Aug 062010

In our many years on the road, we have met a lot of people who travel with pets. Most have been your run of the mill dogs and cats, with an occasional oddity thrown in, like one couple we met who fulltime with two Amazon parrots. We have also heard of RVers who travel with ferrets, and even a snake or two. I try to avoid anybody who considers a snake a pet.

I’m not a cat person, and when it comes to dogs, I prefer the medium to large sized breeds. Unfortunately, many RVers tend to go with the smaller breeds, which is understandable, given the limited space inside of an RV.  I don’t mind little dogs, though I absolutely detest yappy little dogs.

I joke about not liking French poodles, though my pals Jim and Chris Guld from Geeks on Tour actually have a poodle that I have been known to scratch behind the ears, when nobody is looking. But Odie isn’t your typical obnoxious poodle, and he ignores me most of the time, which I respect, given the comments I have made about many of his cousins in the past.

Yesterday I think I met the strangest animal I have ever come across in an RV park; Randy, the traveling tortoise. Jay and Gwen McMichael are parked a few sites down from us here at Fisherman’s Landing in Muskegon, Michigan, killing time before they go down to Elkhart for our Eastern Gypsy Gathering rally the end of this month. I wandered down to chat with them yesterday morning, and they introduced me to their African Leopard Tortoise, Randy.

Randy Leopard Tortise

He was busy munching on grass under a picnic table, and when Jay picked him up to show him to me, I swear the critter actually had a personality! Instead of withdrawing into his shell like most turtles I have ever seen, Randy was happy to have his head rubbed.

Petting Randy

Jay said he got Randy when he wasn’t much more than a hatchling, and that he makes a great pet, because he doesn’t bark, doesn’t shed, doesn’t claw the furniture, and is very low maintenance overall. Randy lives in the shower stall of their Pace Arrow motorhome, and seems to be very happy in his role as probably the world’s only RVing tortoise.

Jay, Randy Gwen

So what’s the difference between a tortoise and a turtle, you ask? Well, a tortoise is a kind of a turtle, but not all turtles are tortoises. Turtles have flatter backs than tortoises, they can swim well, and different types may spend all or part of their lives underwater. Turtles are often omnivorous, eating plants, insects, and fish.

In the natural world, tortoises live entirely above water, only going into water to drink. They are not good swimmers, and often drown if caught in deep water or swift currents. Tortoises are mostly herbivorous, eating cactus, shrubs, and other plants that have a lot of moisture. Their shell forms a rounded dome, allowing the tortoise’s limbs and head to withdraw for protection. Okay, end of biology lesson.

Randy Leopard Tortise 2

I’m glad I met Randy. He’s a pretty cool creature, and as reptiles go, he’s a lot more socially acceptable than a snake, or even a lizard. But tortoises don’t have ears to scratch behind, and when a tortoise wags his tail at you, it just isn’t the same as a friendly mutt doing the same thing. On the other hand, in all the time I was visiting with Jay and Gwen, I never heard him yap or bark!

I guess if you’re going to travel with your house, having a pet that travels with his own house too kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? What are some of the stranger pets you have seen in RV parks?

Bad Nick doesn’t like any critter that weighs less than 50 pounds, or won’t occasionally give his hand a friendly lick. So while I was out meeting Randy, he stayed home yesterday to post a new Bad Nick Blog titled The Lesser of Two Evils. Check it out and leave a comment.

Thought For The Day – Life is sexually transmitted.

Click Here To Register For Our Eastern Gypsy Gathering Rally!

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  12 Responses to “Randy, The Traveling Tortoise”

  1. I hope Randy is removed from the shower before the owners take a shower.

    Randy is not exactly a cuddly pet.

  2. We ran across a fellow who had a pet bird. This bird had fallen from the nest as a baby and he raised it. Left the trailer door open and the bird would spend the day outside in trees communing with other’s like him but he would fly into his “nest” in an upper cabinet of the trailer. Can’t remember what kind it was.

  3. We met an RVing couple who had a ground dove. It had been hurt (one wing permanently damaged). What is unusual is the bird travels in the car with them on a towel on the middle console. There they were out sight seeing with the bird. They didn’t like to leave it alone. I swear there was a smirk on the face of the bird. It was absolutely spoiled rotten. But then so is our cat.

  4. Odie says he misses you. He likes it when you scratch behind his ears.
    I told him we will be seeing you soon. He wagged his stub of a tail.
    We’re in Oregon for the FMCA International Convention. 8 seminars. 9 if you count the RV Destinations- Idea Exchange. After that, we’ll beat feet (paws) for Elkhart. We are moving so fast, the paint will be blistering off the rig!

  5. We happen to travel with an orangutan and a moose, but they are both stuffed cuddlies. Neither one barks, eats, or needs veterinarian visits!

  6. When we were first on the road at the old Thousand Trails park (no longer in the system) in Gautier, Mississippi a couple parked there had a full size PIG! Not a little pot bellied pig but a regular sized pig. They had a ramp so that the pet could get in and out. They even had a license plate of PIG. They said that they traveled around and put on pig roasts for people and organisations, but there pet was not on the menu.

  7. There is a couple in our Escapees chapter who travel with a chicken (actually, they are on their second one). The first was rescued as a chick when her three siblings were killed by a neighbor dog. She slept in a box in their shower and was able to hop-climb the stairs into the motorhome after being outside. She was featured in an article the local paper did about us during our June 2009 rally.

    Last month, we found out that she had been killed by the same dog that got the other chicks. The owners brought a new baby chick to our rally and plan to travel with her. Odd as some of these type pets seem to us cat and dog people, they do make for great conversation starters.

  8. We were at a campground a few years ago when a truck and camper pulled in next to us and as they started to unload from the camper. The first thing out was a chicken that they tied to a string and staked out in the middle of the grass area. Next the lady start bringing out rocks and setting them on the picnic table, she spent over an hour arranging them in just the right patterns, what for I do not know. Last but not least out came two dog crates but not with dogs, one had a pigmy goat and the other had a large (2 foot long) lizard. these were then also staked out on leashes in the grass area. I guess the phrase “to each his own” has meaning here.

  9. sounds more like they were chumming for coyotes.

  10. Tortoises can be really cool pets but one caveat for anyone considering them- a lot of the commonly kept species (including Randy!) can get really big. African Leopard Tortoises can reach 40 pounds and 18″ in length. A pissed off 40 pound tortoise can do a LOT of damage to your RV in very short order (especially considering how flimsy some of them are put together!) They also live FOREVER. 😛

    That said, they’re really cool- and better suited in a lot of ways to RV travel than some other pets!

    (Cait & annoying evil little dog, who is not allowed to bark while camping, so instad plots world domination.)

  11. While in FL we met a couple in a horse trailer with rv setup travelling full time with their 2 horses. When I asked how difficult it was to find a cg they said they had always been able to find one within 100 miles of the last cg. They even had a 40′ portable corral they attached to the ends of the trailer. They especially liked going into the mountains out west.

  12. I noticed that Randy’s shell looked a little dull so I sent Jay and Gwen some stuff I found at of all places Pep Boys. It’s called Turtle Wax. Have you ever heard of it?

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