Monday, October 11, 2010

Tortuga's Bunker

For the past few weeks I’ve been talking about the Fiesta Arts Gallery in Indio and my current show there. I can hear you groaning, “Not another blog about that damned show!” This week, I will talk about one of the animals in my life that brings me joy.

No! I am not talking about my husband, although he is sometimes an animal and he does bring me joy…

About three years ago, we adopted an African Sulcata Tortoise. We didn’t go looking for a tortoise to adopt. I would have chosen a California Desert Tortoise. However, we were asked to adopt Tortuga from a dear friend who could no longer care for him.

The African Sulcata is native to the African Sahara Grasslands. They were introduced here as novelty pets by unscrupulous breeders and pet stores owners. They are cute when they are a few weeks old and about the size of a quarter. And then they grow.

These guys grow to be 36 inches long and weigh up to 225 pounds. Once they begin to grow and can no longer be kept in a 5 gal aquarium, most people can no longer care for them. This is how Tortuga came to us. He is a rescued tortoise. Tortuga is now 16 years old, weighs 70 pounds and is about 24 inches long. He’s a gentle giant with a small brain.

Our tortoise is even tempered and seems to be happy. He’s not aggressive, is very inquisitive and engaged with us and his environment. I believe that is because he’s not confined to a small pen and has a free rein of three sides of the property. He chases the Roadrunners from the yard, terrorizes the cats and absolutely loves dogs. Tortuga loves anything red. The neighbor’s children wear their Ruby Red Slippers when visiting to Tortuga’s delight.

For a reptile, this tortoise has a personality. He knows who we are and actually comes when called! He loves to be with us and I’m constantly escorting him out of the house. His toilet habits are primitive. You don’t want him in the house: he poops like a horse.

The weather is changing. Night time temperatures are dropping into the 60’s in Palm Springs. Tortuga must be kept in temperatures of 70F or above. Several days ago, I realized it was time to prepare Tortuga’s bunker for the winter. He has an underground home sunk 3 feet into the ground which is insulated and heated. He has internet, wide screen HD TV and I'm sure he watches Tortoise Porn.

Tortuga watched me muck out the bunker. He watched me test the heaters. He watched me replace the “door” which keeps the heat in. Winter has officially started in Palm Springs and Tortuga is now a show bird… The minute I finished preparing his bunker, he marched in and pooped.

Animal life is not always pleasant. My artwork, however, is! Please take time to visit my website at Take a look at my artwork. Contact me if you want to buy one of my works or if you have any questions about a specific piece. My contact information is on my website or you can leave a comment on this blog site for me to contact you (include your contact info!). You can e-mail me at or you can telephone me on my studio phone 760-992-3157. You can call me. I won’t mind; I’m hanging out at the gallery with nothing to do. That’s totally untrue. I’m weaving while minding the store.

Thank you for listening,

Jerry L. Hanson

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