Friday, June 10, 2011

True Summer

What does summer mean?  School's out?  Lazy days poolside?  Softball games and picnics?  For me summer has officially arrived when Malcom can go outside.  As some of you may recall, Malcom is a tortoise.  He is my pet, my captive and a source of fascination and responsibility ever since 1975.  And it is because of Malcom that I view summer not merely by when it's warm enough to plant Basil or when the pond Lilies bloom but when it is OK to put Malcom outside.

Being a cold blooded creature, Malcom's environment is more than just a matter of comfort, it is a matter of survival.  Thus, his cage is outfitted with a warming/basking light and a heating unit that warms a section of the bottom.  This way Malcom can easily move into the appropriate clime to keep his body at the right temperature. 

Real sunlight is critical for good health too.  So in summer Malcom spends time outdoors.  Long ago, my dad made a containment unit with wooden sides and a top made of chicken wire.  This keeps Malcom safe from predators and getting lost in the Peony patch while allowing him to nibble on fresh grass and to bask in genuine sunshine.  A portion of the containment area is shaded by a piece of cardboard (we like things high tech around here).  This way Malcom can alternate between sunning himself and chillin' in the shade.

Malcom may be a laconic and unaffectionate fellow but he has vast power over my plans and actions all year.  As for what summer means, let's just say that summer is not measured by the calendar or even simply by the weather.  True Summer is measured by whether it is warm enough for Malcom.


  1. He must be a desert tortoise. They love summer! They have been on and off the endangered lists but back when you got Malcom, my mother bought my brother one at a pet shop. Tibby lived until '06 and loved to eat hibiscus flowers!
    Right now they need homes because there is an area in the Mojave Desert they are clearing for solar.

  2. He must be happy to get some real sun now!

  3. I've been thinking about getting a tortoise. Do you need a special license now in order to purchase and own one? What does your tortoise eat? In the winter, does he pretty much stay in his cage or can you let him roam around the house? And what I've been dying to know ... if you do let him roam, what about his potty needs? I'm thinking it would be difficult to have any sort of control over where a tortoise goes if he's just out and roaming around.

  4. Karen, you can buy a tortoise a pet shop. The toritose is usally a baby. As far as I know the government has not yet micromanaged tortoise ownership to the point of requiring a license.

    I let Malcom wander around my office most days. Happily, he has not used the rug as his toilet even once in all these years! To keep him safe while loose indoors, sometimes I put up a baby gate or close the office door. We don't want Malcom sprinting toward the stairs!

    Most tortoises eat fruits and vegetables and some meat. Malcom enjoys a little cat food now and then. Once Malcom tried to eat some dog poop in the yard. But we try to keep that off the menu!

    In my "Long Lasting Pets" post I recommend a couple books you may find interesting.