coming up: monsoon season! I’ll be back with another update after he revels in the first summer storm of 2020.

 

 

Healing like a boss + selfies with Geronimo! (Post-op update 3!)

Today was a largely wonderful, magical, splendiferous day for two major reasons:

1). My doctor was very pleased when he examined my healing progress this morning! This surgery’s one-week, post-op scenario proved to be the complete opposite of November’s. Despite the hydroxychloroquine I’m continuing to take, everything is healing and knitting together “beautifully” and right on track. I go back next week for my two-week post-op. That’s when I might get my stitches removed.

Thing 1: The doctor said it’s possible that my healing took longer in November because my body simply wasn’t eager to accept the cadaver tissue. We used my own tissue this time, so my body’s like, oh, okay, I know YOU. Come on in.

Thing 2: I’m still at pain levels that involve looking at the clock every other hour to see when I can take another dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but it is getting better.

Thing 3: I haven’t weighed myself.

Before my home workouts, I weighed 115. After five weeks of lifting heavier weights and doing more cardio workouts at home, I weighed 121 (pre-surgery weight). If anything has happened to those gains in the last week, I don’t want to know about it. I mean, it’s inevitable that I’m going to lose some weight, but I’d just rather not see it on the scale, you know?  I’m confident that I’m not going to end up with another 7-lb loss! I’ve learned. I’m making a much greater effort to force down more substantial food this time around, even though it hurts and it’s gross.

Speaking of working out, I still can’t. I thought I might be able to do Pump this Saturday, but I have to wait another week, and I’m totally okay with that. The doctor explained that elevating my heart-rate would disturb the progress of the little blood vessels that are busy growing and connecting, and if that happens, the transplant could fail. I’m feeling confident that I’ll get back to Pump next week Saturday! It’s not going to take over a month, as it did last time. Resuming my workouts sooner rather than later is going to help a lot with maintaining my weight, too, obviously.

All told: Things are going well, and I’m feeling confident.

2). I got some selfies with my son this afternoon!!!

 

I’ve got that tortoise-mom glow going on

 

He’s smiling!! I love, love, love being a tortoise mom, a reptile mom, Geronimo’s mom! I have this other pic wherein Geronimo’s looking straight at the camera:

 

My baby boy

 

I can’t with this guy. My heart can’t contain the love that I have for him.

For lighting contrast, here’s a selfie that I took in my office this morning:

 

Hi from my office

 

The vagaries of lighting, right?! I’m wearing the same make-up and everything in these pics that were all taken today, but morning/indoors/daylight face looks totally different, hue-wise, than afternoon/outdoors/shade face. (Photographed in bright, direct sunlight, Nenette’s fur is amazing. You can really see it. I wish I could capture it more often.)

Happy Friday Eve, my friends!

OH! Wait! I wanted to share this video with you, because it’s made me so happy all week:

 

 

Okay, now I’m out.

 

 

He’s out! Geronimo’s post-hibernation report, 2020. (Desert tortoise update!)

February 22, 2020 (02/22/2020!) was a cold and dreary day. By this, I mean that it was raining… and it was overcast… and the temps being in the 50’s made it cold by Phoenix standards. It is said that one can expect a desert tortoise to emerge from hibernation when nighttime temps hit the high 50’s four-five consecutive nights, and daytime temps hit the high 60’s four-five consecutive days, and there’s sunlight.

So OF COURSE we discovered Geronimo hunkered down in a puddle of cold water on that gray, dismal day, right in the middle of the yard. Because Geronimo is Geronimo.

 

Hello.

 

My hibernating-reptile-Mommy heart melted in the cold. I was an empty-nester no more!

Geronimo abides by no rules of scaly thumb. He lives by the motto rules are made to be broken. He wasn’t about to wait for consecutive nights and days of certain temperatures, nor did he care to choose a sunshiny moment for basking, which is usually the first order of business for a tortoise coming out of hibernation.

