A Tortoise Love Story

orv

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Hi, my name is. Orv, and I have been a rather silent member of these forums since last Spring. May I share with you the story of my rather long affair with the California Desert Tortoise? Allow me to begin back in the early 1950's when I was but a wee boy in a very different time. One day as a group of us boys was walking home from grammar school, we stopped to view a most wonderful sight. There behind a fence in a backyard was a beautiful tortoise lazily munching on the lawn. I stopped to view this beautiful creature day upon day. Eventually the steward of this tortoise came into the yard and gruffly challenged me with "you're not going to steal my turtle, are you boy?" My young eyes widened and I exclaimed "no Sir!" I had by now learned that this man's name was Mr. Peale. I knew this was true because there in green paint across the tortoise shell were the letters PEALE. I continued throughout the school year to get to know both Tommy and Mr. Peale better when one day, much to my delight, Mr. Peale asked if I would like to have Tommy. I answered "of course", to which Mr. Peale told me to bring my mom up for a visit and permission. Tommy then began his very long sojourn in our back yard. He ate well and very quickly destroyed Mom's strawberry garden. As time went on I learned his dietary needs and likes and Tommy continued to thrive. By the way, I grew up in La Crescenta, CA, at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. As I transitioned from the wee boy and into my teen years, I began to spend less time caring for Tommy and thinking more about girls and all those other things teenage boys concern themselves with. Finally, one day in the Spring of 1965, My mom encouraged me to return Tommy to his native habitat in the desert mountains above our home. With fair sadness and following several attempts, I finally released Tommy into the wilds approaching a mile or so from our and his home. I went on to graduate from high school, join the Navy and finally get married. My parents sold the house during this time and moved into another not far away.
I must now fast - forward to the year 2012. My wife and I still have friends in La Crescenta and were visiting the old neighborhood where we both grew up when we found ourselves with a few extra minutes and decided to visit the home where I'd grown up. We were sitting in the car across the street from my old home reminiscing when the current owners of the house drove up and queried "may we help you?" I responded that I'd grown up in the house. . . and they immediately asked if I was one of the Hazelton boys. I responded that I was the oldest, Orv. They took no time in inviting my wife and myself in for a further tour. When we were going through the backyard my jaw suddenly dropped in surprise as there was Tommy, our old desert tortoise. Lo and behold, I knew that it was he because still visible across his back were the remains of the letters PEALE. More than that we saw two additional tortoises in the yard. We learned that Tommy had returned home during 1970 , bringing a beautiful female with him. As time went on they brought 13 baby tortoises into the world, 11 of which were still living and accounted for. One of which was still there in the yard. He was hatched in 1984 and was huge. The new stewards of these marvelous creatures saw how enamoured we were with them and offered them to us. My how my wife and I desired to take them right then. Better judgement prevailed, however and we said no until I could research what was best for this family of tortoises. I enquired of the people at the San Diego Zoo who responded that as Tommy, the old male, had been in the same "territory" for so many years that it wouldn't be best to try such a move at such a time in his life. We sadly left all tortoises in place, but kept in touch with their steward family. This past December of 2013 we learned that Tommy had passed. We were saddened of course to hear this. We were also overjoyed when the people renewed their offer of the remaining tortoises. We accepted immediately and began building a tortoise habitat in our yard. It spans 50' by 20' and is planted for their benefit. We did re - inquire of the San Diego Zoological Society as to the safety of moving this family of tortoises. They responded in the affirmative. We now live in a gated seniors community in Aguanga, CA and have been pleasantly astonished at the interest our new tortoise guests have mentored. Our neighbors come by daily to view Tammy and TJ (Tommy JR.) in their new home. The tortoises are eating well and active ruling over their new habitat.
 

wellington

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That was a great story, actually gave me chills. Too sad that Tommy dies, but so cool you have some of his off spring this many years later. Now pics, we must have pics, please :)
 

lismar79

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That was a beautiful story. I'm so glad you shared this. Thank you!
 

Carol S

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What a fantastic story. I was sad that Tommy died, but it sounds like he had a great life. He must have loved his home to find his way back and bring a female companion with him.
 

orv

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I do have lots of good pictures on my Android phone. . . I simply haven't a clue as to how to post them from my Kindle. I'll try to get it figured out. As always, Orv
 

Tortshort

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Orv do you have an app on your phone? If so you could upload them from that.
 

phebe121

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Aww so sweet i could never imagine letting my tortoises go i live them to much and im flad you got to see him befor he passed and wow he came back glad u got the other tort this was a good story
 

Yvonne G

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Hi Orv, and welcome to the Forum! I loved your story. There are a couple of lessons to be learned by folks new to tortoise-keeping.

I have said for a very long time that tortoises are territorial, however, this is something I have been "parroting" and not something I have had first hand knowledge of. Your story serves to show that it is true. Tortoises work hard to get back to their home territory.

Another thing to remind folks of is it is illegal to release a captive tortoise into the wild. If you're caught, you could be fined quite a hefty amount.

I'm so glad it all worked out for you and the tortoises. One has to wonder just how old Tommy was.
 

Ciri

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Thank you for your heartwarming story. Tommy was obviously a very lovable guy. It's so sweet how he returned, bringing his girl with him. It must be a real joy to have their youngsters with you.
 

orv

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Well . . . I realize that its been a few weeks, but I finally have a few pictures of our precious Desert Tortoises to share. The larger one is the male, Tommy. He was hatched out in our old back yard in 1984. He currently weighs in at a robust 16 lbs and 16 inches. Tammy, our female has been in the family since 1970. She was as adult at that time. She currently weighs in at 13 lbs and 13 inches. Is this a coincidence or typical? They still come out to enjoy the sunshine on warmer days but tend to stay in their cave if the temperatures fail to top about 75 degrees. Enjoy the pictures. A couple of them may be embarrassing, so don't look at those if you fail to have a since of humor. As always, Orvil

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newCH

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Great story, l love the pics
 

Yvonne G

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That's a beautiful habitat. Do they have a burrow underground?
 
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