A Dog’s Walk On The Beach

Last week, I took my dog Bella for a walk on the Dunedin Causeway, not far from where I live. It’s a nice beach area with kayak and paddleboard rentals, and a nice view of the gulf. Bella is a black lab my family got from a breeder back in 2006, not long after our other dog, Zoe. She brought laughter and joy back to us in that time of grief. She was also a terror when it came to tearing up furniture, and playing manipulative games to get her way. As I type, she is now at the ripe old age of 12 years, with gray hair and arthritic joints. Knowing that she may not have very much time left with my Mom and I, we try to make her happy with little things that a dog enjoys. New toys, treats, bits of food from our own meals every so often, and love. She loves pizza crust, but it’s given in limited amounts. When I take her for walks, sometimes I’ll sit in the grass with her where she likes to roll around, and kick her legs in the air.

I’ve noticed that in the last few months Bella has become more affectionate, and clingy. I have the sad feeling that she may be aware that she has limited time left, and maybe is trying to savor it with us. She had a vet visit a few days before this trip, and she has some masses around her abdomen, along with little bumps all over her body. They are common in older dogs, and often are fatty tumors, but they can also turn into cancer sometimes. The vet wasn’t really able to tell, and considering her age didn’t want to do anything invasive. If it were cancer, we wouldn’t want to put her through chemo, since she is already advanced in age, and has other issues affecting her. She has been put on anti-inflammatory and pain medication to help her deal with her arthritic joints, as well. The main objective is just to keep her comfortable and happy. When there comes a point that her quality of life is drastically reduced, we will know it’s time to let her go. For now, we want for her to enjoy life and be happy.

With these things in mind, I decided to take the camera with me when at the beach. I want to save memories of her when she was happy. Remembering that she had happy times will help us later on when she has passed.

Miss Bella bein' happy at the beach. Plenty of new smells to get into.
Miss Bella bein’ happy at the beach. Plenty of new smells to get into.

Miss Bell Bell

Looking straight down the beach, palm trees in view.
Looking straight down the beach, palm trees in view.
A little island offshore.
A little island offshore.
Down toward the very end of the beach is the entrance to Honeymoon Island.
The land visible to the left of the image is part of Caladesi Island.
One of the interesting things about walking on a beach is finding what washes up during low tide. Plenty of shells, rocks, old bottles, dead things, etc.
One of the interesting things about walking on a beach is finding what washes up during low tide. Plenty of shells, rocks, old bottles, dead things, etc.
I always see tons of these little black snails during low tide. I have no idea what they're called.
I always see tons of these little black snails during low tide. I have no idea what they’re called.


Thanks for reading. I am working on some new projects for the site, so those will be posted soon as they are ready. Keep your eyes out!

Update on “Squirt”


Squirt has been somewhat inactive during this winter. He has eaten very little and lost some of his previous weight. This is actually pretty normal for toads during this season, but it still concerned me. Having a pet that refuses food for more than a month or two isn’t something I’m used to. I’m still learning with him though, so it’s experience.

The above photo was taken during one of his nightly feedings. Don’t remember if I put waxworms or mealworms in the food dish, but he sat there like a very civilized toad eating dinner.


He has grown significantly since the first day I encountered him. At last measurement, he was 2″ from snout tip to vent. I’m still not sure what sex he is. He does appear to have “nuptial pads” on his front feet, which is a trait of males. But I’m not sure. Male Southern toads are said to have dark throats, which Squirt doesn’t have. I’m not clear on whether or not that is a coloration that appears only during mating season and then fades for the rest of the year. I know males are a bit smaller than females also, and I’m guessing the females are the record holders for the 4″ adult size.



Like most toads, he doesn’t much care for handling. If I have to soak him, or feed him certain types of live food, I handle him as gently as I can. We do have a routine, and I think on some level he understands that him coming out of his tank means either food or soaking. Of course, he isn’t always agreeable. I can’t blame him.

Sometimes he is pretty calm if I just leave my hand steady in one place, and stay very still. He has on occasion walked around on my drafting table and had a look around. I feel he deserves a chance to explore a little, and at some point I’d like to set up a better habitat for him. I would like to have live plants to add a more natural feel for him.


