When Christine Hill took her children to an educational animal center in Santa Barbara, California, she never thought she’d be going home with a fully grown tortoise.
But Larry the African spurred tortoise was the runt in a group of four, and he was getting savagely attacked by the other males in his enclosure as they vied for the affections of a female.
When Hill and her children saw Larry getting pushed around they complained to his keepers, who said they wanted to let nature sort it out. Hill eventually convinced the center to allow her to take Larry home to stop the bullying.
Hill describes herself as a passionate animal lover, and her home in Palos Verdes is in a constant rotation of rescued animals, including eels and lobsters she’s bought from seafood restaurants to save. “We’ve got around 30 animals right now,” says Hill.
“When we first brought Larry home he was in self-defense mode, just trying to flee to the fence any chance he got,” she says.
But Hill eventually coaxed Larry inside the house, where he met the family’s golden retriever, Cricket.
“I know this sounds silly, but it was almost like they were chatting,” Hill says about Cricket and Larry’s first encounter. Hill explained that her dog Cricket plopped down next to Larry, which completely put the tortoise at ease for the first time since his arrival at her home. (Read about why dogs are so friendly.)
“Since that day, they’ve been inseparable,” Hill says.
They eat side by side, sleep next to each other in the kitchen, and go on walks together. Last year, when Larry went into hibernation, he insisted on burying himself underneath Cricket’s dog bed in Hill’s bedroom. (Read about why dogs have feelings.)
Sulcata, or African spurred tortoises (Geochelone [Centrochelys] Sulcata), are found naturally in the southern rim of the Sahara Desert, and they can live upwards of 70 years. Hill adds that Larry is thriving in the hot, dry climate of southern California.
“He’s a funny little guy—he has so much character,” she says. “He will come wobbling down the hallway to greet us with Cricket when we get home. Larry and Cricket really are the best of buds.”