Debra and Jay play “Where’s Darwin?”

I was so afraid I might have bad news to share. I came home from yoga just about sundown and went right to the greenhouse to close up for the night. You might recall that I’m sharing my gardening space with a Sulcata Tortoise of impressive size…Darwin is a member of our family. Right before I latched the door for the night I peeked around the corner where he customarily puts himself to bed every afternoon. Oh dear…he wasn’t there! I didn’t panic–yet. Maybe he was in the corner where the Timothy Hay is piled a little high. No, not there. I started looking around the yard.

No sign of him. And now I’m worried. Had the gardeners left the gate open? If so, then we have  an escapee.  Sunset was rushing me forward because Sulcata’s need heat. Our Mediterranean climate gives us lovely warm days, but the nights are still quite cold in April. His little greenhouse condo is outfitted with a heated under-belly pad as well as overhead heat lamps. He isn’t particularly energy-efficient.

Very concerned, we went  up and down the street, poking our noses into neighboring yards, even recruiting a few sympathetic neighbors to join the search party. Still no Darwin.  I went to bed nearly despondent. I tried to do some self-talk reminding me to keep this in perspective–but that doesn’t work. He’s our responsibility and I feel like a failed parent! And worse than that…how was I going to break the news to Sophia and Karina that their pet was missing?

Well, I don’t need to take you through all my thoughts, but let me assure you I wasn’t too happy. I left for work the next morning really worried that he’d come to harm, but fortunately just a few hours into my day Jay called with good news! The very smart  tortoise was home and basking under his heat lamp after a cold night on his own.

Warm and toasty...zzzzzz...

I could make up a really good story , but the truthful ending to the adventure is that we had a simple misunderstanding. He didn’t intend to cause us so much worry!

Here’s what seems to have happened!

Somehow he managed to get over a small brick border  intended to prevent him from going behind another short retaining wall on the perimeter of our property. We didn’t calculate how quickly he is growing. For those of you new to reading this blog, let me remind you of his first day in our household.

March, 2008...consider his size in the next four years!

Apparently he is now large enough to climb over the brick boundary…either that, or  we just haven’t seen him hop! However he maneuvered, he somehow managed to squeeze into a very narrow corner full of leaves and other garden debris, and we presume much like a child who sticks his head between railings and then can’t get said head back out, poor Darwin got himself stuck. Instinct kicked in, though, brilliantly created little creature, and as the outside temperature lowered he cleverly dug right into a deep pile of oak leaves, tucked his head into his shell, and went to sleep. Of course we carefully combed that area, but he was buried deep and completely camouflaged.

I’m certain you can imagine how relieved I was when Jay called me at work to say that the morning sun and warmth restored Darwin’s sense of wanderlust, and he was found stirring in the leaves.

Of course, now part of our weekend includes looking around the whole yard, attempting to view adventure from the eyes of a tortoise! Just what would look inviting? How strong is he if he is really motivated to move into new forbidden territory? Does he really hop when we aren’t looking?  He is growing every day…he will be HUGE over the next few years. We may yet need to build him a barn!

And I’m left wondering how is it that I can love this strange little creature…but I do!

The newspaper is placed to give you some sense of proportion. He is easily the size of a folded newspaper!

He eats more vegetables than many humans!

The girls try to cuddle and pet Darwin. They really are so sweet with him, usually asking me if it’s okay if they touch his feet. You can  see his bony plates, and his clubby, clawed feet are thick with sharp nails.

The hard carapace (top shell) is protection from predators, but also acts as insulation.

Legs are covered in dull, spine projections. The thick skin and spines also work as protection from both predators and extremes in weather.

I sometimes wonder what he actually feels, but the girls don’t think of these questions, they just love him and want to touch and caress. I, in turn, wanted Nan and Papa’s house to have an animal they could really cuddle!

I think this would be a good time for me to introduce another new member of the Fetterly household.

Meet Pinky!

