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‘I think my blockhead escaped’: Tortoise cruises out of Long Beach backyard and around neighborhood

A woman and a tortoise.
Long Beach resident Lindsay Smith hugs her 100-pound tortoise, Andy.
(Courtesy of Lindsay Smith)

Sam Lin was playing with her baby girl inside their Long Beach home over the weekend when she noticed two women fixated on something in front of her yard.

When Lin stepped outside, she was surprised: A 100-pound, 2-foot-wide sulcata desert tortoise was munching on her grass and plants.

The two women had followed the tortoise since they spotted him near Pacific Avenue and Bixby Road to make sure he wouldn’t get hit by a car, Lin said. That’s about four blocks from Lin’s home on Weston Place and Bixby Road.

Realizing she had to help find his human, Lin welcomed the reptile into her backyard after she protected her cherry tomato plant with her daughter’s baby gate. “I didn’t want him to run off, but I was worried he might eat them all,” she said.

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Lured by cilantro, the tortoise explored his temporary home while Lin shared news about the pet on social media.

Lindsay Smith takes a stroll with her pet tortoise, Andy, in Long Beach.
Lindsay Smith takes a stroll with her pet tortoise, Andy, in Long Beach.
(Courtesy of Lindsay Smith)

About half a block away from Lin’s home, Lindsay Smith searched her backyard for her scaly pet, Andy. She realized he was gone when he wasn’t in his favorite nooks. Earlier that morning, she was unloading her truck and suspected he might’ve escaped through the back gate when it was left propped open.

She put out a call on social media: “Anyone seen a giant desert tortoise off Bixby? I think my blockhead escaped.”

It wasn’t the first time. Once Andy cruised down Pacific Coast Highway near the Long Beach Traffic Circle. Then there are the times the mail carrier regularly shepherds Andy back home.

Smith grew up with reptiles as pets. Her parents have been members of the California Desert Tortoise Society for years.

When she purchased Andy — then believed to be a girl and named Angela — from a pet store 17 years ago, he was only a few inches in size. Smith didn’t know he would get so big. Indeed, sulcata tortoises are the third-largest tortoise species in the world and can grow to more than 200 pounds.

While sulcata tortoises are interesting and lovable, Smith cautions those interested in getting one as pet. Besides their size, they can live up to 70 years.

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“They’re not really easy to take care of,” she said, describing Andy as a “raging teenage boy.” Some days he’s grumpy and knocks things over, such as her BBQ grill. Other days, he’s mellow.

A man lifts a giant tortoise.
Kay Lin lifts Andy, a 100-pound tortoise, that wandered into his backyard.
(Courtesy of Sam Lin)

With help from social media, Lin and Smith connected. But Andy had already gone to sleep for the night by 4 p.m. underneath a shrub.

The following morning, Smith arrived at Lin’s house with a wagon. Andy was still sleeping. Smith gently wiggled him awake while Lin’s husband, Kay, prepared to load him into the wagon.

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Kay wrapped his arms around Andy’s shell and plopped him into the wagon. He barely fit.

“At that point, I was just happy to be have him home,” Smith said. “He had a big adventure. It’ll be a while before his next one.”


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