He just loves the rain! Being the little barometer that he is, he woke up that day, I guess, and came out to hydrate himself. (Tortoises are very thirsty upon waking up from hibernation.) Like last year, he hit four months and said, I’m good. I’m OUT.

(Average hibernation period for desert tortoises: four-six months.)

Here I’ve got a slew of pics of Geronimo I’ve taken since then. Geronimo has been busy patrolling and surveying every corner of his domain.

Checking to see that his beloved hibiscus were in good shape:

 

Hello.

 

Checking out the length of the east fence:

 

Hello.

 

Checking out the south side of his burrow:

 

Hello.

 

Heading back into his burrow after a long day of surveying:

 

Good-bye.

 

Checking out the space between the fence and some aloe and ice plants:

 

Hello.

 

Checking out the space between the fence and some ruella:

 

Hello.

 

Checking out alternate paths to the spaces between the fence and the plants:

 

Hello.

 

Heading toward the south fence:

 

Hello.

 

Checking out the gravel path heading toward the south fence:

 

Hello.

 

Checking out the ice plants along the west side of his burrow:

 

Hello.

 

Taking one of a million breaks for mommy cuddles:

 

Hello.

 

Exiting his beloved laundry room after checking it out thoroughly:

 

Hello.

 

Checking out the west side of his domain:

 

Hello.

 

Checking out every square inch of gravel on the west side:

 

Hello.

 

Checking out the path from the patio to his burrow:

 

Hello.

 

Basking in the grass:

 

Hello.

 

Chomping through new growth of spring grasses and weeds:

 

Hello.

 

Eating and eating:

 

Hello.

 

Going in for some hibiscus treats:

 

Hello.

 

[Me plucking a young hibiscus bud]:

 

[Hi, from me]

 

[Presenting him with the bud]:

 

Hello.

 

Loving being hand-fed:

 

Hello.

 

Off and running after another mommy-cuddle break:

 

Hello.

 

Surveying his domain from the entrance of his burrow:

 

Hello.

 

Checking out the border around the lawn:

 

Hello.

 

Crossing from the grass to the back of his burrow:

 

Hello.

 

Taking another break for mommy cuddles:

 

Hello.

 

(This pic is weird. It looks like I’m wearing bronzer or blush or contour or something on the side of my face, and I’m totally not. I don’t understand how shadows and lighting work.)

Being fed Romaine lettuce by his daddy:

 

Hello.

 

Still eating lettuce:

 

Hello.

 

Basking in the late-afternoon sun in front of his burrow, even as the sun moved:

 

Hello.

 

Soaking, bathing, and hydrating (the next time I saw him after his emergence):

 

Hello.

 

All is clear in the laundry room today.

 

Hello.

 

The End. Or, “Good-bye,” as Geronimo would say.

 

 

Geronimo update: Hibernation, then not, and now for real. (Desert tortoise update!)

A week after I posted my last Geronimo update post, we stopped seeing our little guy nighttime temperatures had dropped below the mid-50’s. He was right on schedule for hibernation. I thought it’d be months before I’d see my little boy again. Then, about four weeks later, I went outside to find that he was out!! SURPRISE!

 

Hello.

 

It was November 11, Veteran’s Day. Of course I thought he’d come out to wish his mommy a happy Veteran’s Day. He’d been out of sight for weeks, and then suddenly, there he was! The temps had risen again. It was like a false hibernation had happened.

My day was totally made. Geronimo roamed around his universe (our yard his yard) and ate everything in sight. I helped.

I fed him hibiscus flowers.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

I fed him hibiscus leaves.

 

Hello.

 

CHOMP.

 

Hello.

 

He went around eating weeds. I shadowed him everywhere he went, and he loved it. “Where are we going, Geronimo?”

He loves all of the weeds in the yard.

 

Hello.

 

ALL of the weeds.

 

Hello.

 

He loves the grass.

 

Hello.

 

ALL of the grass.

 

Hello.

 

He loves plowing through fallen Bougainvillea petals!

 

Hello.

 

He loves to see me sitting on the patio. If I stop following him, he comes to me.

