The Businessman and the Tortoise

It was a life-long dream of Hank Jones, a 56-year-old successful captain of industry, to have a tortoise. And now, by way of the South Pasadena Middle School (SPMS), that dream has come true over the past holiday break.

Jones explained that he was at a recent event where there were several South Pasadenans and he struck up a conversation with one of them.

“I was talking with Betsy Kahn, who is the Middle School librarian, and I was telling her how I’ve always wanted a tortoise,” Jones said. “That was the end of our conversation until this morning when she sent me a text saying, ‘I’m going to call your bluff, buddy. Do you really want a tortoise because the one at our South Pasadena Middle School library needs a home while we are on break? So, if you’d like to take care of the tortoise, foster a tortoise, he’s all yours.’”

Jones jumped at the chance and didn’t look back. The two-week experience with Poppy was an unexpected holiday gift, he said.

“So it’s a match made in heaven,” he added.

Poppy had some details to her care that had to be followed exactly.

“I was warned today that one of the things that I have to do to take care of Poppy is to give her a bath, a warm little bath,” Jones explained. “And I’m not to fill the container up with more than about an inch of water because she, unlike a turtle that swims, does not and would drown. I do it so she can keep her snout just above the water.”

Hank was excited about caring for Poppy for those couple weeks but did have some trepidation about having to give her back to the Middle School at the end of break.

“My dream has finally come true,” Jones said with an enormous smile across his beaming face. “I feel good but I feel like there’s going to be some separation anxiety come January 8 when I have to return Poppy,” he chuckled.

Hank acknowledged he was extremely careful that he didn’t mess up Poppy’s care. He fed Poppy romaine and red leaf lettuce once every-other day.

“She also liked apple slices and pear slices,” Jones said.

He also scratched her back (her shell) with a provided back-scratcher.

“Here, why don’t you try it,” Hank said as he offered the small back-scratcher to yours-truly recently.

I took it and looked back at Hank, asking, “scratch the shell?”

“Yes, I’m told she can feel it through the shell.”

Poppy was resting comfortably with head and legs exposed outside her shell. She was not moving, doing nothing.

I started to gently scratch Poppy’s shell and she slowly moved her head and legs back inside the shell, closing her eyes as if she were resting. I gently scratched some more. I swear I could hear purring. Upon completion, Poppy moved her head and legs back outside and resumed doing nothing. What a life.

Talk soon.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.