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Minnesota Woman Celebrates 56 Years With Her Gopher Tortoise

George the gopher tortoise and Jeanna Smith have been together more than 50 years.

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When Jeanna Smith of Milwaukee, Wisc., celebrated her 10th birthday back in 1962, her father gifted her a gopher tortoise  (Gopherus polyphemus). Eleven presidents and five dogs later, Smith and George are celebrating 56 years of companionship and care, according to Kare11.com.

Jeanna Smith received a pet for her 10th birthday. The year was 1962. Jeanna is now in her mid-60s. She still has the same pet. "George is probably my oldest friend," she says. Here's the full story: http://kare11.tv/2Imz1u2

Posted by Boyd Huppert on Sunday, March 11, 2018

Smith and George have seen a lot in their years together, including Smith’s  time studying at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, when George lived at Smith's dorm room, and when she met her future husband, Kirby Smith at the university in 1970. Kirby Smith got a package deal in Jeanna and George and wouldn’t have had it any other way. 


“He doesn’t sit on your lap and can’t take him on walk, but he’s a great pet,” Kirby told Kare11.com. “He's gone through five dogs,” Kirby said. “He got the last laugh by outlasting them.”

Over the course of the last five decades, there have been a few instances when George escaped, but he was always found. The last time he escaped, 30 years ago in 1988, he was later found in a neighbor’s yard. A TV news crew came to report on the search and captured the footage when Jeanna’s daughter found George under some plants. 

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George went everywhere with Smith, starting when she was a kid riding her bike. She would put him in her basket. He traveled on family vacations as well. “George enjoyed walking down the beach on Lake Michigan. He traveled everywhere we went,” Smith said. 

“George is probably my oldest friend,” Smith told KARE TV. “He’s just really been a wonderful pet.”


Smith told KareTV that she has a succession plan for when she passes. 

"I have one daughter, and she has three children, and when I go, George will go and live with them. It is in the will,” Smith said.

“I’ve just loved having him, all these years.”