It all happened rather quickly. The first week we picked up the chicks and the next I was taking a quick trip over to my parent’s (three hours away) to pick up my horse, where she had stayed while I was in Seattle, and my goat who had also been at my parents, but had been in with a buck at a breeder’s house for the previous few weeks. On the drive home, I found myself with a baby desert tortoise in my lap.
You see, I had been recommended to this particular goat breeder from a friend. I visited her property and scouted out the four buck prospects for my little lady goat. She was three years old, and time to breed. You can breed your goats at a much younger age, but the circumstances hadn’t been right before for me to do so. I picked out a sweet little buck, with blue eyes and a luscious beard, who was aptly named Little Big Guy.
My little goat Nilah lives with my horse, and they keep each other hooved company. Nilah thinks that the horse is hers and becomes distressed when she leaves, and visa versa. They say you should not keep just one goat, but these two make it work. Because my little Nilah goat had no other goat company, I found it very difficult to tell when she was in heat, so we figured it was best to leave her in with the buck at least through an entire cycle.
The breeder’s house is a most wonderful place. There are big trees and spotted goats all around. There are small chickens that run around and one particular goat that runs free with the dogs and scratches her butt on tires and trees. A Great Dane, and a Chihuahua will greet you upon arrival. Brent came too for the pick up and was able to see the many goats there, as well as meet the baby tortoises I’d told him about. I loved them. The woman brought out a baby tortoises and quietly asked if I’d like to have one.
“As I’ve gotten to know you and the way you treat your animals, I think I can trust that you could keep him safe,” she said.
She then found a spare container to put the little turtle in, along with a Mulberry leaf for the long drive, and sent him home with us.
I immediately felt as if a great honor had been bestowed upon me, to protect this tiny, rare piece of my beloved desert. Desert Tortoises are a threatened species, and it is illegal to release a captive tortoise into the wild (because it can spread disease and disrupt uniquely adapted genetics in wild populations.) They also cannot be removed from the state of Arizona (or the state from which they are originally from, Arizona in my case) and can live for 60-80 years or more! Apparently people find the tortoises on the road and bring them in, or take them home and can’t keep them and they end up Wildlife Refuges, which then hold adoptions for them. If someone adopts a tortoise who later has babies, they must keep the babies no longer than 24 months.
There are many Desert Tortoises up for adoption from your local refuge (in Arizona and California and perhaps other states) but there is a detailed application and approval process to go through first.
With my horse in the trailer, my little goat tucked in a carrier and a tiny desert tortoise on my lap, we headed home.
“Now what should we name him?” I asked Brent.
Suomy is a brand of company that makes motorcycles helmets. Fitting, I thought, and so it was.