The Cool Sulcata

It’s hot! Really hot!

Nothing new about that. But this year we made it all the way to the very last days of August before the rising temperatures hit the magic numbers when we begin to pull out the shade cloth to cover all the potted plants–clearly I have too many–and now that we have a newly developed yard with more natives than we’ve ever had before, I must resist the temptation to sneak in extra watering. I can use this time to see if all I’ve been told about their resilience is indeed true. So far, I’m a bit amazed.

Caring for the pets in this heat is always worrisome to me. Zena, however, is not suffering in this heat at all.


She is now almost 15 years old and so arthritic, poor baby, that getting up and down is hard for her. It’s hard for us to observe! Yet she still tries to follow us around, so at the moment she’s enjoying her humans stuck indoors with air conditioning.

But then there’s Darwin. He’s an African Sulcata and tolerates the heat well. He has plenty of covered area and we keep water in his enclosure. And he’s smart!

Earlier this week when the temperatures jumped I went to check on him. First thing I noticed was the hay and mud covering his water source. I lifted the corner of the tarp we use as one of his enclosures, and surprise!


He had burrowed the most amazing dugout. The tarp overhead protects him from the sun, but this cool African Sulcata knows what to do to improve his comfort. The area is currently a mess, and should we ever see rain again we will need to backfill, but for now his body fits the hole perfectly. Pretty smart, I’d say!


Keeping the water clean, however, isn’t going to be quite as easy.

I get a kick out of this guy and thought you might, too.

Cheers to an enjoyable weekend, whatever the climate!

38 thoughts on “The Cool Sulcata

    • So nice to hear from you, M-R! And I’m so glad you can appreciate Darwin’s activities. I really do find him interesting. In another month or so we’ll watch him start to prepare his “bed” for a long winter’s nap!😉

  1. I can’t read enough about Darwin, the tortoise. I am always delighted to read more about him. He is indeed pretty smart.

    As you know, we had to say goodbye to our dog Norman this year, who started having troubles with arthritis when he was 14 years old. He did fairly well with “Pain and Ache” (Amazon sadly) only the last year we added some peanut butter-flavored pet CBD oil to his daily diet, which seemed to take the edge off. He liked it and it did help, he walked easier and run again. (Thought I share)

    • Of course I remember your dear Norman. We can tell “the time” is getting closer, and yet I’m sure we’ll be shocked when it actually occurs. She is getting so thin and bony! It’s been a while, but we did try the CBD and she didn’t seem to tolerate it very well. I might want to try again, however. And I’m so glad you enjoy Darwin. He honestly makes us laugh! He actually has personality–or I say he does. LOL!

    • It’s true, isn’t it, Rosaliene? As long as the AC holds, I’m fine. If we lose power I may decide to dig a big hole, too! Hope you have a good weekend, even in this heat! 🙂

    • Darwin is a good example! He doesn’t complain about the heat, he just finds a way to make himself comfortable. I didn’t realize that you also keep the heat into October. We do, too, but I would have thought you might cool a little sooner. I’ll bet you’re seeing some signs of autumn in the landscape, though? Beautiful…just hot! Hope you enjoy your weekend, Andrew.

    • Annemarie, Zena was a rescue, and we don’t know everything about her, but the vet did say she has some Pyrenees in her. I’m glad you could see the comparison in our two dogs. Seeing your Molly makes me miss the “young Zena,” but she’s a dear and still enjoying her family, even if she’s losing stamina. Ah, age!! And I’m glad to learn your granddaughter enjoyed Bubbles. Turtles and Tortoises make very interesting pets. 🙂

      • Bubbles seems to be a very beloved member of the family. He’s been around since Genie was a toddler. It is promising to hear that Zena has calmed down. The young Molly can be a bit much some times. 😂

  2. I think your pets are handling the heat far better than I could. Being a country that is used to temperate weather, most of our homes don’t have aircon in the UK. Keeping cool during this summer’s heatwave was impossible!

    Sorry to hear that Zena is struggling to get about and despite the aircon, I doubt it’s much fun with all that fur in the heat. Darwin, being a reptile, must actually be quite happy and probably more active than usual? Watch out for a raid on your succulents! 😉

    Hope your native plants do handle the conditions as expected and continue to put on a good show for you 🙂

    • Our entire state is under a heat dome at the moment, and my family in Northern California (Bay Area) do not have A/C, either, Martin. The discussion has been how they’ve never really needed it, but with these heat conditions being more frequent and prolonged, they are weighing whether they might consider adding air conditioning. Down here in Southern California it’s a must, and so the draw on our energy grid right now is heavy, and problematic. The animals don’t complain like we do. They adjust. Darwin is very quiet during the day, staying close to his compound and the hole, which is even deeper than when I first took the photo. But in the late afternoon when the sun shifts a bit he has been incredibly active. He makes so much noise lumbering around his area bumping up against the back wall and some parts of his own housing, it sounds like we house livestock! He’s really a character! 🙂

