This Desert Tortoise Puts the “Forever” in BFF

Our family has had a relationship with an ancient desert tortoise for over 50 years.

Editor’s Note: America’s Best Pet Pals is a nationwide search for the animal friendships that make you laugh, cry, and purr. Reader’s Digest will be honoring the best in pet friendship in print, online, and on social media. This is a finalist in our “People to Animals” category. Scroll to the bottom to cast your vote for Bozo. To see our full list of finalists, go to and vote in each category.

Bozo met his first generation of our family in the 1970s, in the backyard of an elderly woman who lived a few houses down in Las Vegas, Nevada. The kids visited her regularly, and she’d share lots of interesting information about Bozo and desert tortoises. When they met, Bozo was 60 years old, and my daughter was 10 years old. Now, she’s 52, and he’s over 100.

In the late 1980s, the woman gave Bozo to my son, and he and his family kept him until they had to move. Then, he was ours. Bozo dug a burrow in our backyard and stayed there in the winter, emerging in the spring and summer. When we bought a different home, my son-in-law made a special burrow for Bozo, who has since made a few expansions of his own. He grazes on that grass and other plants in our yard for most of his sustenance, in addition to the snacks we provide.

Bozo comes out of hiding as quickly as a tortoise can when he hears our voices and likes to have his shell patted and head stroked. Bozo is a bit territorial and isn’t so sure about other animals invading his space. He chased our pet Shih Tzu around the yard—he wasn’t swift, but certainly persistent in his pursuit.