 

Hello.

 

He loves, he loves, he loves. That’s what Geronimo does. (And he says “hello.”)

When he finally made his way to the path behind his burrow, I knew he was heading in… maybe for good, this time. I went around the front and crouched down in my usual spot so he could meet me at his doorway.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

My heart!

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Then I watched his butt disappear into his burrow. I haven’t seen it since.

 

Good-bye.

 

That was just about two weeks ago, and I know that my precious scale-son is in for the winter for real this time. These last two days, we’ve been having some weather (AZ-speak for “rain”), and once we get weather in the colder months, the desert tortoises settle in for their long sleep.

Sweet dreams, Geronimo. See you in 2020!

 

 

HELLO Geronimo’s pre-hibernation report. (Desert tortoise update!)

You must be wondering where you are, because this isn’t a Short Horror October post. I’m surprised, too. It’s just that Geronimo went to the vet yesterday for his pre-hibernation exam, and I couldn’t neglect to share his report card with you, now, could I? I WOULD BE REMISS.

First of all, we can say with absolute certainty that Geronimo stole every single heart in that clinic.

Initial assessment: Geronimo weighs exactly 13 lbs. His nostrils are “nice and clear,” his eyes are “clear and bright,” and he has no stones in his bladder or elsewhere. (He’s so beautiful! He looks so healthy!) We didn’t have a fresh fecal sample to bring as requested, but once in our room at the clinic, he pooped on the floor, right on cue. You know you’re real parents when you’re proud of your kid pooping.

When Geronimo’s lab results came in this morning, they showed that he’s free of G.I. parasites. No worms! This was the last piece of info we needed to have him officially deemed healthy for brumation (hibernation).

Dr. R. was pleased and delighted overall.

Geronimo did his Geronimo thing and charmed everyone. He easily bewitched Doctor R., who was again impressed with his personable and affectionate nature. She noted how he asked us to pet his head, nose, and neck, leaning into our hands and stretching his neck from one side to the other to get equal attention on both sides. According to her, many desert tortoises don’t care to be touched at all. “They’ll pull their heads in when you go to touch them,” she said. “You must spend a lot of time with Geronimo.” We do, indeed, not to mention AGAIN that we really bonded with the little guy when we had to keep him indoors, entertained, and out of trouble during hibernation season that first year. Last year. Yeah, that was a lot of bonding.

[/medical report]

Geronimo’s been extra active and feisty lately! One morning last week I went out to investigate a commotion I’d heard from my office it sounded like glass breaking, but it couldn’t be that, could it? and found him marching all over the patio amidst furniture he’d moved, yard tools he’d knocked over, and, yes, glass he’d managed to find and break. I didn’t even know there was glass out there. It must have been a jar or something on the table, which he’d pushed over.

You would think we’d have learned by now: we have to child-proof every corner of his domain. Geronimo is like a Roomba tank. He goes where he wants to go and sweeps aside everything in his way. He’s quite focused, though he does deviate from his path when he sees us appear in the yard.

Yesterday, he changed course to greet me on the patio when I stepped out there later in the morning. He stopped at my feet for cuddles before turning in the direction of his burrow. Knowing full well where he was going, I asked the question I ask him the most, a question familiar to him: “Where are we going, Geronimo?” (This is our game – he loves to lead me around.) He headed to his burrow knowing that I was following. When we got there, he stopped for his “good night” cuddles, and then he went into his burrow, all the way in and down into its depths. “Good night, Geronimo,” I said to his disappearing butt, as usual. “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Here are some pics we took after we got home from his appointment yesterday:

 

My little lap tortoise.

 

[Note to self: get estimate for sprucing up the patio with pavers]

 

Eating lettuce on my lap.

 

Cuddles!

 

Crunchy, watery, cold GOODNESS

 

Time to wander the yard!

 

“Where are we going, Geronimo?”

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Some pics I took this morning:

 

Hello!

