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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
- Garden planning with the family reptile! A lesson in sharing. (breathelighter.wordpress.com)