“George is probably my oldest friend, he’s just really been a wonderful pet” 65 old Jeanna is proud to speak about the gopher tortoise she brought home when she was just 10 year old!On 1962 ,Jeanna Smith was surprised with a special gift on her 10th birthday party at Milwaukee County Zoo. The zoo director who was a friend of Jeanna’s father gave her this unique present – a baby tortoise!
From then on the baby Tortoise named George is her best friend! For the past 56 years wherever she goes she carries her pet along with her! When she was young George used to ride in her bike basket and when she is old now, George still stays with her enjoying his strawberry and lettuce meals at mom Jeanna’s kitchen!
Jeanne grew up in suburban Milwaukee, taking summer vacations with her family in Wisconsin’s Door County with George was her usual routine. ”George always come with us and enjoyed walking down the beach on Lake Michigan. He traveled everywhere we went” she says!
When she went to college after her high school graduation, there were no excuse for her pet. She carried him to her college and George lived in her dorm room! When Kirby Smith met his future wife at University of Wisconsin- River Falls, he was quick to realize that Jeanna and George came as a “package deal”!
He too had a wonderful experience with George and shared the same saying“He doesn’t sit on your lap and cant’ take him on walk, but he’s great pet,”
The Smith’s have also owned a series of Labradors and George has gone through five of them! Even though the dogs did their share of barking at George, he got the last laugh by outlasting them! However he did face some close calls on two three times and George has escaped his backyard! And the last incident was on 1988, when he burrowed under a fence to escape from the barking! That time the neighborhood kids came to help search him and they have discovered George from hiding beneath some foliage in a neighbor’s yard!
30 years since his last disappearance, George seems content to dine on Smith’s kitchen with his favorite strawberry and lettuce! Fortunately he has lived his life out of his element. In nature gopher tortoise can live from 40 to 60 years , but in captivity their lifespan has been known to stretch past 100 years! Which means George will live many more years and Jeanna has a great planning for his secured future!
“I have one daughter and she has three children. When I go, then George will go and live with them”. Jeanna pauses, then adds , “It’s in the will”!