Friday, August 31, 2007

Nemo Curls Up Like Cat ?!

You have to admit, Nemo is strange. He's the most relaxed turtle ever. For a few days, it has appeared to me he has snuggled up like a cat (kinda wrapped around himself with his head out resting on the ground as if on a pillow) curled in the direction of his shell. I couldn't be sure because he was under his hide.

Today he had another busy morning. It was so unhumid and gorgeous outside, I let him run up both sides of the yard. When he went inside, he immediately marched over to his wading pool. After hydrating for a few minutes, he began to move his back legs like he were swimming--which is normal for him. It is rather comical to watch. Soon thereafter, he figured out, if he held onto the edge of the dish, he could splash his little legs more vigorously. At one point, he looked so happy and nearly jumped out of the wading dish in the way a puppy playing would suddenly squirm.

For the remainder of the day, he chose to do off-the-log basking. By late afternoon, he crawled under the log blanket. The photo you see is what I saw when I randomly came in the room a few hours later. Even though it appears someone "tucked him in", he managed to get in that comfy position with the blanket all by himself. I now have the answer to my question. Yes, my turtle curls up like a cat--kinda sorta.

When I first adopted Nemo and began to observe him, I would panic thinking he broke his leg because of some of his positions. Both Brian and I have each had the opportunity to walk through his area in the wee hours of the morning to find him totally sprawled out on the linoleum floor (as opposed to asleep in his hide curled up in a blanket or a lump under one of his blankets). The first thought the first time for each of us was that he was dead. omg. But noooooo. It was Nemo just chillin'.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Day in the Life of the Un-Turtle

Today was production day for Nemo's most "sophisticated" YouTube video to date. It was fun to make. I even figured out some frame transitions. It includes my favorite photos of Nemo and some footage of him moving. It will likely be my last one for awhile. Will need to accumulate new footage. I'm sure there will be an unending supply of adorable Nemo photos for the blog though.

Aside from my having a busy morning camped out on my sofa recuperating from surgery, Nemo had quite a busy morning too. He made two laps around the kitchen when I first woke up stopping to check out his domain: was his cuttlebone still the way he left it, was anything moved for which he did not give permission, and something must be going on inside his igloo that he keeps stopping in for brief visits.

He seems to be more active when both Brian and I are here. We are usually in the living room and each of us will say hello to him as we pass by his habitat on our way to the kitchen. Today he decided to venture into the living room surprising Brian as he went toward the kitchen. I remained on the sofa and was greatly amused by his marching between the big chair and ottoman and circling back into the kitchen. For two days he has been a lump. Today must be activity day.

As you can see, I caught him in another unusual relaxation pose this morning. What is it with his legs? Brian thinks he's double jointed. lol.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Outward Stretching Palms" Yoga Basking

So far, no turtle owner has come forward to let me know that Nemo's seemingly strange poses are normal. I don't know what goes on in his little turtle mind to choose his basking poses, but the common element of his basking ritual is to turn in 90 degree increments until he has basked all sides. Just before I took this picture, his head was straight up in what I call the periscope position for maximum "sun" exposure to his neck. I do think he's a little ham since he often looks right at the camera.

This particular pose is unusual because of the position of his front feet--outward stretching palms. See his back right leg stretched straight back? His left toes can be seen behind and to the left of his head. Must be comfy to him.

Today was a blanket basking day as opposed to a log basking day. I wonder what determines what kind of day it will be.

Nemo had his first "home alone" experience this past weekend when I unexpectedly had a two-night stay in the hospital. Poor little guy had his basking light on all night on Friday. Saturday night, Brian checked on him and had some quality bonding time. He really is enamored with Nemo. I think Nemo was mad at me when I came home for abandoning him. He perked up when I first went over to talk to him but then he turned around in a little turtle huff and crawled under his blue blanket. About an hour later, I noticed he had worked his way from under the blanket to the opposite side to peek out so he wouldn't miss any of the view.

His new diet isn't working too well yet. I did order some special turtle veggie treats. Am hoping he might actually like them. He continues to have his own mind and surprises me everyday with something adorable. Me and a reptile. I still can't believe it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Nemo Goes to the Vet

Today was Nemo's big day out. I placed him in a deep magazine holder because I knew the plastic containers I had he would climb out of. Well he was climbing out of this one too. He'd get his little front toes hooked on the ledge and start pulling. Strong little guy. He was much calmer on the drive back than going.