Growing up our children always had bunnies. We even made it through a few litters offering the joy of watching baby bunnies develop from hairless pink eraser-like blobs to cute little bunny pets. Everyone keeps suggesting we get another dog–it’s been years–but I just don’t think we’re home enough to be good dog parents. But a bunny I can manage. So off we went to the pet store and the girls chose this little guy (or gal) and they named “her” Pinky. They adore her!

Pinky  can be held, and cuddled, and kissed–that’s Karina’s face buried in the fur with kisses–and now my weekly trips to San Pedro include bringing a caged rabbit, alfalfa, and food for the day down to their house so they can play with her. I tell you…I have my own petting zoo!

And with this much love for one little furry bunny, I think it’s a good thing that Pinky lives at our house and just visits a very adoring four-year old and two-year old. A bunny may need to come home and take a nap after this much attention.

It was a very exciting week for the Fetterly’s. I’m glad it’s the weekend. You?

…Debra

67 thoughts on “Debra and Jay play “Where’s Darwin?”

  1. Aaaaw, this had me grinning from ear to ear throughout the entire story. The bunny surprise with with your two angelic little girls tugged at my heart strings. :) Glad you found Darwin!

  2. Darwin and the survival of the fittest! How well he adapted and found shelter. However did Jay discover him there, under the leaves? That leaves me to ask how Jay’s hand is? What an adventure and what a worry for you, Debra. All’s well that ends well and look at those darling girls with Pinky. Such contentment and joy on their little faces.

    Yes. I am glad it is the weekend as well. Enjoy, Debra, and thank you for sharing a story with such a happy ending.

    • You are so clever, Penny, with the comment “survival of the fittest!” If it had occurred to me at all I would have used it. LOL! Sophia and Karina are just like most children in their love for little pets. It is the funniest thing to see them sit and “pet” Darwin’s shell, and stroke him like a cat! Their daddy has allergies and they just aren’t in a place to have pets of their own, so I feel like that’s something we can do. I was chuckling today as we cleaned the cage and brought the rabbit in for the night. It was a flashback to when our kids were small. I have fun sharing stories about Darwin…he’s not the typical pet :-) Debra

  3. so very glad Darwin is ok. It was very cool to get an idea of his actual size. He is such a stunning guy….and now Pinky who seems to be sweeter than sweet. Your girls will have so much fun snuggling and playing with Pinky. We are ready for the weekend, and glad it is Friday night. Have a fabulous weekend.

    • He is such a character. He’s an easy pet to have, too, as long as you have room for him to roam…and apparently keep an eye on him! I’m better suited to pets that don’t require too much care…the bunny just needs to be clean, fed, and loved…when the granddaughters are not around with their big hugs, I get him out and he sits while I’m on the computer. I must be going through a second childhood! :-) Debra

    • Aw, that’s so lovely Kate. I am behind in acknowledging a couple of other awards that I must get to first. Sharing the blog with others, as I do, I have most of the responsibility but I am always making sure that my “partners” are comfortable with the awards, so I will see what this entails and how they feel. After I settle down and take a closer look we’ll see what we can do…I have a lot of getting caught up to do!! I don’t know how you manage to stay on top of things as you do. I’m a little slow :-) After your very busy week, I hope you’re getting some time to unwind! Bless you, Debra

    • Yes, Sharyn, I guess both cats and tortoises can cause some concern when they go out on their own! The scamps! It was a relief to find him…I was really worried for a bit. Isn’t it nice to have some warmer weather (no rain) this weekend? I hear another storm is coming in…batten down the hatches. :-) Debra

  4. Poor Darwin, I hope he wasn’t too chilly on his travels! I can’t believe how big he is compared to the photo in 2008… amazing! I’ve never had a tortoise, but kept rabbits when as a child; Pinky is so cute! :D

    • Thanks, Eve. I think tortoises make very interesting pets…if you have the right climate and environment–meaning a warm climate! We always had bunnies when our children were small…they are so undemanding, but always cute! Funny how we respond to soft and fluffy! Giant tortoises with hard shells aren’t quite as appealing…but they are very entertaining :-) Debra

