San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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Donna Grundy greets the beloved tortoise that she raised from a quarter-sized hatchling as Mayor Daniel Guerrero bids farewell. Grundy has searched for the tortoise since he disappeared on August 6. PHOTO by MELISSA MILLECAM

by MELISSA MILLECAM

John Wayne the tortoise, formerly known as Leonard, is back home in Buda after a three-month visit with San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero.

The 40-pound, 20-year old African sulcata tortoise, was raised from a hatchling the size of a quarter by his loving owner Donna Grundy –until he broke through a fence and disappeared from her back yard on Aug. 6.

They were reunited Tuesday at San Marcos City Hall when a saddened Mayor Guerrero called Leonard to follow him for the last time and helped him into Grundy’s truck.

Guerrero adopted the turtle he knew as Leonard from the San Marcos Nature Center in late August. The reptile had been turned over to the Nature Center after he was discovered wandering alone in the Buda area.

The lumbering tortoise was named “Leonard” when he was paired with a second turtle at the Nature Center named “Nemoy.”

Guerrero, who loves animals and has three rescued dogs as part of his family, enjoyed his new companion.  Leonard settled in quickly with Guerrero’s pooches, Summer, a blind Affenpinscher, Millie, a terrier mix, and Pepper, a Shih-tzu.

Summer used to hitch rides on Leonard’s back. Leonard came when he was called and generally ruled the back yard. He accompanied Guerrero to City Hall from time to time and to events like Pet Fest.

In the meantime, Donna Grundy was desperately trying to locate her lost pet, putting up fliers, posting ads in the newspaper, and going door to door in search of the turtle she called John Wayne.

Cyndi Slovak Barton, publisher of the Hays Free Press and a friend of the heart-broken Grundy, learned of Guerrero’s new pet after Leonard’s picture appeared in the media.

She contacted City Hall in San Marcos and sent a photo of John Wayne.

Mayor Guerrero sadly confirmed that Leonard was, in fact, John Wayne.

Grundy and Guerrero made arrangements to meet Tuesday and Guerrero said his fond farewells.

“Leonard was a great pet,” Guerrero said. “I am going to miss him!”

And on her way home, Grundy decided to rename her tortoise: “John Leonard Wayne-Grundy-Guerrero.”

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10 thoughts on “Mayor reunites runaway tortoise with Buda owner

  1. Yay-hurray for Mayor G! Thank you for returning John Wayne to his original keeper. There are lots of sulcata tortoises needing homes, especially when they get bigger. Somewhere out there is another sulcata that is meant for the mayor and his family to have a home with. Rescues? Anyone? Anyone? Check out tortoiseforum.org for some excellent information and education on how to take care of these magnificent animals. Best pet keeping site ever! Remember tortoise owners, always barricade your gates with a piece of plywood or sheet metal at the bottom 18-24 inches. If the tortoise can see through it, it will do what it can to bust out. I am so happy that Miss Donna got her big baby back. What a lovely Thanksgiving story. Happy-happy!

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