Very nice lady vet. She pronounced Nemo healthy and handsome. Will have to place him on the tough love diet though. Turtles can go two to three WEEKS without food and be okay! So I needn't fret about him not chowing down every two or three days.
New diet will be everything he's supposed to have mushed together so he doesn't have a choice. If he wants the good stuff, he'll have to ingest some of the leafy greens and veggies. Back to the market. I was buying a bag of whatever to remove one green bean or one asparagus only to find out he hated it. I think stores should sell corn by the kernel and broccoli by the sprout. That will be 49 cents please.

After arriving home, I placed Nemo in his zen garden to see if he might look around for some high protein worms or slugs. Of course not. He figured out how to scale the side of the terra cotta pot and look at me pleadingly to get him out of there.

One thing good about vet visits is that, if a pet has not allowed handling, the owner becomes the good guy at the vet's office. Pet becomes very touchable and even clingy. After getting into his un-natural habitat of blankies and zen plants, Nemo took a very long bath in his little pool. I guess all that stress dehydrated him. Omg. He can't have anymore toasted bagel. He'll probably go through withdrawal. The prosciutto bugs are okay though as a treat. Yay!

Can you touch your toes like this?

This is a new position. Ok, you gotta look carefully. See how his arm is aimed backwards? See how his back leg on the same side is weirdly angled forward? His front nails are a fraction of an inch from the center of his foot. His toes are angled into the shade (by the Rice Chex). And to make it an even more kundalini yoga position, his other leg is stretched way back under the blanket. We could name this "Turtle half climbing basking log relaxation pose".

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Garden Uninhabited by Nemo

This is part of the "zen garden" I created for Nemo prior to his arrival. You can barely see the overturned large terra cotta bowl in the back left corner shaded by the lovely wisteria. The shallow aqua bowl was to be his drinking dish and wading pool. The little pond is cute. The flowers around the pond now nearly make the pond invisible, covering it with bright pink blooms. Alas, Nemo hates it. Initially we thought perhaps he didn't like the cocoa mulch which is likely popular because I live near Hershey, PA. Brian and I changed over to large bark nuggets which looks lovely and provides for better footing.

It didn't matter, Nemo can't run fast enough to get out. A fence has been put around the area to the left of the steps to turtle proof. He tries to climb the fence. I still try to take him out a few times a week for "jogging up the hill" because he does need fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. I was hoping he'd at least like to linger for a bit. Maybe it's the therapist in me, but I wonder what scary thing happened in a garden in his past.

I still love the garden. Each time I look at it, I can feel an "ahhhhhh" thing happening. Several birds like to bathe in the "wading dish". I'm hoping to find a fat toad to live in the garden. It has to be fat so it can't escape through small openings in the fence. Maybe it will befriend Nemo during the panicked visits. lol.

In the meantime, I'm worried about Nemo. Because he's such an unturtle, he doesn't eat right. We meet his new vet tomorrow. I saw the picture in the box turtle manual of how to force feed a turtle. omg. I sure hope that doesn't have to happen. He will hate me for sure. Just want him to be healthy. He certainly seems happy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Turtle Blanket Laundry Day

I guess not too many pet turtle owners have turtle laundry day. Mine averages about once a week. I decided to stack the clean blankies on top of Nemo's igloo today while he happened to be lounging inside watching all that was going on. It was so colorful and cozy looking. New to the habitat is the Baby Boyd's dinosaur "Rex" now living atop the garage.

When turtles live outdoors, they like to burrow into the mud or leaves just until the bottom outer part of the shell is covered. Nemo has developed the art of burrowing "into" a blanket. Except what he really does is fluff up the blanket around his shell. I haven't actually watched him do it but am guessing he does a swimming motion with his legs to create the desired little piles of blankie bunches around him. However he does it, he sure looks comfy. Who would want to go outside in the rain and mud and eat worms if you could be inside being pampered and stay nice and dry eating prosciutto bugs or fruit yogurt? Un-turtlism is definitely an artform to my handsome guy.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Nemo Inspires Art

This is a 4-year-old's rendition of Nemo eating near his igloo. Isn't it great? She is also part caretaker of two baby cherry footed tortoises (which she pronounces "torguses"). Just as many little boys can tell you everything there is to know about dinosaurs, this little girl knows more about torgus care than I know about turtle care. She can even cite the differences between turtle and tortoise care.

I guess hearing me talk about Nemo inspired her to want one too. Except in her being helped to look online for turtle pictures, she fell in love with the tortoises. To the right is a picture of her adorable baby torguses Tao and Harmony. I love those names. To get a feel for how little these guys are, they are eating hibiscus flowers--which are bigger than they are!

