This is Chubs. He’s a foot-long, red-footed tortoise. He had a pretty lousy holiday season, but all has ended well for him.
On Christmas day he dug his way out of a pen in the yard of the family he’s been living with for the last four of his seven years. They live a block or so away from me, in a neighboring housing development.
They searched everywhere around the house and yard for their pet, who’s been in their lives nearly as long as their six-year-old daughter, who loves him dearly. They put up a few signs near the house too.
No sign of him. Busy with celebrating Christmas, I was not aware of any of this.
I met Chubs three days later, on Dec. 28, when he wandered across my driveway, THREE TIMES. The first two times, we put him over the fence into a neighboring patch of woods, thinking that’s where he came from.
After the second time, I posted his photo on Facebook, asking what kind he was, what he liked to eat, etc. A couple friends said he was a red-footed tortoise, not native and most likely someone’s pet. I did a google search for lost pets in the Lantana/Lake Worth area and didn’t find anything. I knew my immediate neighbors didn’t own a tortoise.
One of my friends, Grant, said he has one that he keeps in an old, very overgrown, dog run and he kindly offered a home for this one if he came back again.
Later that afternoon he reappeared a third time, under my wife’s Toyota (hence the name we gave him: Yoda), which sits low to the ground, but not low enough fortunately to cause him harm when my son-in-law moved the car, and heard a slight scraping sound.
Back to Facebook and a message to Grant: Heee’ssss Baaaack!
I dropped him off at Grant’s that evening with the understanding that if the owner surfaced I’d be back to get him.
Fast forward a week, to January 4. A woman and small girl come up the front walk in the afternoon. They didn’t knock and left right away so I didn’t bother to get up, just figured they’d left a flyer or something.
When I checked the front door later I found that they had indeed left something: a Missing flyer for a red-footed tortoise named Chubs.
I left a message on the number on the flyer and also contacted Grant. He said he’d be home after dark and hoped we could find Chubs in the thick weeds of the pen, which is about 12 by 12. Because it’s been getting cooler at night both tortoises have been hunkering down half-buried to stay warm, he explained.
So Grant and I poked around with flashlights for about a half hour that night and eventually found both tortoises, his and Chubs.
I had been updating the owner and letting him know it would take a while to find Chubs (and also about Grant’s hour or so delay getting home because a commuter train had hit a garbage truck earlier in the day.)
So it was nearly 9 pm when I drove up to Chubs’ owner’s house and the six-year-old and her parents greeted me in the driveway.
I’d been musing to myself semi-seriously whether Chubs would wag his tail when he got home, like a self-respecting dog pet would do.
Amazingly enough he did what is probably the turtle equivalent: Popped his head and feet out of his shell when the little girl grabbed him and hugged him.
Made my day. And so did this nice thank you note and hand colored plastic turtle medallion.