Welcome, Gidget’s Minion, Sheldon (Or…How we came to own a Russian tortoise.)

We have a few rules around our house. Well, okay, not rules, exactly, but things that make life in general run more smoothly. One of those is I usually should not be allowed to go, unescorted, to places like the grocery store, mass-market pet store, Office Depot, Staples, Target, mass-market pet store, any bookstore, JoAnn’s, mass-market pet store, home improvement stores, mass-market pet store…

(Sensing a theme?)

To be fair, I’m NOT one of those shopaholic people. I’m not. But sometimes, things…happen.

Another rule is generally, I don’t go to the mass-market pet store (sensing a theme here?) with Hubby on a Saturday, because that’s when they usually have pet adoptions, and the LAST thing we need(ed) was another critter in our herd flock horde pack clowder menagerie.

I mean, REALLY. Two dogs, two Quaker parrots (one inherited), and seven cats. (To be fair, one was inherited, one was adopted before the inherited one, the other was a stray kitten when I got him, and then momma cat, Luna, was pregnant by the time we finally caught her and got her inside, and she had three kittens that we kept. but that is an improvement from when we used to have six dogs and one cat.)

Are U mah new minun?

Are U mah new minun?

And now, we have Sheldon. Because apparently I really AM a masochist.

So the Saturday before FPE (so this was about two Saturdays ago) Hubby and I went out to breakfast. He needed to go to the mass-market petstore for food for our critters, and I wanted to hit a Michaels for something I was looking for. We went to a different mass-market petstore than we usually hit.

Well, of course, they were having pet adoptions. But ironically, it wasn’t the adorable dogs and cats that caught my eye. As I passed the reptile display, second row from the bottom, it was a tortoise in a 10-gallon tank that tugged at my heart. Now, in the past I’ve had exotic pets. I’ve had an iguana, a pet squirrel (long story), a pet possum (equally long story), and when I was a kid we had turtles. (Yes, I know they’re different.) I normally only give the reptile display a cursory glance.

Something about this poor guy just tugged at my heart. The way he was non-stop bumping against his tank, his shade hide was way too small, and (later) found out he had the wrong kind of food in there for him. Went home and couldn’t stop thinking about him. DREAMED about him, for chrissake. Looked up info on Russian tortoises on Sunday and researched. Talked to Hubby who said, yes, if he was still there Monday, we’d get him.

And we did. And I immediately took him to a reptile shop to get supplies, feeling horrible that I just supported the pet store live animal trade. (Note: Other than tropical fish, I usually do NOT support purchasing live animals from mass-market pet stores like that. NOT talking adoptions by rescue groups, I’m talking like THIS case as an example.) So here I am in the reptile store, they were looking at him, confirming he was a Russian tortoise, and I’m tripping all over myself apologizing for buying it from a mass-market pet store, and he said this.

“Hey, as far as I’m concerned, you RESCUED him from the pet store.”

I felt SUCH gratitude for that. I’m also hooked up with a FANTASTIC Facebook group for Russian tortoise owners. (They’re very similar to Greek tortoises.)

Aaaaand that’s the story of how Sheldon came to live with us. (It wasn’t until later that I realized Sheldon–I picked the name because of The Big Bang Theory–is a VERY common tortoise/turtle name.) So we told Gidget that Sheldon is her minion. She’s happy, Sheldon’s happy not to be stuck in a tiny 10-gallon tank (he’s temporarily in a very large plastic tub, with the RIGHT food and a hide he can get into and dig under).

IMG_3762

Ohhh…WOW! I LOVE this channel of HD Kitty TV!

And Grimmy’s happy to have HD Tortoise TV, because he thinks it’s FAR better than the Bird TV channel and Lizard TV channel he gets in the windows.

I also now owe Sir 50 whacks, because after momma cat Luna came to stay and we kept all three kittens, I agreed if I got any more animals without Him signing off on it, He could give me 50 whacks. No, it doesn’t matter that Hubby signed off on it. LOL (This is something I actually suggested, because, in all honesty, I was NOT getting another animal. So…dammit. LOL)

Sheldon appears to be doing well. I’m giving him fresh greens, compiling lists from various sources of safe “wild” greens and plants and flowers, and will eventually build him an outdoor enclosure (that will probably first be a kiddie pool for the sake of simplicity LOL). He’ll be an indoor/outdoor tortoise, inside at night and during bad weather, and outside when it’s nice and we’re home to supervise him. Fortunately, this is Florida, so we have a lot of great weather.