I need more room to add a bigger tank, and right now I just don’t have it. Sometimes I’m not sure if he wants to move around too much because of his handicap. I see other toad tanks people have set up, and I feel envious. I want to make sure Squirt is comfortable however he is housed and fed. Just want to do the best I can.

soaking squirt

A Rescued Toad

About three months ago, I accidentally chopped the legs off a toad while mowing the lawn. Naturally, I felt like shit once I realized what I’d done. I figured he was done for, but out of guilt and wanting to be humane, I brought him in and set him up with moist paper towels in a critter keeper. I put a dish of water just in case he wanted any. I didn’t believe he’d make it through the night. His wounds were so bad I thought he would’ve died from shock.

severed leg severed foot

Once I realized he was still alive, I began searching for info on treating wounded frogs/toads. I did inquire with vets if they would see a toad, but couldn’t find anyone who would. FrogForum.com became very valuable in terms of finding out about general care and emergencies concerning amphibians. I suggest it for people with both pet or injured frogs and toads.

Over the course of one month, maybe a little more, I treated this little toad’s wounds with Neosporin (Original Formula, with no painkiller, since that kind can actually kill an amphibian.) I kept him in a spare ten gallon tank I had with only paper towels as bedding, since dirt would enter and infect his wounds. I supplied a water dish, and fake plants to offer some cover. I would soak him in warm water every other day to keep him hydrated and help him poop. It wasn’t til weeks later I caught him soaking on his own. He had barely come out before then.

tankt  first time soaking himselfCovering the front of his tank with a towel for the first few weeks helped to give the toad a sense of security, and over time, I slowly removed it. I believe the process helped him to get used to me, and to his situation in captivity. Because of his injuries, he unfortunately cannot return to the wild.

toad face

I was actually quite concerned about getting him to eat for me while I treated him, since most injured wild animals are too stressed to do so. I was soon to learn about toads being famed for their gluttony. Maybe it was even a bit of spunk that this fellow had that helped keep him going.

He ate waxworms, phoenix worms, mealworms, crickets, and darkling beetles. I believe he has developed a fondness for mealworms especially. He never seems to turn them down.

He’s almost comical to watch hunting his food. When something catches his attention, he’ll cock his head to the side, then creep closer, and that tongue flicks out quicker than a blink. Here’s a video I took of him feeding a while back.


Note: I had previously incorrectly identified him as an Oak toad, but later discovered he was a Southern toad when he started growing larger.

Eventually, the wounds closed over, and finally I was able to give the toad some substrate to dig and burrow in. I use Eco-Earth coconut husk, and he has been burying himself comfortably ever since I put it in.

st3-healing tank setup

At some point when I realized this toad was now an unplanned pet, a name had to be given. And really, I think he had decided it for me. After numerous occasions of shooting jet streams of pee at me when he was undergoing treatment, the name “Squirt” stuck.

As I mentioned before, toads love to eat as much as they can in one sitting. Well, since his original ordeal, he has grown significantly larger. This is also what helped me properly identify his species as a Southern toad. They can reach average lengths of 3-4″ at adulthood. Considering his size then, and his size now, he may have been a juvenile at the time he was injured. He measured about 1.5″ maybe less then, and now he measures 2″, and is continuing to gain size.

size-growth comparison

He is also able to puff himself up, as toads do when they’re scared or annoyed by something. This can create the illusion that he’s bigger than he really is. This is how they discourage some predators from eating them, and if the animal still tries to eat them, the Southern toads can secrete a nasty fluid from its parotoid glands to make the experience very unpleasant.

There is also a defensive posture a toad can take if it expecting attack. It looks like the toad is preparing to headbutt, but it’s more likely that he’s positioning his glands for some predator willing to push its luck. Like when I break out my camera to snap a photo…

defensive posture

In the meantime, he has adapted fairly well to his new home. He is mostly nocturnal, but may come out during the afternoon for a soak, or just to check things out. He certainly hasn’t complained about the food.

soakafternoon1 toadinhand

Part of his care involves offering fresh water daily, since he dirties it each time he soaks. I also have to use de-chlorinator to neutralize the chemicals in my tap water that would make him sick or kill him.  He also won’t eat anything not living, so creepy crawlies are a must with most toads and frogs. It’s not for the squeamish.