    • Ha! I’m glad I didn’t keep you in suspense for too long, Frank. I’m not good at being dramatic! Today was a nice warm day and we watched him enjoy a walk around the whole yard and devour more broccoli…and I felt very content! Debra

  5. Only the most cold-hearted of souls doesn’t feel some sort of attachment to the animal(s) sharing his home. And if not, why the devil have one? So, when a pet goes missing, it’s quite a traumatic experience. It’s every pet owner’s nightmare come to life. So glad that Darwin’s wanderlust wasn’t so overwhelming that he felt the need to leave your yard. And welcome to Pinky! That is one lucky bunny!

    • Thank you for your thoughts, John. I agree about taking care of the little creatures we’ve brought into our home. Darwin is so independent and doesn’t necessarily give us a lot of attention in return, so it’s been interesting to me to realize how much I do care about him. These little pets do enrich our lives…I hope that Lucy is doing well!! Debra

  6. I love your pet tortoise! And hasn’t he grown! Maybe he escaped to look for a female companion. He probably is at dating age? What a gorgeous and interesting pet. And Pinky is the most beautiful bunny I have ever seen. What a cute little super-model. A home is all the better for having a few pets! xx

    • You know…I’m a little slow, I think! This didn’t occur to me at all. You’re probably right! Oh my…not sure I’m up to breeding these giant creatures. And I know better than to introduce a mate to the bunny…we’ve done that before. That was too much responsibility! We do have fun with our little menagerie, though. I’m so glad I could share my pictures with you, Charlie! :-) Debra

  7. Such a sweet and funny post, Debra. I’m glad Darwin is safe and entirely understand your worry and sense of responsibility. I love the close-up of his shell with the added layers of horn round each projection as he grows. Can you count them to work out his age, like tree rings? :-)

    Pinky is very cute and I’m not surprised the girls adore her. The photos of them with her are so touching.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed my story about my wandering tortoise! I wouldn’t imagine you’ve had too much contact with these unusual creatures in Wales. An African Spurred (Sulcata) definitely needs heat! His shell is really beautiful–but I don’t think we can use the tree ring math for age! The bunny is a nice addition to our family…I end up holding him quite a bit! Funny how these little creatures are good for lowering stress! :-) Debra

      • Actually, Debra, we did have a tortoise as a pet when I was a child in the north of England – a very small common tortoise who used to be given a nice warm hibernation spot in the coal cellar. :-)

  8. I would have been just sick with worry.. losing a beloved family member is not a lesson for young children.. or us adults! He’s adorable! I love his textures and lines.. I can just picture him high-tailing it back home to get warmed up! Your newest little bunny is adorable, I love the photo of your daughter:)

    • Thank you, Smidge. I can see that you do understand how much time and attention goes into caring for these little critters, and then we get quite attached. I was so glad I didn’t need to tell my grand-daughters any bad news…they are going to be with us Monday and Tuesday, and they would have been devastated. Instead they can just cuddle Pinky! Debra

  9. Oh I can just imagine all the thoughts running through your head that night. I’m so glad that Darwin came home! His name does seem rather appropriate after all that too! :) And what a cute little bunny. Miss A is here with me and she would like to cuddle that little Pinky too. Have a great weekend Debra!

    • Little girls just love cuddling…so bunnies are perfect! I was very relieved to find him…and as much as I knew I cared about him, his one night on the lam proved it! I was really upset :-) Oh how we get attached to our pets…I think it’s the fact that they depend on us for their care! :-) Debra

  10. I get as mushy as you do about animals. I know what it’s like when you can’t find someone. We have nose counts before bedtime or I would never fall asleep. So glad it ended well.

  11. Debra, I am playing catch up in a moment of packing downtime. So glad you found Darwin safe and sound. I’ve grown to enjoy reading about him. And, one of my nicknames in high school was Pinky, because my top fell down on my swimsuit when a wave knocked me over at the beach, and my then-boyfriend saw my boobies (I was 13) and started calling me Pinky. So, I will never forget your new pet rabbit’s name.

