When Shelley Daley first saw a giant tortoise on a sidewalk in Hollywood she thought it was a lawn ornament. Then it moved.
“I looked at it, it looked at us and I was like, ‘No, it’s real,’” she said.
Daley and her husband loaded the nearly 80-pound tortoise in the trunk of their white mini-van and drove it to their Miramar home where they called police for help.
“I couldn’t just leave it there and let it be road kill,” said Daley’s husband, William Brock.
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A Twitter post by the Miramar police department Wednesday morning helped reunite Zulu the tortoise with its owner of 18 years.
“When he gets his mind going and he wants to leave he just goes,” said Zulu’s owner Mary Schul, who couldn’t sleep Tuesday night knowing the tortoise was missing.
Schul posted pictures of Zulu on Facebook, hoping someone had seen him. Sure enough, one of her friends, who happened to be in the Keys, saw the Miramar police tweet, which had been retweeted by a Miami television station.
The friend called Daley within an hour of the post.
As soon as she arrived to pick him up, she she looked at him and said “Yep, that’s Zulu.”
“Zulu, Zulu,” she called. The tortoise turned his head toward her, but didn’t move.
When Schul got Zulu, an African Sulcata, he was the size of her hand. He is now about 80 pounds and has penchant for digging, climbing and eating.
“He loves his grass,” said Schul, who also owns one dog and two cats. “He eats every weed he possibly could.”
Schul usually leaves Zulu in a metal cage in the backyard of their Hollywood home. It’s not the first time the tortoise broke free, she said. Three times before Zulu has broken out, but has been found.
“He went right through his cage,” she said, adding that he loves to walk. “When he is bored that’s what he does.”
On Tuesday, he managed to walk about half a mile before Daley and Brock found him.
“We knew it wasn't an animal that you see regularly walking the streets,” Daley said. “So we knew he had an owner.”
When they got him home, they called police and Miramar police master officer Edgar Gallardo responded.
“I have been doing this job over 20 years. ... This is a pretty unique,” Gallardo told Schul. “Missing kids, all that stuff, but a missing tortoise? My goal was to try to find the owner.”
Daley said they stocked up on lettuce and made plans to keep him if the owner wasn’t found.
But knowing that Zulu was back with his family, was a relief, Daley said.
Schul couldn’t thank them enough.
“If he’s passing that way keep an eye an out,” she said as her adult son, Christopher, loaded Zulu in the trunk of their car. “I think I’m getting him a flag and stick it on the back of him so I can see him.”
Said Christopher: “Put a bell on him or something.”