Once upon a time there was a desert tortoise named Sam. Sam was a very happy tortoise. He had a big back yard to play in and all the grass and plants he could eat. Ricky was the little boy that took care of him. A long time ago, when Sam was lost, Ricky took him home. Ricky took very good care of him and Sam loved Ricky very much.
Then one day, everything changed. Sam was in the backyard walking around when he noticed something strange. There was a new desert tortoise! This was his home. He would have to tell the new tortoise to leave. He went up to the new tortoise and wanted to say, “Get out of my yard.” But this tortoise was bigger than him and began to nod his head. Sam was suddenly very frightened. In tortoise language, this meant, “I’m in charge now.”
Sam was so angry! He had no right to tell him to leave his own yard! He forgot how scared he had been. He looked at the new tortoise, and pulled his head inside his tortoise house. The other tortoise did the same thing. They began knocking their shells together and were making an awful sound. Ricky came outside to see what was going on. He pulled the tortoises apart and scolded Sam. “Fred is your new friend, I found him near the road.” Sam didn’t care. He didn’t want a new friend and he really didn’t want this one!
He tried to think. What should he do? He’d run away!! That would show them. He knew exactly what he would do. He would dig a tunnel under the fence and everyone would miss him and wish they were nice to him.
Sam went to the edge of his backyard and began to dig. He went down so far he didn’t know where he was at! He decided it was time to come out of his tunnel. When he came out, he was in a very strange place. He had never seen this before! There were houses and trees but not like in his yard! A man came out of the house and looked down at him. The man bent down to pick him up and took him in his house. He yelled to his wife, “Get the cage out, we need to take this thing I found to the pet store.” Cage? Sam hadn’t been in any sort of cage since he was a baby, and that was just a glass tank. Sam was so sorry for what he’d done. Where was this human taking him, and what was a “pet store?” The man placed him in this awful thing with tiny bars all around. Sam tried to look through the bars but didn’t see much. He was so very small.
The man placed him on the backseat of a car. When the man finally arrived at the pet store, he began talking to a lady. She held up Sam’s cage to look at him. She smiled and took him into a room where many other animals were. They were also in cages. Did they make a tunnel too? Sam was very, very sad. He just wanted to go home and play with Ricky. He’d even play with Fred.
They gave him something to eat, but not like the good things at his house. He just wanted to go home! It was getting late, and people in the store turned out all the lights. He became very tired and fell asleep.
Morning came and Sam looked through his cage. Would he be here forever? A man and lady looked at him and put their fingers in his cage. The woman said, “Oh, he’s so cute, isn’t he honey?” The man looked mean and said, “I don’t want any filthy reptiles in my house. They’re disgusting!” Sam didn’t understand. Everyone always said how beautiful he was, especially his shell. He watched people go by, look at him, and all the other animals.
Then he heard a familiar voice. Ricky! Ricky took Sam’s cage down, and looked inside. He began to scold Sam. “You naughty tortoise! You scared all of us so much. We looked everywhere when Dad decided you might be here.”
Sam was so ashamed. Ricky had loved him and taken such good care of him. Sam wanted to tell Ricky how he felt but didn’t know how. When they finally took him out of the cage, Sam put his paw on Ricky's hand. Ricky knew Sam was sorry and forgave him.
When they went back home, Fred was still there, but Sam didn’t care. Fred looked at him as if to say, “Where did you go?” Sam told Fred where he had been. Fred thought that was so awful. He felt sorry for Sam. He was also sorry for being so mean.
That day, Sam and Fred became friends. They ate together, walked side by side in the grass, and played with Ricky. Sam loved his family, and never, ever wanted to leave them again.