  3. Darwin knows how to take care of himself, so smart. Glad to hear Zena enjoys the AC, she looks comfortable there. I heard about the heat and short of water from the people in our travel group. It is worrisome…

    • It is really. unsettling, Amy. This particular heat dome has lasted far too long. It’s about due to break, though, and we’ll be grateful. There’s even some talk of rain this weekend. That would feel like a miracle. And I think Darwin would enjoy that, too. Zena, probably not happy with thunder, although her hearing isn’t too sharp. Maybe she won’t notice. 🙂

  4. The temps have just ramped up here too. Even drought-resistant plants need extra water when they are first planted so you might want to give them a drink in the early AM. My plants are doing pretty well but, even though they are fairly established, I’m giving them some extra love too.

    • I have given the plants a little more water, Janis. They seem to be doing very well, and a couple of times I think I might have held off one more day, but I just couldn’t resist. It feels so foreign to me not to be watering “constantly” in this heat. LOL! It’s a whole new way for me to think, and it may take some time for me to trust it. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

    • Thanks for your interest in Darwin, Frank. He’s such a character, and I do from time to time remember that others like him, too, and try to share. Zena is really slowing down a lot. She’s still a happy dog, though. I think if someone wanted to video me while I try to coax her to eat better it would provide some entertainment. I practically perform a song and dance. 🙂

  5. Hello Darwin! I haven’t seen you for awhile! You look wonderful.

    How do Zena and Darwin get along? I’m sorry Zena is in pain. She appears well loved. I wonder what she would say to you if she could?

    • You know, Colleen, Zena doesn’t pay attention to Darwin at all anymore. When she was younger she would nudge Darwin and bark for attention, but for the most part, she doesn’t seem to care at all. I wish Zena could tell me what hurts! Some nights she doesn’t eat much, and I think it’s pain. But then the next day she’ll bounce around like a puppy if she thinks she’s going to get some hamburger. That’s pretty funny to see, actually. 🙂

  6. Animals often seem to know how to cope with heat by instinct. Our Anouk just sleeps when it’s hot too. And the sparrows have dust baths in my flower beds! Hope it has cooled down for you all now!

    • It hasn’t cooled yet, Cathy, but it’s supposed to be cooler this weekend, and even maybe a little rain. I will believe it when I see it. 🙂 The animals and their instinct to protect themselves even in heat is wonderful and a good example to us, too. In this heat we have to be a little more cautious with activity. I’d love to watch the sparrows enjoy the dust baths. That’s a charming picture in my imagination. 🙂

  7. Zena is precious. I’m glad she’s enjoying comfort and companionship in her golden years. It’s nice to see Darwin again. I think I remember a post of him coming out of hibernation one year. Your life is always interesting, Debra. This heat though; brutal.

    • Brutal is the right word, isn’t it? The heat dome isn’t so unusual, but it’s hovered a lot longer, don’t you think? Darwin is a character. He’s not easy to photograph because it’s hard to get the perspective of just how huge he is! And you have to watch him a lot to see how much he “plots and plans” his actions. LOL! Of course, I assign human qualities to my pets and think they’re acting with deliberation over strictly instinctual behaviors. I can’t seem to help myself. And thanks for your thoughts for Zena. She is definitely on the downhill side of her life and she is getting so thin, it’s clear she isn’t eating well. But she’s still happy, and we just enjoy her as much as we can for as long as possible. Thank you, Alys. Stay as cool as you can. 🙂

  8. That’s one clever tortoise! I hear there are more serious wildfires so I hope you are not affected by them. We had a very hot summer here but now we are back to typical variable wet weather..

  9. Lovely, lovely Darwin! I love that shot with him looking out, ready for mischief. We do have AC, Debbie, but seldom use it, prefering to try to create a draft through the house and using a small fan beside us. I still end up sitting in a puddle sometimes. Thankfully the heat has broken with a few thunderstorms here, and we’re almost back to our walking habits. I’m off out this morning.

  10. Dear Debra, having finally returned (for now!) to visiting bloggers, I want to tell you that the temperature here–in Independence–this morning was 36 degrees. It’s going to get up to 49 degrees today. So, fall has officially, or so I think, arrived here in the central part of the country. Darwin is a wonder. A proof perhaps of the survival of the fittest! And I’m so sorry to learn of Zena’s arthritis.How painful it must be for her to continue to follow her beloveds. She truly is an Amazon warrior. Peace.

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