Emerson is a Galapagos tortoise, and he lives in a big sunny pen inside the glass house conservatory at the Toledo Zoo. (He also has an outdoor habitat, but he was inside last Friday because the zoo landscapers were cleaning out his flowerbeds.) He’s 115 years old, but it doesn’t seem to slow him down. He is active and curious and very friendly, and will come right up to you, especially if you are wearing a green hoodie and carrying a camera on a green strap. Emerson is very into green, which apparently reminds him of lettuce and other vegetarian foods favored by giant tortoises.
And his keeper let me pet him. Not just touch his shell, which I have done before, but pat him on the head and scratch his neck. (His head is smooth and scaly and a little warm, and his neck is like thick soft leather. ) This was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. You would expect a 115 year old Galapagos tortoise to be serene and a bit Zen, and he was, but Emerson also has an amazing vitality and strength.
I didn’t know I was looking for another totem, having been content with the one I already have for many years, but I think my second spirit animal might be a Galapagos tortoise.