A Tortoise Is Never Satisfied

All our animals are rescues in one way or another, whether we found them or they found us, our menagerie is all a matter of crucial timing and/or serendipity — and that includes our Russian tortoise Buster who my mother basically unearthed whiled gardening in the yard of  her Sherman Oaks home back in October 2001 when the Buster wasn’t more than a year or two old and not much more than the circumference of a tennis ball… with legs, head and a tail.

Until a year ago last month, Buster lived in a succession of incrementally larger aquariums, the largest being 3 square feet. Even if it were triple that size, see-through barriers are pretty much the worst way to keep a tortoise contained because there’s little in their genetic coding spanning the hundreds of millions of years that they’ve roamed the earth allowing them to understand what glass is. To them it’s just something to incessantly bump up against trying to get to the over there beyond it.

I always knew this, but a combination of lack of space, materials, and motivation over the years precluded me from rectifying the situation — until June 2008, when I finally sketched out a hutch, bought the materials and built a 25-square-foot pen that Buster’s long deserved.

As you can see in the photo of Buster peeking out above the wall: it’s not enough (click for the bigger picture):


I don’t take it personally. The simple truth is that Russian tortoises are natural explorers and you can’t blame ’em when they can poke their head out of their house and see a great big world full of sunshine and sunflowers and patches of grass and even bigger patches of dirt and all sorts of things to check out. Here’s the view from the other side:


Of course, I took her out for some exercise and kept an eye on her as she did a wide-eyed loop of the backyard, eventually ending up right back at her hutch. She hissed when I  picked her up and put her back in it and battened it down, but she also wasted no time going back to her favorite familiar corner and tucking in for a nap.

Published by


Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with laonstage.com, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."