From the Lighter Side: 12 Lessons from Pharaoh, a Backyard Tortoise

A Large Tortoise In The Grass
  • When life does not give you nice human-made salads of cut up old apples and oranges, just eat the grass. It’s out there, it’s free, and you don’t have to pester anyone to find it.
  • When the garage door is left open, scuttle inside quickly, before it closes again. This way every human on the property will have great fun wondering what happened to the Big Girl living under the gazebo; and they will frantically search everywhere–behind tangled, cobwebbed bushes and other tantalizing corners of the yard—before going to do the laundry and discovering that if tortoises don’t get enough salad, a box of leftover Halloween decorations will do.
  • Stay in your lane. Literally. When pacing along the side fence, don’t wander off to nose into the sprinkler gadgets, or you will end up stuck with your head between the right front sprinkler gadget and your back end between back center and back left sprinkler gadgets. Curiosity is not always worth it. It can take a village to rescue one nicely wedged tortoise.
  • When digging holes—under the fence, deeper and deeper under the gazebo (What could possibly be ALL THAT WAY under the earth?)—make sure you can get out again. Or you may be there a long, long time. Tortoises can live 150 years. Humans do not.
  • Don’t take dogs too seriously. Humans think dogs are so smart, but they aren’t. They can’t handle the transition of a tortoise’s appearance from Rock without Head to Critter with Head and Shell and Four Moving Legs. This makes dogs bark. Pity them.
  • If another grown tortoise dares to enter the yard uninvited, stretch out your neck and bop him on the head. Remember: Stranger Danger. Those intruding male tortoises just want to help you make little tortoises to wear like on your head like a hat.
  • When you have finished eating the yard’s pink flowers and purple flowers and yellow, blue, and red flowers too, just remember: Take a chance and go for the toenail-polished toes instead. Toes are not as tasty as flowers, but they will do.
  • When you see The Boy Who Raised You, climb on his lap. It’s a cuddly thing to do.
  • Eat the cat food if you can find it.
  • If anyone in the family starts to roll out the portable ping-pong table to play ping-pong, prevent that nonsense. Ping-pong is dangerous and takes everyone’s attention. The cleverest response is to scuttle under everyone’s feet, making them miss the ball—and if someone manages to pick you up to haul you halfway across the yard, then hurry back to disrupt, distract, and otherwise discombobulate the other team. This way you won’t lose friends. They will all yell, but they will also give you carrots to get rid of you.
  • Lie in the sun when it is sunny and stand in the rain when or IF it gets rainy. And don’t be a snob. San Diego is still suffering through a drought. If rain doesn’t come, savor the sprinklers.
  • Don’t worry about leaving a mess in the yard. You eat mostly grass. Everyone likes the smell of grass.

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