You know how when you're eighteen and you make dumb choices?
Yeah. This is one of those stories
I was still a teenager, barely an adult, when I moved out with my boyfriend to a brand new city. For the first few months we lived in someone else's house; a mattress on the floor in the corner, cardboard boxes filled with our meagre belongings stacked against the opposite wall, living off cereal, hotdogs, and Sidekicks noodles.
We worked and we saved and we worked some more, and finally... we got our own place. And it was nice. Like, really nice. Only six hundred square feet, but it had hardwood floors, granite countertops, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a courtyard.
We were happy. Very happy
But there was something missing.
I'd always grown up with pets. When I was young I'd lived on a hobby farm with dogs, cats, goats, chickens, pigs, horses, cows, and one ornery peacock. Even when we moved to the city we at least had a cat or a dog.
A home without a pet just isn't a home at all, according to eighteen-year-old Me. Unfortunately, our condo did not allow pets, and I'd had to leave my doggo behind when I moved out (thanks for looking after my dog, mom!)
Did that stop me?
Now, usually when you go and make a bad decision, like bringing home a pet you shouldn't have, you adopt something realistic. Like a Great Dane. Or a feral cat.
Me? I went the extra mile.
I got a tortoise.
But not just any tortoise, oh no. I got the biggest friggen tortoise I could find.
Why a tortoise?
Why, indeed. My boyfriend's birthday was coming up, you see, and he'd told me that when he was a kid he had a small tortoise named Shelly (he was not a very creative child), but Shelly had been stolen from his backyard. The poor little guy had been heartbroken. So, I decided to rectify that situation.Â
She's an African Sulcata Tortoise, and in the wild they can grow to weigh over one hundred pounds (!!) and live past seventy years old (!!!)
The bathroom floors in our swank condo were heated, so Mzee spent most of her time sleeping in there, or bathing under her heat lamp by the window.
The tortoise had free run of our apartment. No, she was not housebroken. Luckily, she preferred to do her business in the bathroom, where the floors were nice and warm, which left a very small space for me to sterilize.
I took that damn tortoise everywhere.
We treated that thing like she was a baby. But how couldn't you? She's so cute! Sulcata tortoises have the best personalities of all the tortoise species. She loves eating dandilions, getting her head rubbed, and her shell scratched.
Then we moved to a whole new province, taking the tortoise with us along the way. Yes, we managed to live with a tortoise in a six hundred square foot condo for two years without the landlord finding out, and we got our damage deposit back.
The new place still didn't have a backyard, but luckily there was a nearby field. Every sunny day I hiked to that field and sun bathed with my tortoise.
Then, we made an important discovery. A, ahem, huge discovery. Mzee wasn't a girl. It was a guy. And he was going through puberty.
We took this as an opportunity to re-name him something easier to pronounce and spell.
For the next few months we watched him flounder through pubescence, humping everything he came upon from shoes to toolboxes. Ever seen a tortoise hump something? It's hilarious.
Think we're weird tortoise people
You'd be right.
Doug was the ring bearer at our wedding.
Everyone thought we were crazy.
They were probably right.
Even though we had our tortoise, our lives were not yet complete! This is the part where regular people start having babies.
We decided to adopt again. This time, a pitbull.
A beautiful friendship began to bossom.
After two years in our townhouse, we were finally able to buy a home. We made sure that the house we bought had a huge, sunny backyard for our pet tortoise (and dog), as well as a room in the basement we could convert to his winter home.
Hanging out by the fire in the winter...
...and sunbathing in the summer!
Tortoises pair well with wine.
Doug knows how to party...
...really knows how to party.
And then we added another member to the family.
This time, a human person.
I mean, a baby. We had a baby.
￼And another one.
And the babies love him, too.
It's been ten years since we adopted our pet tortoise, fondly known as Doug. Everyone who knows us knows we come with this giant, ridiculous animal, which weighs close to fourty pounds now.
Every morning when the sun comes out, we haul Doug outside to play. Every evening, we haul him back inside to sleep. He eats all the vegetable scraps from our cooking, mows our lawn for us, and is generally a great source of entertainment.
So, yes, adopting a giant tortoise was probably the dumbest decision eighteen-year-old Me could have made.
Do I regret it?