Like most kids growing up I remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. My thoughts have always been that the tortoise is a steady, slow, and easy going animal without a lot of worry. To my surprise the tortoise that came into my life was nothing like that.
One morning I went to the front yard to water my garden. When I looked down, I was surprised to see a small tortoise. not even as long as my shoe. I looked twice to make sure I was seeing things right. I live in a nice tract home with the car traffic everywhere you turn. No desert within miles.
The tortoise was making a straight line for my front door. The only thing that stopped it from literally knocking on the door was a step that was too tall for it to climb! Puzzled, I looked up and down the street to see if anyone was around who might own the tortoise. What was I thinking? It’s not like someone would be taking their tortoise out for a walk. So, I picked her up to give her the once-over to make sure nothing was wrong. It felt, surreal, a lot like the movie Three Men and a Baby.
This was a little foreign to me. I don’t have much experience with reptiles. Even though I had no clue about what to look for, I gave it my best shot.I could sense that she must have been parched and hungry, like she had been traveling for days to get to me. I guess to a tortoise. time must feel different from how I perceive it. A couple of hours would probably feel like a couple of days to her.
I found a box and placed food and water in it. That felt a little better, but I thought someone must be looking for their missing tortoise. I vowed to keep an eye out for anyone posting a sign for a lost tortoise.
The first time I brought the tortoise into the house I let her roam around the kitchen tile floor. Talk about someone on a mission. She took off at a rather fast pace and would not stop until she hit the wall, then she turned and took off in another direction until another wall came up, over and over. She reminded me of one of those tanks from the movies about WWII. Tanks were meant to get from point A to a point B and run over anything in its way to finish their mission. So, that is why I named her “Tank”. It seemed to match her personality to a tee.
I had a bookshelf in the Kitchen with about a 5 inch gap next to the wall where I kept my broom. Every time I turned around, Tank was trying with all her might to go through that gap. She probably would have moved the bookshelf and gone through with all that determination. Suddenly a song came to mind and it was High Hopes, the one where a single ant moves a rubber tree plant. I started to laugh. I was afraid this might go on forever so I picked her up and turned her in the opposite direction to go on her merry way. It was no use, she was determined to make it through that gap. Blocking off the gap helped and Tank was once again bouncing from wall to wall. If I could only bottle that determination I know I could make a lot of money.
One morning while watching Tank make her way around the Kitchen I started thinking and asking all kinds of questions to myself. Like Why is this tortoise in my life? Am I supposed to be learning something important from this tortoise? I sometimes drive myself crazy with these kinds of questions. Am I thinking too deeply into this or is it just something simple, like I am to find a good home for Tank.
The thought that stood out to me in answer to whether there was a cosmic message here was the maybe it was time to put more focus and determination into my life. The questions I ask never require just a simple “Yes” or “No.” The feeling is more like a hit or miss situation. All I know is that I will eventually figure it out, and that there are no wrong or right answers. If I trust my intuitive side things will fall into place. I also know that I would not have gone out and purposefully brought a tortoise into my lif,e so there must have been a reason for this one to be there at that time.
When Tank finally settled down to living with us I loved to watch her. When she would go outside, the first thing in the morning Sun, she would stretch out one of her hind legs and the opposite front leg along with her neck, like a yoga pose, and just stay that way like a statue, soaking up the Sun. I sensed in her, a moment of joy, that if Tank could talk I would be hearing the sound of “Ahhhhhhhhh.” This moment would always remind me of how all animals have the same kinds of feelings I do whether it is sad, happy or scared. That all living creatures just want to connect with other living creatures and be happy and content. That is something I really can relate to.
After some research and talking to people about tortoises, I found that Tank was an African Sulcata tortoise. One of the third largest tortoises in the world. Tank would reach a weight up to 200 pounds, with a head as big as my fist, and live to be around 150 years old. I think my jaw must have hit the floor to find out that Tank would out live me and. with a postage stamp for a back yard all I saw was a bench moving around it. I envisioned a full grown tortoise with a one track mind, that would only go wherever she wanted. I would need a forklift to get her out of my backyard. I knew I had to find a good home for Tank before she got to big to pick up.
Two years later Tank was three times her original size and I had to use both hands to pick her up. Why did I wait two years? The longer an animal stays with me the more attached to my heart it becomes. Plus, I am very protective. If I didn't get a good vibe from the place that would become Tank's new home there was no way she would part from me. How could anyone have as open a heart as mine when it comes to animals? I know it's good, but it is also one of the problems I need to work on.
I knew deep down that I had to find a home for Tank, whether it made me sad or not. That is why I had my partner in life to talk reason to me to do what was right for Tank. Shortly after this, a friend of our hairdresser knew of some people that had been taking care of someone’s tortoise and really missed having one around. A ray of hope. We went to meet with these people. All I kept thinking was that I didn't want let Tank go because she had come to ME. That was the selfish side of me talking. We met the people and they exceeded my expectations. They had a huge back yard with block wall all around, and plenty of shade to rest under when the Sun is too hot. Listening to my intuition I could not deny that, like the day that Tank walked into my life this too was a cosmic moment. Tank had found her permanent home with people who cared as much for her as I did.
I cried on the way home as I am crying now, remembering how I said goodbye to the Tank the tortoise. She made a big impact on my life and would be missed dearly. But on a happy note, I did find out a couple of days later that the people who adopted Tank had been given a second tortoise. This made me smile. It seems funny how easily I can forget that when we are going with the flow of life things just work out for everyone.
For those interested in knowing more about the African Sulcata tortoise you can look at this web page: http://www.sulcata-station.org/
Visit Laura's Blog at http://mylifewithanimals.wordpress.com/