Looking For Mr. Grumpy


desert tortoise

It’s a stormy day today and since I can’t go out into the garden, thought I’d share a cute story that happened several years ago.  Greg and I still talk about it and it always brings a smile.

We have a very rural yard.  I’ve kept a lot of the native plants to invite the wildlife in.  We’ve seen just about everything come through, from cottontail rabbits and stray dogs, to wild mustangs and tarantulas.  Some days you just never know what will show up.

This day was a nice sunny day.  We had the back door open and Greg and I were enjoying the fresh breeze blowing through the house.

Greg watched as one of his cats,  Io ( all of his cats have been named after the moons of Jupiter, and this one was no different), dart through the grass in the backyard, She reached the  bottom step of the porch, stopped and whipped her head around. She took a step up, and whipped her head around again. She did this with each step she took, until finally running in the house and hiding behind her dad.

We both were curious by this time and we went to see had startled her so badly.  The grass was high, so it was really hard to see anything much at all. Things looked fine to me.   But Greg did notice a big rock in the yard that hadn’t been there before.

We heard a rustling sound and watched the “rock” move a few inches. It waited a bit then moved again.  It was a desert tortoise. And a large one at that!

We corralled the big guy and got some veggies. He was determined to keep going on his journey, but he was heading for a dead end into the back fence. We had a plastic baby gate that we used to block the dogs in once in a while, so we made a makeshift cage for him. He was hungry and ate quite a bit. His mouth was moving so fast, he bit my finger grabbing a piece of lettuce.  We were tried to figure where he came from and how he got into the yard.

Then I remembered seeing a Craigslist ad for a “lost or stolen tortoise”  posted two days earlier from an address not far from us. I nursed my finger, called the number and talked to a teary eyed woman.

“You found Mr. Grumpy?!”

“Well, I guess so, I mean they kind of all look the same to me.” I said. I went on to describe him, as best as I could.

“That’s him! Can you see his microchip? I have his papers!”

“Microchip? They have microchips for tortoises?”  I asked, sort of dumbfounded.

“Oh yes! Mr. Grumpy and his wife both have chips!” She said matter of factly.

“He has a wife?”  I squeaked, cleared my throat and tried to swallow a laugh. “Well we need to get him back to his family, then”

I gave her the address and they were here in minutes.  They were a couple in their eighties, driving a beat up old pickup. Bert and Ellie, they said.   The man had a big hankie in his hand and was wiping tears from his eyes.

“Are you alright?” I asked.

“ Oh, yes,” he said and blew his nose with a big honking sound.  “ I just thought I would never see him again.  We’ve had him and Miss Lilly  for 20 some odd years, now. We went through a special adoption process so we could keep ‘em”

“Miss Lilly?” Greg asked.

“His wife.  We have another pair of tortoises  too, but they don’t fight like Miss Lily and Mr. Grumpy do.”

“Oh.  Well, come inside,” I said.  “ I’ll get Mr. Grumpy for you.  By the way, how did he get out?”

“ I dunno. Well, at first I thought he was stolen.  I went out to feed them a few days ago and Mr. Grumpy was just gone.  We have two three foot walls that he’d have to get around to get to the back fence. But then I remembered that he and Miss Lily were fighting all day Wednesday. I figured he got fed up and left home. He done that before, about 10 years ago.  But I still ain’t figured out how he got past the walls.” Bert scratched his head and wiped his eyes. “ I’m just glad you called.”

I went out to the garden and brought the squirming tortoise in the house. He was hissing and snapping at me.  I almost dropped him as I handed him to Bert.  I could see how the  tortoise got his name. He sure wasn’t a happy soul.

Ellie waved the papers she had in her hand. “Here are the microchip records, so you know he ours.”

I waved them away and said “ There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s yours. We’re just glad he’s going home.”  I was really glad he was going home.  My finger was still throbbing  and now I had scratches on my arm from the brief trip in the house.

Bert grabbed the tortoise and started crying again as they got into the truck. We heard him blow his nose again and say, “Oh Mr. Grumpy! I missed you so!”

We laughed and waved as they drove off. Then we realized their back garden was only about 300  feet  down the road.  We found  the tortoise another 200 feet into our yard from the fence. We did the math.  Mr. Grumpy was gone three days. It took him that long to go 500 feet!

Wow, the adventures he must have had!

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