when a sulcata tunes-in to a terrier

The other day, our one-year-old sulcata tortoise, Fluffy, was enjoying some lettuce on the patio. I think watching him eat is like watching a dinosaur. He's just so cool. So I took a video for posterity. Check out how awesome he is: [wpvideo k6zMKvIZ]

Fluffy is too young and small to be outside by himself for a length of time, so I often go out with him. Like a rebellious teen, he's old enough to want to be out A LOT and past his curfew, so I can't always watch him every second. If I lose track of him, I ask N.A.S.H.A. to "find Fluffy!" She's great at sniffing him out. The unlikely pair get along really well. He doesn't even pull inside his shell when she approaches. That means love. They are buds. She's always been the mothering type, so it doesn't surprise me that she's taken him under her wing.

I took another video.

I didn't realize that N.A.S.H.A. was in the background until I watched it back. N.A.S.H.A. is a mixed terrier in every way, and she often alerts to things outside. Maybe a rabbit hopping through the yard, a lizard rustling through the bushes, or a teenager walking home from the high school down the street. I find it completely fascinating how Fluffy completely plays off N.A.S.H.A.'s cues.

[wpvideo AnU6gT8H]

I stopped recording because he stopped eating. Immediately after I stopped, N.A.S.H.A. started barking her head off, and Fluffy pulled into his shell. I find it amazing that he knew something was up just by her body language before she even let out the alarm. He's much more intuitive than I am.

They bonded the day they met. Two small critters against the world.

our sulcata, Fluffy

FluffyCloseupIn October of last year, we added a new member to our family, Fluffy the Sulcata Tortoise. A client of mine let me know that she had several that were looking for homes since her neighbor's Sulcata had babies. "Do you want one?" she asked. "You're the first person I thought of." Of course I was. I'm a professional-pet-sitter-don't-try-this-at-home.

My first instinct was impulsively optimistic, but I acted grown up and told her I appreciated her offer but would need to "consult the family" before accepting.

Then, I was even more grown up. I spoke to my husband about it before telling the kids, so there was no ganging up or anything, and we deliberated for a couple of weeks. Deciding to take on a pet that will likely outlive your children is a big commitment. We covered all of the bases, and decided to take the plunge. We told the littles and the teen thing, and they were beyond thrilled. We made them promise that they would make sure their children took great care of the tortoise in his later years (because a fifteen-, five- and three-year-old totally get that kind of commitment), and we went in with full-family responsibility.

Fluffy lives in a large apartment we call "the tank," (because it's a converted fish tank) and gets out in our back yard ("garden," for you UK-ers) to exercise, explore, and graze nearly every day.

I think he's really smart because he knows enough to like me best. If anyone but me approaches him, he pulls into his shell for a bit until he recognizes the human, but he knows I do 99% of the feeding and cuddling and freeing, so he's attached to me and stays out of his shell whenever I reach for him. This proportion of care totally violates the original family contract, but did not surprise me.

Oh, and perhaps I should mention that we don't yet know his gender, but we call him a "he." We might change his name to Mrs. Doubtfire if he turns out to be a she.

There is a ton of conflicting information on the 'net about Sulcatas, but Wikipedia warned me that Fluffy will eventually tip the scales at 100-200 pounds, and he can live to be 50-150 years or "much longer." So perhaps the great grandchildren should be prepared.

Fluffy has brought so much unexpected joy to our family. He's got a personality, and a bit of an attitude, so he fits right in. It is SO fun to watch him eat. Check it out:

[wpvideo nRIJ2ZFG]

That's him eating weeds in our yard, which is awesome. Can you imagine how many weeds he'll help us out with when he's 150 pounds? Oh, wait...I'll be dead. The great-grandchildren will appreciate that, I'm sure.

For now, we love Fluffy, and he seems to love us.

Look how big he's getting!