 

(I was sitting on the patio in my usual spot on the ground)

 

HELLO, MOMMY. I AM HERE.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

(If we have a theme for our yard, it’s either “Geronimo’s Paradise” or “Edward Gorey’s Evil Garden.” I like them both equally.)

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Good-bye.

 

 

Hello Tortoise: Geronimo. (Desert tortoise update!)

Finally!

It’s fall, and Geronimo’s been out in the mornings. He’s also been out in the late afternoons, except for the one day he was supposed to go to his pre-hibernation appointment at the clinic, of course. We went out to get him, couldn’t find him, and eventually discovered him chilling in the back of his burrow, looking out at us through sleepy eyes. He was too tired to go to the doctor, he said. That’s okay, we’ll re-schedule you, we said. (We made it a morning appointment this time.)

For those of you who haven’t met our silly, feisty, lovable, and ridiculously adorable Sonoran desert tortoise, I’ve whipped up a snapshot in words.

Name: Geronimo

Date of birth: c. 1998

Hometown: Sonoran desert

Likes: snacking; digging; greeting people; taking showers; playing in the (outdoor) laundry room, and getting loved on with lots of pets and cuddles

Dislikes: barriers, car rides, and being told he can’t go where he wants to go

Occupation: armored perimeter guard (works a second job as a greeter)

Special skill: yardwork (mowing the lawn and weeding)

Shoe size: extra-wide

Favorite food: hibiscus flowers and Romaine lettuce

Favorite color: magenta

Favorite band: Soundgarden

Favorite T.V. series: Arrested Development

Favorite movies: The Hunger, Transformers, and Tank Girl

Favorite season: spring/fall

Favorite weather: summer rain

Favorite books: Bunnicula, War and Peace, and 100 Years of Solitude

Favorite sport: climbing

Favorite person: yes

Favorite word: “Hello”

Now I’ve got a series of actual snapshots, all taken this morning. As usual, Geronimo only has one thing to say to you: “Hello.” Greeting people is one of his favorite things to do, after all.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

Hello.

 

ETA: Bonus pic! I forgot to include this one.

 

Hello.

 

He has a lot of “hellos” to say after a long summer mostly underground during human waking hours. He’s catching up, though. He’s good at that.

The End.

p.s. I’d planned to include videos in this post, but I’ve been foiled by technical difficulties. Apologies for that! I had some good ones, too. Something’s changed, and I have to figure out what. If I can’t, I’ll find another way. We shall have our Geronimo vid clips!

 

 

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!!!!

 

 

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!

 

Desert tortoises and laundry don’t mix. (Desert tortoise update!)

Geronimo is so ridiculously cute and sweet. That’s good for him, because he raised hell in the laundry room on Sunday. I’m not exaggerating. I wish I’d taken pics. Just when you thought that a tortoise is the most placid creature to walk the earth, you get one. Our little “dinosaur of the desert” went Jurassic up in that laundry room.

 

So innocent.

 

We don’t usually allow Geronimo into the laundry room because there’s a lot of stuff he can get into in there, but I was running in and out trying to get through the laundry in a hurry because I was also writing… so I thought, why not. As long as I’m here, he can’t get into trouble.

Everything was fine, except that he kept getting between my feet as he tried to push his way between me and the washing machine, causing me to stumble and almost trip as I wanted to avoid stepping on him. When he wasn’t between my feet, he was repeatedly folding the large rug back from the corner – or, more accurately, he was bulldozing it back – because he wanted to sit on the tile beneath it.

The next time I went out to the laundry room, he came with me again and fitted himself into the corner of the bottom shelf of the bookcase we have in there. I turned my back for one minute when I went to the side yard to shake the dust from the dryer’s lint trap. When I got back to the laundry room, Geronimo had ripped the shelf’s contact paper lining to jagged shreds.

Because I live my life in the hindsight zone, I decided to leave him in the laundry room when I went back into the house that time. It’ll only take 10-15 minutes to put away this load of clean clothes, I thought, and then I’ll come back to check on him. He just seems so happy in the laundry room! If the worst thing he can do is tear up some contact paper, I can live with that.

