As a child, Jeanna Smith absolutely loved turtles and tortoises.
Jeanna always enjoyed playing with the turtles who lived in the ponds near her home in Minnesota. Sometimes, she would take painted turtles home for the summer and then release them back into the wild in the fall.
“I just really loved turtles,” Jeanna told Kare 11.
When Jeanna turned ten in 1962, her father gave her a baby gopher tortoise for her birthday. Jeanna absolutely loved the tortoise, and she decided to name him George.
As Jeanna turned into a preteen and then a teenager, George stayed by her side. George also accompanied Jeanna on bike rides around her neighborhood. The pair were inseparable!
Jeanna’s family also loved George—her mom enjoyed making the tortoise his favorite snack, kiwis and strawberries.
George would also go with Jeanna on her family on their summer vacations. The tortoise always enjoyed getting to see new places.
“George always came with us and enjoyed walking down the beach on Lake Michigan,” Jeanna says. “He traveled everywhere we went.”
When Jeanna went to college, George naturally came with her.
She wasn’t technically allowed to have pets at her school, but an exception was made for George. After all, the tortoise was quiet and clean—he was basically the perfect roommate!
While she was at college, Jeanna met her future husband, Kirby Smith. Soon after they began dating, Jeanna introduced him to George. Kirby was surprised to learn about the tortoise, but he and the tortoise quickly bonded.
The years went by, and Kirby and Jeanna married and had kids. Jeanna’s kids all bonded with George just like she had. The family also has had a few dogs over the years, and they’ve all learned to get along with George.
“He doesn’t sit on your lap and you can’t take him on walk, but he’s a great pet,” Kirby told Kare 11.
George is typically a very low maintenance pet, but there have been some dramatic moments in his life.
George has gotten lost three times in his long life. The most recent time was in 1988, when he got out of the house and crawled into his neighbor’s backyard. Thankfully, he quickly found his way back home to his beloved mom.
Today, George is 56 years old and still thriving. Gopher tortoises in captivity can live to be 100 years old. Jeanna knows there’s a chance her oldest friend could outlive her, but she has a plan for that.
“I have one daughter and she has three children,” Jeanna said. “When I go, then George will go and live with them.”
George and Jeanna have grown so much together, and George has been with Jeanna through every stage of her life. We’re so glad George and Jeanna have gotten to grow up together! If you want to learn more about George, check out the video below.
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Source: Kare 11