So Nemo has not only impacted my life in a good way, he has positively impacted others too--and not just through smiles with his videos and photographs. It is as if he is that wonderful universal loving energy connecting others with the universe as well. Ummm...let's just call that my zen mode. It's also 1 a.m.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Nemo Goes "Jogging"

Nemo had quite an active morning. Last night he decided to crawl under the blanket that his summer home sits on and somehow managed to actually crawl into the hide still under the blanket. Apparently he forgot he had done that when he woke up. I came downstairs at 6 am and he was not awake yet. Usually he is out and waiting for me. I decided to set up my camera anticipating he would have difficulty getting out.

While wriggling his way out of the blanket, he must have tapped into quite a storehouse of energy. He proceeded to circle the kitchen three times. He is about a 5" turtle and the room is about 10' long. Three laps. Think about it. Not only was he active, he was (as Brian would say) "Marco Nemo" exploring and being quite daring. He climbed to the roof of his summer home. I couldn't believe he did that while I had my camera running! I had missed how he had gotten up there the last time. After surviving the spill off the roof, he circled back to climb over his basking log and (for the first time that I saw) climbed over his large log hut landing nose first on the descend--once again seemingly impervious to falls and tumbles.

After his second circle to once again climb over the log hut, he took a bath in his wading pool before coming right at the camera as if to say "Would ya turn that thing off!" and took an abrupt turn to take a breather behind the igloo. Whew! That's more activity than I do in a whole day.

The photo to the right is part of Nemo's habitat. The far left is his blankie covered igloo complete with log "garage". In the forefront is his intersection paver rock. To the far right is his summer home. He is one little guy I enjoy having under foot.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Blankie Basking

You might ask, "Isn't basking a typical turtle behavior?" Well, yes. Except understanding how Nemo finally accepted basking was very un-turtle. Because he was initially to reside for the warmer months in the Zen garden, I had not purchased an official basking lamp since he would have natural sunshine. When plans changed and he was to be indoors during further turtle-proofing for the garden, I researched basking lamps. From the time I chose one online and had it in the house set up for him was several weeks.

Then began the process of finding the appropriate Nemo-approved basking object. His favorite giant rock didn't work because he was mad that I had moved it from it's former position. He doesn't like it when I move his stuff! Next came a 12" x 12" paving stone which was lovely, would provide easy stepping up and would help him keep nails trimmed on hard surface. Nope, that was out too. I moved the paver tile under the kitchen table to move it out of the way initially. It's too heavy for me to move but it's on a blanket so I just pulled the blanket. (Blankets serve more than one purpose.) Immediately he began to use the large square as a kind of intersection. No matter where he was going in his space, he walked up on his intersection to decide which way he would turn. Okay...that was weird. Good intersection tile but bad basking stone.

In the pet stores are basking logs (large pieces of odd shaped wood) that sell for about $30-$40. I didn't want to spend that kind of money only for him to turn his nose up at it. One day in Pier 1 I saw large pieces of driftwood for sale for $15. One looked to be the perfect basking log (trying to think as a turtle, of course). Initially he would not climb on it but did begin basking near the log. That was a good sign. He began to bask nearly every day close to the log. One day I thought maybe the surface was difficult for him to hold onto. Hence the blankie. I wrapped 2/3 of it a receiving blanket and left the top part of the log uncovered. That did the trick. He now loves his log. Look at that picture. He is so lounging. lol. I had never seen a turtle so relaxed before.

Back to the originally posed question, yes, basking is a typical turtle behavior. Having a basking spot covered in a baby blanket would not be typical box turtle behavior. It is, however, extremely typical Nemo behavior.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Honors While Star Lounges in Summer Home

This is a typical afternoon for Nemo. His overturned plastic bin has been dubbed his summer home since his other main hide is the cat igloo. He has had his mid-day nap and is lounging from the security of his hide behind the chair and intentionally bunched up blankie. He may stay this way for several hours. Why not? He looks very comfy. Yesterday's lounging spot was on the right side of his summer home.

While oblivious to all the commotion, Nemo's improved video has been online with YouTube since last night and received two honors today already. I was able to spruce up the video even more and that was submitted to a Photo Contest posted via YouTube video by artist Deborah Company. When that submission is processed, I guess I will have three versions of Nemo's video online. This last one includes his dangling feet photo as the beginning of the video which I like a lot--and some of the graphics were improved. My, Nemo has certainly challenged me in many ways. Movie making had not been on my conscious agenda!

In other Nemo news of the day, I called to get him his first vet appointment so he is on file with a doctor in case of emergency. There are only two vets in the area I know to be good with reptiles. I was told they were not accepting new "patients". in hmmmphhhh. In my past life I had seen both vets for exotic pets I had raised. Hopefully, one of them will remember me and agree to take on Nemo as an exception. I especially want to ask questions about his diet! Am guessing he takes after me since I model the following behavior: "Ummmm, should I have the Cherry's Garcia or the Double Fudge Brownie frozen yogurt for dinner?"

