Come into our garden and meet Troilus, the tortoise featured in my illustrated children’s book, LUCILLE LOST.
The story is a true story. Our pet tortoise lives in this outdoor garden-pen during the summer months, and sometimes other turtles come to visit. Since there are no turtle boarding facilities or turtle kennels, owners often babysit for one another’s pets.
This garden was built especially for turtles. Its walls are high enough that they can’t get out (that’s what we thought), and the wood is treated with non toxic preservatives. A lot of plants, like azaleas, tomatoes, and daffodils are poisonous to turtles, so we were careful what we planted.
Tortoises like to bask in the sun, but too much sun can overheat them, so we built this house they can retire into for shade. Sometimes they like to sleep out under the plants once they grow tall enough.
When we entertained two guest tortoises, Tanky and Lucille, Lucille managed to get out of the pen. A neighbor relocated her to a nearby wooded area, thinking that was her natural home. Wrong! She came from a much warmer climate than Wisconsin. So the race was on to rescue her before the first frost.
It all turned out safely, and after ten days missing, a hiker recognized her—very lucky, since her camouflage made her almost invisible in the woods. She was none the worse for her adventure, except for being very hungry.
Lucille’s owner and I wondered what she had done during those ten days in the woods, and how it would have seemed from her point of view. Of course we’ll never know for sure, but all the things we describe in the book are really found in our woods—the snapping turtle, the skunk, the deer, the owl, the Native American effigy mounds.
Troilus stayed behind in the pen. We have had Troilus as a pet for 28 years now, and we think he’s about 55 years old. He’s a Hermann’s tortoise, and his native area is the Mediterranean. So he has to come indoors during the Wisconsin winter. Probably the happiest day of the year for him is the first day he can go out into the garden in the spring! He almost dances—slowly!