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Big tortoise in a small town

My name is Claws. I’m a big tortoise in a small town.

I was barely a hatchling the size of a golf ball when I was adopted and taken to Jacksonville. I’m more than two feet long now. My new mom met me at Pet Country and took me home to her son Matt, who was 2 years old. He had wanted a snake. Mom told him that some guy named Santa Claus had brought me. I thought I was named after Santa Claus and that he was my dad, but it turns out I was named after my feet. I have claws for burrowing. I liked having a name, my new home was spacious, and my family doted on me.

I’m 19 years old now and don’t know where I came from. I might be an African-American because I am a Sulcata tortoise from the Southern Sahara desert in Africa, the third-largest tortoise family in the world. That would be really cool. I probably have a lot of siblings, maybe more than 20, but we don’t keep in touch because I never met them.

I like being an only child. My adopted brother is in college now. We grew up together, but now I own the household. I miss him a little, but I like being in charge. I do as I please. College students just come home to live anyway when they are finished, so I figured I’d just take over the best bedroom now. It is insulated and has nice lighting. I might have met a nice female in college though. Not much of a dating scene in the backyard, and I was supposed to start a family when I was 10.

My mom set me up with a blind date, but it was a no show. There is an attractive rock in my backyard that I’ve made advances on, but no reaction so far. I’m used to being a bachelor, but maybe I’ll try again next mating season. We’ll see. No rush here. I have a life expectancy of up to 100 years. I don’t smoke or drink because I skipped college, so my future is promising.

My best friend these days is Penny. We aren’t the same species but we hang out a lot. She’s a miniature long-haired dachshund who is a lot nosier and faster than I am. We get along. Our lack of conflict is based on our diets. There is absolutely no competition at meal time. I’m a vegetarian. Penny doesn’t like greens or fruit, and I don’t like kibble. I particularly like kale, and Penny hates it. I walk about two miles a day around the yard. Penny ignores me most of the time. She prefers to bark and chase passersby. I meander and gaze deeply. I’m a Zen tortoise. Be in the moment. There is always time to bust a move. We make a funny pair.

I’m very social and love my human family. They spoil me and keep me in great health.

I have to go now. It is time to hibernate for the next four months, but I won’t come out until May if it snows.

See you in the spring.

Diane Wallace lives in Jacksonville.