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Creature Comfort

Here it is, folks. My turtle snuggled up somehow on his own having made this cozy hiding place out of his favorite "substrate", baby blanket. Look at that arm crooked and hanging over the blankie while he peeks out. It's too cute. Who couldn't love that face?

Zen Basking

Just when I thought there couldn't possibly be any other way Nemo could lounge on his basking log, I found him luxuriating in his spa-like sunning area with his little froggy legs dangling behind him. If you go to the link of Nemo's Flickr photos on the upper right, you can see how his front legs sometimes point backwards which is what he was doing when his back legs were dangling. This is one chilled out turtle. Yesterday, he napped with both Brian and I in his space with his neck fully extended and turned to the right resting on the blanket like a pillow. This is not a turtle worried about predators. He doesn't just exist--he truly embraces his life in his Zen space. Okay, maybe not his outdoor Zen garden as planned, but he does have a Zen turtle space. He's my handsome little Zen un-turtle.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Does this shell make my butt look big?"

Nemo has not only brought joy into my life, Brian has slowly come to bond with the little guy as well. Initially, Brian had no expectations other than the stereotypical thoughts that a turtle would not interact and certainly would not have a personality. With his allergies, he rarely is comfortable around pets. Brian cautiously observed with fascination as I interacted with my new pet and listened curiously as I relayed numerous amusing stories of Nemo's adventures when Brian was not with me.

I didn't realize how cautious Brian was until I was recuperating from surgery and asked him to take the spray bottle and mist Nemo who was sleeping in his igloo. I saw the fear on Brian's face and couldn't stop laughing. He was afraid the turtle would bite him--not realizing there are no teeth and Nemo is so not aggressive to even head butt Brian's hand. After several weeks of watching me sit on the floor with Nemo and sometimes handfeeding him shrimp, toasted bagel pieces, and prosciutto, Brian spontaneously gave Nemo a piece of bagel which Nemo happily chowed down moments later. Today was a milestone because Nemo was being quite the explorer while Brian sat at the table in Nemo's space doing his work. When Nemo returned from checking out the living room and finding his way to the refrigerator and back, he walked under the table and nudged Brian's foot not once, but twice. He then meandered to one of his favorite napping spots behind the igloo under the soft mat. I believe Nemo officially accepted Brian with the foot nudge. Brian has a wonderful sense of humor and, early on in my pet turtle experience, he uttered the words that are the title of this post.

Nemo has been teaching us all kinds of new aspects to life. Brian learned how to add the Superman soundtrack to my video and a title clip which is now in the queue to go online. It makes me laugh every time I watch it. I even played with the moviemaker software to add an intro and a credit. Maybe I can figure out how to add it to this blog. And that's another thing--I'm blogging about my turtle and loving tweaking the template and colors. (Omg, was that just a dangling participle??) In my life prior to becoming a therapist, I was a writer and graphic designer. Whether anyone reads this or not, I'm having fun.

In yesterday's post I mentioned the turtle terrace. Here it is without the kiddie gate at the top step. Lovely little deck. Too bad he hates it. Oh well...maybe in time this "outdoor animal" may learn to enjoy a few minutes of fresh air.

YouTube Debut Achieves Honors

I'm so proud. Two days ago, Nemo had crawled under the blanket around his basking log. If he goes into blankets, it usually means quiet nap time, although it was his first time hiding in the blanket of his log. He loves his basking log. I have photos of his "log time" on the Flickr website. You can tell he luxuriates in his spa activities. So I was very surprised after observing the last of his tail disappear under the log blanket to suddenly hear and see the log move--obviously by his head lifting it up and him pushing.

I don't have a camcorder but there is a setting on my digital camera for mini movies. I quickly grabbed it and caught about 20 seconds of Nemo moving the log for the second time before apparently deciding it was now in the proper position. All you can see of Nemo is his little leg stretching further and further out from beneath the blanket as he pushes harder to move the log to its new position. The video came online in the wee hours of the morning and had honors when I woke up being one of the top favorites of the day. Yay! Here's the link if you'd like to see my superman turtle, click here.

I can see it now. Nemo The Un-Turtle video series. Of course that would mean a camcorder, video editing software, and a learning curve. Okay, maybe a thought for retirement. Have been home on medical leave since the end of June and return to work mid-September. The only energy I have when I get home is to sit on the floor and tell Nemo about my day before crashing on the sofa.

