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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

When a Cactus Attacks

It's been a while since I have taken Blueberry into the desert for a walk.  Last night was our first sunset hike in a loooong time.  It was really nice out.  It would have been nicer if B hadn't of finished pooping and then stepped right onto a cholla.  I dropped poo bags, foolishly tried to grab the cholla chunk with my hand and ended up with spines in my fingers.  I tossed my backpack to the ground, all the while telling B to relax and not try to grab the cholla out of her paw with her mouth.  The fact that she listened is a miracle (thank you, Jesus!).  I finally located my pliers, yanked my spines out real quick (I needed two good hands to help B with hers) and then proceeded to remove the spines from B's back paw.  
Pain free, I was able to then pick up the poop and quickly step off to the side of the trail to let some other hikers pass.  I am fairly certain they didn't notice our little drama playing out.  Needless to say, I am a little rusty with desert hiking protocol, but hopefully after my surgery, I will pick it back up again in no time!  



Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Did you know...



First off, I apologize for a repeat photo - Pistachio is difficult to get on film.  Not because he is fast...that's just silly.  It is because he takes a lot of naps in his burrow and I usually only see him on weekends, and there's no guarantee of that either. 

Did you know?

  • Tortoises frequently eliminate in their burrows.  Yes, that means that Pistachio's bedtime buddies are his own turds. I have to peek out my window to see if he is out of his burrow and if he is, I race outside to clean up his burrow before he takes yet another nap.  (It should be noted that Blueberry knows when I am scraping his poop up and she waits expectantly outside the gate.  Is it wrong that I usually throw at least one turd her way?  Would it help if I told you it is the one treat she savors?  She settles herself slowly into the grass, holds the turd between her paws, gives it a good sniff and then chews it oh-so-slowly.  Technically, it is a vegetable.)  
  • A wasp or bee tried to build a nest inside Pistachio's burrow. Thankfully, I have a thermometer inside the burrow that I check each afternoon to make sure the temp inside the burrow doesn't go over 90 (it's been holding steady at around 78-82 degrees).  It was just one honeycomb thing with a few eggs inside.  I crushed it and the eggs.  Take that.  
  • I have read that sometimes mice, black widows, and other critters will often take up residence in tortoise burrows too.  I didn't sign up for that!  
  • I had a break through with Pistachio.  For the first time since I've had him, he willingly approached me AND ate some plant leaves out of my hand!  In the past, I had to gently lob plants his way and then step back a minimum of 10 feet, after which he would wait a few minutes before approaching the food and eating it.  Progress!  There's something super neat about getting a tortoise to eat from your hand.  
  • Some tortoises have been known to eat dog poop.  This is not an experiment I am willing to conduct.  Although, I have to admit it would be pretty convenient to have Blueberry and Pistachio together in the same yard, cleaning up after each other.  I'd never have to pick up my yard again!  

"So...what I'm hearing is, it's okay to sleep in one's own waste...interesting...very interesting..." 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Fun Facts About Pistachio

 I have quite a bit of knowledge of captive desert tortoise care from reading up on it prior to adopting Pistachio (definitely not an expert though).  I even had to do a little research to find a vet specializing in tortoises should he have any ailments that creep up - they are susceptible to upper respitoratory issues if kept in conditions that are too damp.  

There's a LOT of stuff about them I didn't know and while they aren't high maintenance, they still require a good bit of work to care for properly.  It took me about 5 weekends just to build his burrow; another 3 weekends to fix up his fence enclosure so a certain dog can't get to him.  I did consider letting him be in the same yard with Blueberry, but apparently, there are one to many cases where people have allowed their dogs to co-exist in the same yard with a tortoise and the dog never  bothers the tortoise "until one day...".  I don't want to risk that so they are separated and Blueberry can smell him and hear him and is VERY interested in what is on the other side of the fence, but I see no reason to let her meet him.  




He smells his food before he eats it.  He's pretty particular about what plants he will eat.  His shell is a little cracked due to a predator encounter he must have had before he was rescued and the shape of his shell indicates he wasn't being fed properly. Desert tortoises require desert plants - not lettuce, dog food, "special tortoise food" you may find in a pet supply store, not fruit - there's actually a long list of foods they can't have.  The list of desert plants they enjoy is even longer and is a much better diet for them.

Desert tortoises are solitary creatures.  Pistachio has taken a while to warm up to me, but I think he is coming around.  As long as I don't make any sudden movements - which means as long as I move as slowly as he does, he's cool with me hanging out with him.  

"I wish I could meet Pistachio.  I really need to let the other dogs out there know once and for all if he tastes like a pistachio nut or not.  It's a matter of public interest."


Pistachio, and all desert tortoises, often hold their urine for up to a year.  If you find one in the wild and pick it up, it will frighten it enough that it will urinate, thus making you a tortoise murderer making it really important the tortoise find another water source soon, lest it should die from dehydration.  So the moral of this story is - don't pick up a wild desert tortoise unless absolutely necessary (for example, if it is in the middle of the road).


"There's no way I could hold my urine in for a year.  That's crazy."