I was in the bedroom folding the clean laundry when I heard a clanging commotion outside. It sounded like someone had thrown a T.V. into a metal dumpster. It sounded like it might have come from behind our back fence, as our “alley” is an apartment complex parking lot, and we sometimes hear people throwing heavy things into the dumpster back there. I resisted the urge to run to the laundry room to make sure it wasn’t Geronimo. It can’t be him, I thought. How could he make such a racket? He’s a tortoise. Someone threw an appliance or an armful of pots and pans into the metal dumpster, that’s all.  

When I went back to the laundry room, I found that hurricane Geronimo had struck. The laundry room was trashed. The narrow, spindly metal shelving rack we used to hold rags and garden tools and cables had fallen. On the way down, it caught onto the metal post of the table next to it. The half-fallen rack obstructed the middle of the room; not only was it too tall to land flat on the floor, but it was dangling from the metal table post. It hovered above the floor at an angle, festooned with towels and one of its shelves swinging free.

After some searching, I identified Geronimo sitting in the middle of the havoc he’d wreaked, directly, to my horror, beneath the gigantic pair of gardening shears (with long, pointy Edward Scissorhands blades) that balanced precariously from the juncture of the rack and the table post. The shears were tangled up with coils of cables and cords, a loaded tool-belt, a length of extension cord, and whateverthehell else we had hanging up there. Oblivious to the danger he was in, Geronimo held down his spot, which was, no doubt, exactly the spot he wanted to be in. He’d achieved his goal. All he had to do was simulate a catastrophic natural disaster.

All I wanted to do was get Geronimo out of harm’s way and make sure that he was okay.

To achieve my goal, I had to perform a Cirque du Soleil contortion sequence in order to carefully extricate the Edward Scissorhands shears from the table and the rack so I could remove the rack without the shears falling onto Geronimo, who was still sitting in his spot, not moving, probably because he was plotting his next big move.

With the metal rack balanced on my right shoulder and my feet planted in a leaning horse stance, my right foot braced against the door’s threshold, I managed to grasp the shears with my left hand, twisting my upper body to settle the contraption of metal shelving more on my back so I could transfer the shears to my right hand and toss them out the door. Then I had to remove the whole rack, which was also a feat because it’s so tall, and it was jammed across the width of the room between the wall and the shelving on the opposite side. Geronimo had pushed himself up against the rack’s forward-most back feet. I had to extricate the rack without hitting him. I managed to lift and maneuver the rack backwards out of the room, carry it to the side of the yard that he can’t reach, and throw the whole thing over the cinder-block barrier, towels, cables, tool belt, and all.

I returned to the laundry room. Geronimo was still sitting in his spot, camouflaged in the rubble, surrounded by towels, bottles of laundry detergent, the heavy box of motar, an empty metal bucket and a metal wastepaper basket (so much metal!), the tools and the cords and the so on and so forth. I checked him thoroughly and found no damage to his shell, which is probably made of Kevlar. “That’s it,” I said. “You’re done in here.” Even though it was my fault for leaving him unattended. Who knew that our gentle little Stegosaurus was going to pull a T-Rex and storm the laundry room? I picked him up and carried him out. He huffed and puffed in annoyance at being evicted, and when I set him down on the patio, he literally stomped off to his burrow, as if I’d sent him to his room without dinner.

I left the laundry room exactly as it was, so Callaghan could see what our prehistoric child of the desert did while he was gone.

Seriously, guys. I’ve had various combinations of dogs and cats most of my life, and I’ve never seen dogs or cats cause this sort of destruction.

Geronimo loves the laundry room. When we couldn’t find him yesterday afternoon, we split up and combed the entire yard, and then we noticed that the laundry room door was open. It’d been closed, though! We went in and found Geronimo sound asleep, tucked away behind a tall 30-roll pack of jumbo Charmin toilet paper rolls. The door had been closed, but I must have neglected to pull it all the way until it clicked. He’d pushed it open. I can’t get over his strength!

