That’s us. We are no good, really rotten tortoise owners.

Poor, poor little Leo. Our African Sulcata tortoise, Leonardo da Vinci, is missing.


And as some of you may already know; this is not the first time.

Two years ago, I was yakity-yaking in our backyard to a young friend (he was lamenting his girl troubles), when little Leo escaped through our rod iron fencing and went missing for 40 days and 40 nights. Literally.

And like the GREAT FLOOD his awesome adventure was proportionate to the epic waves crashing higher than the summit of Mount Everest.

But he lived. He lived to roam every bush, shrub and flowerbed in our neighborhood’s cul-de-sac. He lived by subsisting on freshly manicured lawn grass and drinking water from our finely-timed lawn sprinklers.

But at last . . . Leo is gone. And I fear . . . for good.

It’s only been a few days. But for some reason, I have this feeling. A BAD feeling.

This summer’s escape was similar to last years. He slithered under the rod iron fencing; but for like the fourth time in several weeks. My neighbor, Teresa, texted a few weeks ago: “Hey, your turtle is in our yard? What would you like us to do?”

My response: “Oh man! The lawn guy must’ve left the hole (the space under the iron fence) open.” She was kind enough to keep watch over him as I quickly made my way back from a local restaurant.

We barricaded the hole with a meshed screen.

Several days later my son and I pull into our driveway, greeted by the next door neighbor. She’s wearing yellow rubber gloves, carrying a plastic bucket. “Oh hi,” she says. “Your turtle escaped from your yard and hid in our garage. We were about to throw him in the lake. He, um, used the potty. But don’t worry, we cleaned it up!”

A flash of heat crawled up my neck. I apologized (profusely) and sent her a sorry/thank you note and a jar of local organic honey.

We added a large plastic sheen to the barricade.

Yet again, he escaped both barricades, but this time I caught him red-handed myself. There he was walking across our stamped driveway strolling without a care. “Leo! Again?”

I went to pick him up, and he snapped his head back inside his shell. After lifting him, I thought: This little tortoise is getting heavy. Probably a good six/seven pounds. And he’d grown a whole lot. A lot. How much manicured lawn grass was this guy eating? He was the size of a large dinner plate.

Not long after, our third neighbor in the cul-de-sac, Little Macy from across the way; knocked on our front door. “Your turtle is at my house,” she says.

Not again.

This time I wasn’t messing around. I hammered a line of posts across the hole under the rod iron fence. And my neighbor was thoughtful enough (or just plain tired of seeing him escape) to place a wooden plank across the posts. No-siree-bub, there was no way he’d escape now!

A few days ago, I received another text from my neighbor, “I think Leo has escaped.”

I walked over to her place. She proceeds to point out how the wooden plank and posts have been bulldozed over. A little tunnel had opened up between the plank and posts leading to my front yard. I thanked her, once again, thinking I best start stocking up on thank you cards and jars of organic honey.

My son searched our backyard, combing every inch. I did the same.

He was gone. Really gone.

Yes, Leo is officially missing. And yes, we are indeed bad, very bad tortoise owners. But a tortoise who can escape like Houdini can surprise us all and someday magically reappear.

Or sadly, maybe he won’t.