The longtime Pacific Beach resident was in a pickle as to how to separate her two amorous tortoises. “He (Charlie) wouldn’t leave her alone, and she’s tired,” complained Dryden of her slow-motion pets who are “still inclined” despite being a century or more old.
Dryden’s Nextdoor ad worked unbelievably well, she noted recently, gesturing toward a wire-mesh pen in her backyard. A respondent to her Nextdoor ad built the enclosure to separate the two.
Dryden inherited Charlie from her father and later found him a buddy, Malcolm, a he (Dryden thought) who turned out to be a she.
It’s no small wonder they hit it off.
“They had both been alone for 40 years,” Dryden pointed out. Apparently, both tortoises were deprived for so long that they’ve become depraved, and now it’s a trial to keep them apart.
When she brought Ms. Malcolm over to Charlie, Dryden remarked that he as much as said, “Thanks, mom, for the girlfriend.”
How is the time-out pen working? Well, it’s not as dependable as Dryden would like.
“I put the fence up, and Charlie decided ‘I need to be out of here’ and climbed up and over it,” she said.
Though they may not be exactly star-crossed, the trysting tortoises remain best of friends, They sleep together feet apart every night in a doghouse, and they hibernated next to one another every year between mid-October and mid-March.
During a recent visit with Charlie and Ms. Malcolm, Dryden served up a treat – strawberries and lots of kale, which her two charges proceeded to eat like it was their last meal. Charlie (naturally) stole some of Ms. Malcolm’s share, taking it right out of her mouth.
“He’s the dominant one,” said Dryden of Charlie, noting her pets also love watermelon, cantaloupe and bananas (which aren’t good for them). They also enjoy red hibiscuses, a generous supply of which Dryden grows on her patio.
Dryden has gutters turned the “wrong” way to keep her pets out of her backyard flower beds, noting if she didn’t they would “dig them out.”
Meanwhile, Dryden is as inseparable from her pets as they are from one another.
Ms. Malcolm once disappeared for two weeks and was found by a neighbor, who asked Dryden to prove she was the owner by describing her.
“Someone had chained her previously, so there was a hole in (the end of) her shell,” Dryden said, pointing to another spot where “someone had shot her with a BB gun. That’s how I described her,” Dryden said.
Dryden feeds her tortoises once a day, soaking her patio with water from a hose (“they won’t drink from a bowl — they don’t know how”).
At her advanced age, Ms. Malcolm is no longer sexually viable, but she still develops eggs each year, six on each side.
“But she can’t deliver them,” said Dryden, who has to take the tortoise to the vet every year to have her eggs extracted.
Tortoises generally have the animal kingdom's longest life spans, with some known to have lived longer than 150 years. Female tortoises dig nesting burrows in which they lay from one to 30 eggs, which they cover with sand, soil and organic material and take from 60 to 120 days to incubate. Fully formed hatchlings dig to the surface of the nest and begin a life of survival on their own.
In most tortoise species, the female tends to be larger than the male. Meanwhile, most land-based tortoises are herbivores, feeding on grasses, weeds, leafy greens, flowers and some fruits, although there are some omnivorous species.
The tortoises are “very low maintenance. They sleep all night. They get up in the morning and sun themselves then go to bed for a nap until about 2 p.m., when I feed them,” said Dryden as she carried Ms. Malcolm, who weighs about 15 pounds (mostly shell).
Declaring she can’t conceive of being without her tortoises, Dryden noted, “They’re sweet.”