I think my next minimalism project is going to be the laundry room.

A week in the life of Geronimo. (Desert tortoise update!)

A lot of you have been asking for a Geronimo update, and we’re happy to provide! These pics range from mid-February up to today, but as a whole, they capture a sort of “day in the life” snapshot of our little guy. We can call this post a “month in the life,” if we’re being specific.

Geronimo (aka Mr. Personality) still spends the night in his wooden pen indoors; night temperatures continue to be unpredictable, which is typical of March. He sleeps late into the morning and starts to wake up at around noon. I’ll bring him outside so he can spend the day wandering around, chomping on grass, sunbathing on his burrow, napping inside his burrow, etc.

Geronimo’s burrow, by the way, is a spectacular work of landscape architecture lovingly crafted by Callaghan. We went by the specs provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, but Callaghan built up the top to create a sun-deck accessible by winding hiking trail, complete with a guard rail! Callaghan has a few more embellishments in mind before he’ll call it finished. I’ll post pics of those details in the future.

I’ll start with a proud mom close-up of Geronimo’s eye, since our vet commented on his “beautiful green eyes.” It’s true. Geronimo’s green eyes are gorgeous:

 

Geronimo sees you.

 

Now for some pics of Geronimo doing Geronimo things!

Geronimo walking off the patio onto the gravel:

 

GOING FOR A WALK.

 

Trundling along. The patio is behind him and to the right.

 

[DERP]

Geronimo enjoys the fresh spring growth of our lawn, the different grasses and dandelions and what have you. Our vet said that he should be eating this, primarily. Romaine lettuce will always be good for him, and he can have it once or twice a week, but he needs to be eating more of the live stuff right now.

 

SALAD!

 

Romaine lettuce is his preference, though, and his favorite thing is to be fed by hand. I’m actually having a hard time weaning him off of this habit. It’s kind of heartbreaking when I set him down on the lawn and tell him to help himself to the magnificent all-you-can-eat buffet, and he just sits there in the middle of it looking at me like MOMMY FEED ME PLEASE.

So I give in every other day or so. I know. I’m a push-over Mom, and he knows it. He’ll sometimes refrain from eating at all if I don’t feed him, or if I’m not right there with him on the grass. He eats the grass more if I’m with him.

He had Romaine for lunch today:

 

NOM-NOM

 

He also loves to be petted after he eats! Not spoiled at all. Nope.

 

This guy, though!

 

THAT’S THE SPOT.

 

He likes to be petted on his neck, too. He loves cuddles.

Here he’s heading toward his burrow:

 

Burrow-bound.

 

He’s so dedicated to whatever path he’s on!

 

HI I’M A HAPPY TORTOISE AND YOU ARE IN MY WAY.

 

We had a few overcast days in the middle of February, and Geronimo wanted to sunbathe, so he climbed up to the sun-deck Callaghan built on top of his burrow:

 

GOING TO LAY OUT!

 

But when he got to the top, there was no sun there, either.

It looks like he’s yodeling.

 

WHERE IS THE SUN?

 

When it IS sunny, he’ll often retreat into his burrow for a nap.

 

LONG HARD DAY I NEED A NAP.

 

He loves his burrow!

 

BYE MOM

 

The vet said to soak him in warm water every few days to once a week. We fill up a large plant plate thing and put him in it for a late-afternoon bath. He enjoys a good bath! He gets a gentle scrubbing all over with a soft toothbrush while we’re soaking him. It’s a good thing he loves it, because he’s a messy eater, and we need to wash away the dried green slime around his mouth somehow.

 

SPA DAY!

 

Afterward, we set him on a towel and loosely wrap him, patting him dry so he won’t be dripping wet when we bring him in and put him in his pen.

 

NOT SPOILED AT ALL.

 

Then we tuck him in. He snuggles into his hay and up against his towel pillow and crashes immediately.

 

GOOD. NIGHT!