I am thankful for this time off--even if not for a fun reason--because having full time with Nemo has allowed for a new comfort level for him. I would have missed many entertaining moments if I'd been at work. How would I have learned he loves toasted bagel and prosciutto "bugs"? Being the un-turtle, he won't have anything to do with real turtle food and it is obviously beneath him to succumb to eating an insect. He does like his low fat dog food though which has all kinds of meat in it. Dog food is for turtle owners who can't deal with feeding bugs. lol. That would be me. But I found myself hunting juicy whatevers in the garden to bring him thinking he would be thrilled. Not! Bugs fulfill a turtle's need for protein. One day I was making my own sandwich of prosciutto and provolone on a toasted bagel when I decided I would roll up a tiny piece of the ham into the shape of a fat fly. He loved it! Now he has bug treats. Who knew he'd also like toasted bagel bits?

If that weren't strange enough, he comes out of deep hiding if he smells chicken being cooked. Think about that...where in the wild do turtles have chicken barbeques?! His dog food is chicken flavored and small pieces of white chicken are considered a turtle favorite so there is one thing turtle about him. But knowing when chicken is being cooked and waiting for it to be served is another matter.

P.S. It is later in the day and a freebie YouTube soundtrack has been added to Nemo's video which has also now earned two honors for the day! I need something tangible to hang on the refrigerator to thoroughly display my pride.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"Box turtles are outdoor animals."

This is Nemo, my 10+ year old but newly adopted male Eastern Box Turtle. Except there is nothing typically turtle about him. Nemo came into my life in early June 2007 to fulfill my need for pet companionship balanced with my SO Brian's allergies to animal dander.

Why a turtle? Easier than an iguana which had seriously been considered. And a box turtle loves being outdoors. I happened to be creating a zen garden space in the courtyard of my brand new townhome just for the new arrival. In the midst of completing the garden I had researched turtle-friendly plants and provided for lovely turtle shelter in the form of an oversized, overturned terra cotta pot. All other turtles would surely be envious.

Did you know there are websites like and a whole world of turtle lovers, some with educational websites with discussion forums? It was through such resources that I made three inquiries into potential pet acquisitions. I most wanted an adult male Eastern Box turtle. I didn't want a baby because they are so little, the garden would not be turtle-proofed sufficiently and I wanted to be able to not step on the little guy. My #1 choice came through and Nemo (the name I gave him) arrived overnight by DHL packed in a tied cloth bag (!) tucked in styrofoam! Geez. Like he was a knicknack instead of a live animal. Ok enough about that. Apparently I was more traumatized than the turtle. Newly retired Brian was home to accept the delivery and release the now air travel weary passenger into a Rubbermaid container with damp towels for rehydration.

At my home, I had set up an enclosure with all the luxuries and necessities for a box turtle. Also, we decided the zen garden was not quite turtle-proofed suffficiently and Nemo would remain indoors to become acclimated until it was safe for him to be in his garden. Photos of Nemo's 5-star indoor luxury blanketed accommodations can be found at the link provided at the upper right of this blog.

According to my research, box turtles need a varied diet, turtle substrate to dig and bury in (such as reptile bark or soil), a wading pool, humidity, lots of leafy green stuff, and don't expect them to be anything more than a lump. I was prepared for everything including lack of interaction. Put a pet in front of me and I start singing and being silly whether the pet likes it or not. Part of Nemo's habitat included a cat-sized igloo which provided ample reptile bark for digging. I set the igloo on top of a large folded towel for me to have easier clean up. That must have begun Nemo's world of choices. Obviously no one ever offered him blankies before.

Everytime Nemo wanted to hide or sleep, he crawled under the edge of one of the towels or baby blankets I had draped over his hides (half logs and other cubbyholes). At first I thought he was confused and would place him in the igloo. I realized after a day that he was merely kicking all the bark to the door of the igloo so he had room to move around on the towel that was the floor. Finally I gave him another igloo with just blankies and let him choose. A week later I removed the reptile bark completely. Only soft blankies for this little guy.

His response to being placed in his zen garden with wonderful shade provided by wisteria we had planted as a "baby" and required a trellis within three weeks was to run as fast as his little legs could carry him and try to climb the fence. After several more tries over the course of the next few weeks, I realized Nemo preferred the indoors. He still gets his fresh air and real sunshine several times a week. He now has a turtle terrace on my tiny 4' x 4' deck so he doesn't have to have mulch touch his belly. He still doesn't like it though.

Diet is a whole other story. Guess I'll save that for my next post. Basically, anyone reading this is now caught up to Nemo having entered my life. Obviously I love the little guy and he has quite the personality as can be seen in his photos. I hope you enjoy this journey with me of getting to know Nemo.