Got him a UVB light, and today just got him a better water dish (terra cotta plant dish). He’s getting soaks every other day, and supervised outside time almost every day. Plus I have him on the supplements he needs. Need to get him to a reptile vet for a check-up and preventative worming, but other than that, I think he’s doing okay. He seems happy, and while he’ll wander his current temporary digs (I’ll be building him a larger tortoise table) he doesn’t sit there “treadmilling” at the sides to get out like he was in the tiny pet store tank. He’s also now got a cuttle bone he can gnaw on when he wants to.

Wonder Tortoise powers, activate!

Wonder Tortoise powers, activate!

This was taken before I got the coconut bedding in his tub, but he seemed happy to have a hide to get into that he could actually get into. And he likes climbing on top of it, too. Don’t worry, he can’t climb out, I have it set up so the lid is weighed down on that end, and he can’t climb up and out the open end.

Ironically, Sheldon is going to end up in a book. I had the majority of one story in my brain, and realized the day we got Sheldon that the heroine needs a pet, and it’s a tortoise. So… LOL He’ll be a star. LOL One of the nice things about this breed of tortoise is that they don’t get very large, and they can easily live 40 or more years.

Gidget, making sure her "minun" is eating properly.

Gidget, making sure her “minun” is eating properly.

And honestly? As we slowly start to lose our furbabies to old age, it’ll be nice knowing Sheldon should, in all likelihood, be around possibly as long as we are, or longer. And his upkeep is relatively easy.

What’s shocking is that the more I research RTs, the more bad and downright dangerous info I find out there. I’m SO glad I got hooked up with the Facebook group right from the start and avoided missteps.

So while I do NOT condone purchasing animals from mass-market pet stores (look to rescue groups, adoption organizations, reputable breeders found via local owners groups, etc) if you do, DO YOUR RESEARCH. While Sheldon was not a planned acquisition, I DID go in armed with a lot of knowledge before we made the final decision to get him. Had I seen obvious and serious issues with him when we went back, I would have (despite it breaking my heart) not taken him. I’ve had extensive experience (including working at a park that had exotic animals and birds, and working for an animal shelter) with non-traditional pets. I know that you can’t just throw the cheapest food at them, toss them into a tank, and ignore them.

Exotic animals are a LOT of work, and they are not throwaway pets. They can suffer, needlessly despite best intentions, from the wrong kind of care. I even found a reptile vendor at a local flea market, who had an impressive collection of reptiles, but because he had apparently zero experience with Russians was trying to talk me into a pellet food that I already knew was harmful for RTs because of the high protein content. (Might be fine for tortoises and turtles who do need protein, but could prove deadly to RTs, Greeks, and other Mediterranean types of tortoises who need a LOW protein, high fiber and high calcium diet.)

Russian tortoises, in their native habitat, are GRAZERS. They don’t feed on meat, and they don’t eat fruit. If you give them spinach, it can truly harm them, because it contains compounds that inhibit the absorption of critical nutrients they need. There are certain kinds of bowls you should never use with them, because while they’re cute for turtles who swim, tortoises have been known to flip and drown in them. If you use the wrong kind of bedding, it can poison them, or they might eat it and it’ll cause impaction. They are prone to MBD if they don’t get the right kind of food, care, and UVB light or supplemental light. (And if you don’t know what MBD is, that’s all the more reason you NEED TO RESEARCH before you get a pet.)

Just like you don’t buy a kid a bunny or chick for Easter, don’t buy a child an exotic pet (or ANY pet) on a whim. Get them a Build-A-Bear animal they can dress up in costumes (and doesn’t require feeding, care, walking, or a vet, and if it gets ignored it won’t die).

Pets are NOT toys. They’re not throwaway amusements. They’re animals, and they deserve a chance for a decent life.

And, if you can properly care for them, some of them can be awesome minions to little dogs with aspirations of world domination. (Although she still hasn’t figured out he doesn’t have super powers, so SHHHHH…)