 

Nothing wakes him up! In the morning, he’ll get up slowly, sometimes stretching out his neck and resting his head on his towel pillow.

 

DON’T WANT TO GET UP YET.

 

Geronimo seems to be happy with us. He’s certainly been pampered, though, having arrived during hibernation season as a non-hibernating tortoise… we’ve had to dote on him because of the special needs of his circumstances. We’ll soon make the adjustment to full-time outdoor life!

Meet Geronimo, our new kid. (Sonoran Desert Tortoise!)

Blog-related announcement first: This is my last Friday blog post! For writing-related reasons, I’ve decided to move my second blog post day from Friday to Thursday. Starting next week, I’ll post on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the late-morning to early-afternoon range (MST).

Now for our family news! We’ve had an addition to our family. I recently mentioned that I’ve been distracted by a tortoise, and I wasn’t kidding. 9 days ago (after a couple of days of deliberation and phone calls), an orphaned Sonoran Desert Tortoise came to live with us.

After a few false starts with names, we finally realized that his name is “Geronimo.”

We’ve been working with the proper agency to get him legally registered to us. Adoptions don’t usually take place until April 1st (end of hibernation), but Geronimo didn’t go into hibernation this cycle. We’re doing a backwards adoption process due to the fact that this is a rescue situation. Desert tortoises in Arizona belong to the state of Arizona, as they’re native wildlife in captivity… you have to be an Arizona resident in order to adopt. We consider it an honor to be one of many Arizona families to adopt a tortoise. We love having Geronimo in our family!

What can I tell you… we fell in love with Geronimo the instant he got home. He’s a funny, sweet, and clever little boy, very active and just full of personality. He’s a character, in fact.

 

Hello, my name is Geronimo.

 

We love his little face! Here he is in that same corner of our backyard:

 

 

We call Geronimo a “kid” because that’s what the vet calls him, but she said that he’s at least 20. He’ll more than likely outlive us.

 

Geronimo looking enormous. (He’s not.)

 

Callaghan took the above pic from ground-level, which made Geronimo in the foreground look huge compared to me. (Sidenote: if my arms weren’t exposed to the elements all the time, they’d be as pale as my legs. I don’t use self-tanner. Haha.)

 

This is better.

 

This is how Geronimo really looks compared to me! I’ll get some pics of Geronimo with Callaghan, too.

 

Geronimo gravitating to the site of his burrow.

 

Last weekend, we prepared the ground – the highest ground in our backyard – for Geronimo’s burrow. We’ll spend this weekend building the burrow. Geronimo made it clear that he approves of the site.

 

Geronimo pretending he’s emerging from his future burrow.

 

We bring Geronimo inside when the temps drop below 70 degrees; we have a pen for him in his own room in the house. He needs to be kept warm during the winter!

 

Geronimo making his rounds along the gravel.

 

Geronimo is great on guard duty… he continuously patrols the perimeter of our yard. He also walks through it. He leaves not an inch uncovered. He stops to rest for a minute every once in a while, and then he gets right back to his rounds!

Nenette sometimes watches him from our bedroom window sill. She has no idea what he is. He’s not like any cat she’s ever seen.

 

He likes to eat the lawn.

 

We have diverse terrain for Geronimo in our large backyard: gravel, grass, sandy dirt, and clay dirt. We have citrus and desert trees, hibiscus and other flowery bushes, bougainvillea, and a variety of cactuses and succulents. He also likes to walk around on our concrete patio.

The vet declared Geronimo to be in good health when we took him to the avian and exotic animal clinic for a well-check earlier this week.

We also talked about his diet. Geronimo is vegan. He loves to eat our Bermuda grass and the dandelions that grow in it (dandelions are his favorite)! He enjoys leafy greens… we can give him romaine lettuce, says the vet, but not spinach or collard greens, as they’re too high in protein for him.

 

Geronimo at the vet!

 

Geronimo. [**happy sigh**]

Happy Friday to you all. I’ll see you next week on Tuesday (as usual) and Thursday!