He is nocturnal, so he is fed in the evening, and I have a red light for added heat, and for viewing while he hunts. Toads don’t typically need added heat like reptiles do, but a few hours a day, or during winter months is okay.

I don’t know if Squirt is male or female, but he’ll be on the large side if female. Which means more bugs I have to buy. Yum.

For any further info on frog and toad care I strongly recommend http://www.frogforum.net/content/, as it helped me alot during the treatment phase of Squirt’s wounds.

Photos of My Muses: Turtles… and a Bird

Not too many art updates at the moment, but things are in the works. I thought I’d post some photos I use as reference or that just inspire me. I often take pictures of wildlife locally to add to my life references. I love seeing these animals, and being able to capture them in moments in time, and later with my pencils.

These are just a few from a local pond where I fed the aquatic turtles some veggies so I could get closer shots. Some of them were HUGE. The species below are Florida Cooter, Red Eared Slider, and Florida Softshell.


^ A Florida Cooter, with an estimated shell length of 15-16″ long.


^ Red Eared Slider searching for food.


Two Red Ears chowing down on the veggies I supplied.  Note the algae growing on the shells.


Big Softshell came in to investigate, but veggies weren’t appealing enough. Softshells eat a more meaty diet, so it’s understandable why he passed on the veggies.

After becoming passionate about turtles, I decided to adopt some rescue turtles in need of homes. There are far too many turtles out there who need good homes to care for them. They should not be released just because someone doesn’t want to care for them anymore.


This is Myron, a Yellow-Bellied Slider with kyphosis (curvature of the spine). His deformity is likely congenital, but shouldn’t affect his health. He and another turtle were bought on impulse by someone who kept them in a tiny tank, and fed them an improper diet. Once this person realized they were in over their head, they turned them over to a turtle rescue organization. The turtle rescue which he and the other turtle below came from is the Mid-Atlantic Turtle & Tortoise Society. http://www.midatlanticturtles.org/

This little guy/girl will get to about 6-10″ in shell length once full grown. He is currently about two years old, and may live anywhere from 20 to 60 years.  He eats leafy greens, veggies, some fruit, quality turtle pellets, and an occasionally a meaty treat. He has an endless appetite, and plenty of character. 🙂


^ Showing the bright and beautiful yellow belly his species is named for.


This is Dax, a female three and a half year old Eastern Box Turtle. She was found in someone’s yard as a hatchling and kept in conditions that resulted in a deformed shell. Her shell should be domed and smooth, but instead, because of improper care she is stunted. She may of may not grow anymore as a result. She was fed a bad diet, given no UVB lighting, and likely did not have enough humidity in her previous home. All these things can affect a turtle’s growth and health.

Eventually, she was surrendered to the turtle rescue (linked above) and while in their care for a year, she turned around health-wise. Despite a bumpy shell, she has gorgeous colors, and a good appetite. Her personality isn’t shy, but not overly outgoing either. She will come over if you have food though, especially earthworms.  She has a very sweet little personality, and is very observant of her surroundings. She gets a diet of greens, veggies, some fruit, mushrooms, earthworms, quality turtle pellets, and cuttlebone for extra calcium.

Because of her deformities, it isn’t known if she will grow any more, or even if she will live the average lifespan of a normal box turtle.


Here she is stretched out under her heat lamp. This is a few weeks after I first got her.

I love both these little turtles, and I look forward to many more years with them. I did a lot of research ahead of adopting these turtles, and it’s a great idea to do that in preparing for ANY pet. It applies especially for an exotic like a reptile. Turtles are tough, long-lived animals with more personality than most people give them credit for. They deserve better than to be bought on impulse and tossed away when someone doesn’t want to do the work it takes to provide care for them.

And please do not take any animals from the wild as pets, especially not box turtles. They are in decline because of over-collection, and they take decades to reach sexual maturity. In fact, most of the hatchlings from a single clutch face high mortality, with only one or two turtles ever surviving to reach adulthood.

We owe it to any animal to do a great deal of thinking before we jump into the commitment of keeping them. So, please, read and research before you decide to buy or adopt. Adopting is a great option, and gives many great animals the second chances they need so desperately.

~ Angela

Oh and PS: This little lady would be upset if I didn’t mention her. She’s my green attack bird.