Animal House

Posted by The Wizzle | Posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 9:04 PM


You guys, I have a pet.

If you know me, this is not big news. Growing up, I had fish, lizards, parakeets, gerbils, cats, dogs, and a Venus fly trap (not all at the same time). Then I married a man who (well, "hates" is probably a little strong, but let's go with it) hates animals. He has what some might call a psychosomatic allergy to anything with fur, and although over the course of our first several years together, I suggested every breed of "allergy-friendly" dog and cat known to man, it was to no avail.

Then I had one child, then two, then three, and suddenly my instinct to take care of little creatures was COMPLETELY SATIATED. David breathed a sigh of relief.

The man of the house left yesterday for a 24-hour business trip to Oakland (which doubtless he will think long and hard before doing in the future), and this afternoon I was pulling weeds in the rocky area of our backyard. I noticed what appeared to be a lumpy, multicolored rock under a very healthy patch of bermuda grass. Upon closer inspection, this rock had four legs, a pointy, scaly head, and two beady little black eyes.

First, I said a little prayer of gratitude that I didn't step on it and squish its little guts. (He's only about 4 inches long and working some killer camouflage skills.)

Then, I called the kids out to come see our new friend.

They came out with a large Priority Mail flat rate box, filled the bottom with rocks from our yard, tore up grass and leaves, and we placed him gently inside. Devlin then constructed an umbrella from a pencil and a torn piece of paper to provide him with shade, what with him being cold-blooded and all. They named him before his little feet even hit the bottom of the box. (And doesn't every tortoise want their own gorgeous theme song?)

Then I texted my reptile-expert friend in a minor panic. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Help! I found a little turtle thing in my backyard! What is he, and what do I do with him?

Her: Do you want to keep him or get rid of him?

Me: I'd love to keep him, if he doesn't mind. Mostly I just want him to be happy and not dead.

Her: Yes, "not dead" is always a good thing. Let's start there.

I sent her a picture, and it was determined that my new friend was a Sonoran Desert Tortoise. They are a protected species in Arizona, and it is illegal to buy them, sell them, or catch them in the wild, but apparently if a young 'un shows up in your backyard it is permissible to save it and provide it a loving home.

Which I have happily agreed to do. The little guy is too small to survive outdoors in a suburban setting (apparently wild tortoises spend 95% of their lives in underground burrows, because they are not stupid), so it's a good thing I found him when I did because the rocks he was laying on get mighty hot in the summer, and it is actually possible to "cook" a young tortoise.

(Did you know? Everyone in Phoenix has a solar oven. It's called THE SIDEWALK.)

My reptile-expert friend has a reptile-expert husband, who manages the Arizona Reptile Center, so I brought my scaly new friend, his makeshift habitat, and my three completely twitterpated children to that fine establishment. We got him all set up with some sweet new digs, a couple of lights to provide UV rays for optimal shell growth and temperature regulation, and calcium supplements (because you just can't be too careful).

Total cost: $145.37

Not having to take care of a dog: priceless

(And David even said we can keep him.)

Comments (4)

CUTE!! So darling! What a sweet story that he found you guys! I love how excited the little kiddies are to have a "pet." Birds, turtles--wildlife is attracted to your place!

Cute little fella. Hope he thrives in his new habitat.

Betcha wouldn't have ever found a tortoise in your old backyard.

He is really cute. I have seen him in person!