By Contributing Writer // Miguel Marin --
Growing up in a country near the equator made it very common to have different types of exotic pets. When I was very young, I owned many pets, from birds to various lizards, but my favorite pet was a tortoise. I had a baby red foot tortoise named "Tortugita." Because of this pet, I gained an obsession with turtles and tortoises. She was gifted to me by an uncle after he had gone to the coast side of Colombia and brought it back for me to keep. I loved the tortoise to death, and it was my favorite pet.
I lived on the second floor of a multi-family home. My aunt and grandpa lived on the first floor and kept my pets in their backyard. My aunt had many pots and plants covering the place, making it very natural for Tortugita to live there since it was very humid and resembled a natural habitat. Every day, I would go down to see Tortugita and take care of her. She was about the size of my palm and would hide every time it could. After all, it is in their nature to hide during their first couple of years. Many tortoise owners claim it is very similar to taking care of a rock for the first year. After getting back from school, I had a routine to visit Tortugita for about an hour or two until it decided to hide, and then I would go upstairs to my home. Since she was my favorite pet, I was cautious when handling her. Sometimes she would go to the bathroom when I held her, but it was funny to me every time it happened. I still have many pictures of me holding her on my birthdays. Every day ran like usual until tragedy struck when I returned from school one afternoon. Tortugita was known for coming out whenever you called her name and had food on your hand. One day after returning from school to feed her, she didn't come out. She didn't come out for a couple of days, so I began to worry. I asked my aunt and mom about what happened to my pet. They knew what had happened but didn't want to make me cry, so they responded, "she went back to her family and will come back eventually." Back then, I believed that all animals had families similar to mine, so I accepted their lies for a long time. Every day I kept coming down in the hope of seeing Tortugita return from visiting her family. I even searched around the plants all the time in the hope of seeing her. I thought that she would be anywhere near areas full of plants, so I would search around trees and bushes thinking I could find her. Unfortunately, I grew discouraged and stopped looking for her and never saw Tortugita again.
Something had always stuck with me. I thought that a man I had never seen before did something after visiting my aunt's house the day before Tortugita disappeared. Many years after the events of the missing tortoise, I asked my mom what had happened to Tortugita, and she revealed to me that she was stolen by the man I had suspicions about. They knew the man personally, and after he had left from visiting, my aunt did not find Tortugita. One day, my mom visited his home with other family members and happened to see a tortoise that looked very similar to Tortugita that he claimed he had recently gotten from the coast of the country. His statement confirmed he had stolen Tortugita because his family had later revealed that he had never been to the coast. I was promised another tortoise, but it never happened since no one in my family ever went back to the coast since money was scarce for many years.
Still to this day, I have not gotten another pet and since obtaining and taking care of a tortoise is very expensive in the US, I've been saving up money for some time to buy a new tortoise. However, I will never forget Tortugita, and even to this day, I continue to have the same obsession for tortoises until I can get a new one, and this time she will be kept safe from any harm from tortoise thieves.