  12. Debra, I’m so pleased you found Darwin. With a tiny bit of tweaking this could be a wonderful childrens story. It has fun, suspense and a happy ending. I loved it.
    Hugs
    Tricia

    • Thank you, Tricia. I have thought about using Darwin as a children’s book character…I really ought to at least think about it. He is just so unusual! Maybe when I retire :-) I’m so glad I can share him with you. Hugs to you! Debra

  13. So glad Darwin made it home safe! :D Everyone knows how hard it is to tell little ones bad news about pets, so glad you were spared that conversation! Love Pinky! We used to raise meat rabbits, we were horrible at it. But a very long story short, one lucky bunny became a pet. He is now our poo maker. FYI If you have a garden bunny poo is one of the best things for it. Hubby cleans it, puts it in buckets to age then puts in in the garden. Certainly good for more than just cute pets :D

    • Poo maker! That would actually be a cute bunny name. LOL! He is so young that so far there isn’t much to collect, but he is eating constantly so that is going to change! I need to remember to harness that good energy, don’t I! Thank you, Corri. Debra

  14. It’s a good story about Darwin – at least now afterwards when we know it all ended well. I believe everybody who have or have had animals in their family have experienced their loved ones disappearing and – most of the times at least – return safely again. And I am glad it was the case for Darwin too. By the way, he is really a big tortoise.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed Darwin’s escapades, Otto. I just marvel at how attached I’ve become to him. I think when our children were younger they did most of the animal care, and perhaps I was even too busy to connect to the pets the same way–our dogs were always special, but the smaller animals weren’t as much a part of my life. Now this guy, quite different! I’ll share pictures of him from time to time because he is really growing. And does he eat! :-) Debra

    • Thanks for stopping by, Kellie. Yes, it is good to teach the children about the care and respect the animals deserve. I think because my granddaughters aren’t with us every day, of course, and don’t have routine chores centered around the animals, when they are at our house they can’t wait to clean the pets, feed them, and give them love. It’s delightful for me, to! :-) Debra

  15. Aw too cute :-) I agree with a previous comment that this could be a beautiful kids picture book. I also love the photos and as I’m new to your blog I appreciate that you included photos of how teeny he was when you got him versus his size now. Wow it takes a lot of vegetables to grow that much!

    • Yes, Rosie, Darwin has grown a lot! He is such a funny pet…I just might think about a kids book some day. In some ways he doesn’t even need a storyline…he’s just fun to look at :-) I’m glad I had the chance to share him with you. I’ll bring him out for a photo essay every now and then…at the rate he’s growing, it will be fun for me to document his progress! Debra

    • I have heard of housetrained bunnies, Rebecca, and I think that’s just amazing! I just wouldn’t know how to begin the training. LOL! The girls just love these little critters, and I think at my age I get something from the nurturing and caring for them. I seem to need that :-) I’m glad the story brought back some memories of your little pet, too! Debra

  16. I have often wondered if a tortoise responds to human contact. Not exactly the kind of pet you can cuddle. His face is deceiving, he looks so innocent yet it hides the face of a wannabe escapee ;)

    • He is funny, isn’t he? You are so right about not appearing cuddly! A friend of mine commented that he is a good stress reliever…he is slow and methodical in his movements, and invites you to slow down with him! When I’m home I find myself just watching him! He is an unexpectedly pleasant companion, and on one occasion we found him at the back door we think begging for lunch! I’m so glad to share Darwin with you! Debra

  17. Pingback: My apologies to every bunny we’ve invited into our home… | breathelighter

  18. In Southern california we shared our garden with a turtle named Gus who would hibernate under a rock in our pond in the winter.One day I couldn’t find Gus. Apparently he decided to leave and was last seen walking down the street. ahh myself and then our children grew up with bunnies too. and for awhile we had Donald, Daisy and Ping!

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