No pets allowed in the dorm – but one student found a 'Loophole'

A tortoise was the perfect clandestine pet: It didn't bark, meow, or smell.

The rules stated that pets were not permitted in the dorm. However, even with the "no pets" clause, my son was able to find a loophole. His answer was that this animal was required for research by biology majors. Before the decision to get a pet, my son had not settled on what his major was going to be. Suddenly, he was an environmental biology major.

My initial reaction was one of skepticism. After informing me that he had spent $200 on the tortoise and the supplies he needed for it, all I could say was, "If you get caught with it in the dorm, I am not taking care of it."

"Not 'it,' " he said. "Her. Her name is Loophole." As if I needed further convincing, my son added, "She doesn't bark, meow, or smell. No one will ever know she's there."

He invited me to his dorm to meet Loop­hole. She was in a large habitat in the corner of his room. It was filled with white-calcium sand and bark. A heat lamp and a UV light were attached to the box. Loophole had one dish for food and one for water. She also had a cave in which to burrow.

In his minirefrigerator, my son had a bag of assorted greens for her. "Isn't my daughter beautiful?" he asked, beaming.

"I'm not taking care of her if you get caught," I reminded Loophole's "father."

That all changed over winter break when my son smuggled Loophole out of the dorm and into my house for four weeks. We put her in a room where my cats couldn't get near her – and I watched her. I watched my son's six-inch tortoise as she lumbered from her cave to a bowl of vegetables. I watched her eat. She looked up a few times. She sat in the warmth of her heat lamp. She lumbered around for a few hours. Then I watched her go back to her cave to burrow in for the rest of the day and night.

My son's history with tortoises goes back to when he was a little boy. The first time he saw a tortoise, his reaction was, "It looks like a dinosaur! I want one."

At the time, we were visiting friends who raise endangered giant desert tortoises in their backyard. The owners explained to my son that tortoises could live for as long as 90 years, and if he got one, he would have it a long, long time! I informed my son that I was not about to make that type of commitment. I should have known then that my son would find his Loophole.

Loophole is living at my house right now until my son moves into an apartment next semester. I like watching as she emerges from her cave and lumbers to the pile of vegetables and fruit I put in her dish. When my son moves out again, I will miss him. Although I never thought I would say this, I am sure I will miss his little dinosaur as well.

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