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Gopher Tortoise

In Memory of Poly, a Gopher Tortoise

Poly was just four years old when she came to live with the Lesters in 1964. Lane Lester was teaching high school biology then in Orlando, Florida. One of his students brought him the baby gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), probably in hopes of mercy at grading time.

Poly lived for 30 more years as a wonderful pet, never damaging furniture, never noisily waking the family, and never making messes (she lived in a terrarium). She always seemed pleased to receive her usual diet of fresh lettuce, but her favorite food was dandelion flowers when in season.

Although she spent most of her life in a terrarium, she was often taken outside for walks around the yard (the kind of walking Lane likes to do). When Lane was in graduate school at Purdue (1967-70), Poly had the run of the entire two-room apartment in which Lane and Gail and their two children lived. Her most cramped enclosure was a shoebox, but she only had to endure that during a flight from San Diego to Orlando.

Poly lived in Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, Colorado, and Virginia, but almost all other gopher tortoises are found only in Florida and Texas. They live in very dry country where there is little or no standing water, getting most of their water needs from the plants they eat. Gopher tortoises escape the hottest part of the day by digging deep burrows, and the Creator has given them shovel-like front feet for the job.

Poly died in 1995 of undetermined causes and is greatly missed by the Lesters (Lane Lester, especially). When a favorite pet dies, it is easy for Christians to wish that pets might receive a special dispensation from the Savior and get to join their friends in heaven.