Tortie was purchased by Grandpa on July 5, 2006 as a birthday gift for his Grandson, Michael. He was a 3-month-old Sulcata Tortoise with a green stripe on his belly. Grandpa paid $150.00 for him.
Tortie had a glass terrarium and a hollow trunk to hide in. He grew very quickly and before long, he didn’t have enough room in has habitat. We decided to place him in the back yard instead of buying a bigger cage. He was so small that we had to place pieces of wood along our back gates to keep him from escaping under the 4” gaps at the bases. When he began living outside, he grew even faster. He ate the grass and we would give him treats such as bananas and strawberries. If you had red polish on your toes and you were barefooted, Tortie would try to bite them. We discovered he didn’t like carrots or radishes. It wasn’t long before he was too big to escape under the gates and we were able to remove the logs.
Outside, we had two major concerns. 1) We had a swimming pool. We were concerned that he might get too close and fall in. He would probably sink to the bottom if that were the case. However, he never got too close. 2) We had pool maintenance and lawn maintenance services. We were concerned that someone would leave a gate open and Tortie would escape. Fortunately, that didn’t happen either, at least not until much later. As he grew, he could no longer walk under our patio furniture. He began lowering himself to get under the lounges and then raise himself and walk with a lounge on his back. It took me awhile to figure out why our patio furniture kept getting rearranged.
In the winter, he digs a hole that covers part of his body and basically stays there unless the sun is shining. If there’s sun, he’ll find a place to sit and soak it in. He won’t eat or poop while he’s in this state. He’s not completely hibernating, but not fully functioning either. This physical state is called brumation. He walks very slowly barely putting one leg in front of the other to move himself. I know he’s ready to come out of this state when I see him eating grass in the spring and his movements are more fluid.
He's very fast when he’s on a mission. He recognizes people and voices. He’s lived in four places. At one location he dug under a chain link fence that separated the backyard from the orchard. He was racing through the orchard and preparing to dig under the fence next to the street when caught. We had to get a wagon to place him in and wheel him back to his area. At another location he was preparing his winter home and dug so fast that there was a plume of dust in that section of the backyard. His finished product was so deep and expansive that we couldn’t see where it ended. It definitely qualified as a tortoise mansion.
For much of his life, we thought Tortie was a girl. However once puberty hit, and we did some research, we discovered that she was a he. We’ve also observed that he becomes more aggressive during the mating season toward the end of summer.
Four years ago, we moved into a different house. We waited until everything was moved before bringing Tortie over so that no one had to worry about leaving a door or gate open. Later in the afternoon Michael and his friend decided to explore the new neighborhood and left via the alley gate. Each boy thought the other had closed the gate. About 45 minutes later, we realized that Tortie was gone. The boys began searching the neighborhood for him. About two blocks away, they heard a commotion and horns honking and headed toward the sounds. Sure enough, Tortie had reached a major street and was crossing it. A motorist stopped her car and began motioning for others to do the same. Traffic had virtually stopped, and people were getting out of their cars to help. They got Tortie to the sidewalk as the boys walked up. A neighbor let them use their phone to call me. Tortie was too heavy for even two of them to carry all the way home. I brought the SUV over and we got an annoyed tortoise into the car and back to our new home.
He is now almost too heavy for two people to even lift. We tried to weigh him for this story but couldn’t do it. I can say that as of January 2024 he is 26” long, 18” wide and 13 1/2” high.
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