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.