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Woman Spends 56 Years With A Beloved Tortoise Whom She Received On Her 10th Birthday In 1962

Most of us know about the joys of having a pet. Whether it’s a lovely goofball of a kitten, a hyperactive doggie or an ever-curious little parrot, all pets are a great source of bliss and entertainment. Though as fortunate as we are to have such wonderful companions by our side, it is the cruel rules of nature that do not allow us such delights for long. While a cat’s lifespan is around 13 years and dogs tend to survive for 10-13 years on average, there are pets that only stay with us for a couple of years, like hamsters and rats. Luckily for one Milwaukee resident, her pet is very likely to outlive her.

In 1962, Jeanna received a pet tortoise as a gift for her 10th birthday

Image credits: KARE 11

When Jeanna Smith was a child, she was really fond of turtles. That’s why it was no surprise when her father gave her a gopher tortoise as a gift on her 10th birthday. While her parents expected their child to form a bond with the little animal and teach her responsibility, it might’ve not been as obvious how lasting that bond would be.

Image credits: KARE 11

“I just really loved turtles,” Jeanna recalled. Before getting her own little tortoise buddy (whom she named George), she’d often find a painted turtle and keep it during the summer, only to release it back to wilderness in the fall.

Image credits: KARE 11

Image credits: KARE 11

Since the day when she received the live birthday gift in 1962, Jeanna formed an inseparable bond with George. He would always be by her side, no matter where she went. As a girl, she’d often keep the pet in a basket while taking her bike for a ride, or bring it with her on vacations to another side of the state.

Image credits: KARE 11

Jeanna wasn’t the only person to cherish George. Her friends were very fond of the little animal and would shower him with affection. Jeanna’s own family treated George like one of their own. He’d often get pampered and was fed strawberries and kiwi every Christmas morning. His owner went as far as making them matching Halloween costumes.

Image credits: KARE 11

Image credits: KARE 11

As Jeanna grew, the bond only grew stronger, and she brought her little pet to the college campus once she enrolled. Despite the fact that her dorm rules didn’t allow any pets, that didn’t stop Jeanna from keeping George in her room. She explained that she managed to get away with it, probably because her dorm was all-girls and they all adored the tortoise.

Image credits: KARE 11

As time moved, Jeanna met her future husband, Kirby Smith, during her college years. Smith was a little surprised when he first met Jeanna’s pet, but soon realized that in order to be with her, he had to like George as well. It was a package deal.

Image credits: KARE 11

Her children grew up with a constant companion, an unusual pet that you cannot take for a walk or brush or call up on your lap. However, Jeanna says that he’s sweet in his own way.

Image credits: KARE 11

Jeanna Smith is now in her mid-sixties and George has been her closest friend for over 50 years. She’s been caring for him for most of her life, despite him running away a few times, only to be found in the neighbor’s yard. “Three times George has escaped his backyard, the most recent in 1988 when he burrowed under a fence” Jeanna explained. “A TV news crew showed up about the time George was discovered hiding beneath some foliage in a neighbor’s yard. He was quickly whisked back to his home,” she added.

Image credits: KARE 11

Gopher tortoise’s lifespan is usually from 40 to 60 years and that’s only in the wild. In captivity, this animal could survive for over 100 years. That’s why it’s very likely that George might outlive Jeanna and she’s aware of it. The woman intends to pass her little pet over to her daughter’s family. “When I go, then George will go and live with them. It’s in the will,” she concluded.

Image credits: KARE 11

Watch the video below to see George’s story


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