The Story of Cubby of Blue Button Farm

Here is the note Pat wrote for me about what Cubby should be eating and also the name and number of the Reptile Vet at the Bronx Zoo!

My life-long love of turtles and tortoises began at an early age. I was in second grade when a boy in my class would tease me with worms while I played in the sandbox. I really wanted him to be my friend instead of throwing worms at me, so I asked my older sister, “how do I get a boy to like me?” She told me, find out what he likes and learn all you can about that subject. I asked that boy what his favorite animal was, and he said, turtles! I then proudly became probably the youngest member of the International Turtle and Tortoise Society. I think my mother just wanted to support my new found interest in these reptiles, and didn’t question me wanting a membership! The magazine, put out by the society, was full of great photos of all kinds of terrapins, and I was able to share it with my new friend!

This is the first photo I could find of Cubby, taken in September 1997 at Aidan’s first birthday party.

Of course, I asked my mother to buy the little turtles at the Korvettes near us. So, she bought me some little red-eared sliders, with a little plastic pond and umbrella. They didn’t last long. I soon realized that trying to take care of water turtles was not easy. In sixth grade, I started volunteering at my town nature center. They had big tanks with filters for their inside water turtles, and they also had some tortoises that I got to take out and let walk around while I cleaned their pens.

In the summer of 1999, Cubby wandered out of our yard in Fairfield, and according to Ian’s “My Summer Vacation” booklet, we lost her for two weeks.

The story of Cubby begins in 1997. I had just given birth to Aidan in September 1996. I was back teaching in school in January 1997. In June of that year, Pat, a teacher I met at Project:2000, asked me to take care of her classroom tortoise over the summer, since she was going to Europe. She knew I taught a Biology class for gifted students at Sacred Heart University, and could use the tortoise in explaining desert adaptations. I met Cubby in Pat’s classroom at the Greenwich Country Day School. The tortoise lived there and stayed alone every weekend in the classroom, and sometimes Cubby would go home with students on vacations. Cubby was given to the class by a family that attended the school. She had a misshaped shell, because someone gave her dog food {which is too high in protein} when she was younger. Pat told me the family bought her from a pet store in New York City, and that she was hatched on a tortoise farm in Texas. Pat thought Cubby was probably 8 years old.

Here’s another photo from the Fall of 1999, with the neighbor children. At this time, we didn’t know Cubby was a girl.

Dennis and I found Cubby to be an agreeable pet. No barking, a vegetarian, and maybe pooping once a month. We became attached to our new friend, and wanted her to stay. So, when the teacher never called to ask for Cubby back, we were relieved.

When we moved to Blue Button Farm in 2010, Cubby of course came with us. Over the years we have learned a lot about her. First of all, we learned that she was a female. Every year, she searches for soft ground where she can lay a clutch of eggs. She is an African Leopard Tortoise, and her native home would be the savannas of Eastern and Southern Africa. When I talk about Cubby to school groups, I always mention that animals should never be taken from the wild, and having a pet like Cubby is a lifelong commitment for you and your family. She also likes to explore, and “live life like the gate has been left open” ( She has gotten out of the yard several times over the years). Since opening an account on Facebook, I include a photo of her just about every Spring on her first day out in 80-degree Sunshine!

I did bring Cubby to the classes I taught at SHU during the summer, and I also brought her to the Parkway school in Greenwich for their Weekend Family Science Academy.

I try to grow most of the food she eats, but I also feed her natural tortoise food that says “no pyramiding” on the label, which is caused by a high protein, low fiber diet. The damage to Cubby had already been done years ago, when she was not in my care. Someone once commented that I must have been feeding her incorrectly, since Cubby still sports her pointy shell. Hopefully, this should clear things up for that person.

In September 2020 Cubby took a stroll out of an open gate and went missing. With the help of the internet, I had many people looking for her, and well-wishers hoping I would find her. After three days, we found her having a great time walking through a nearby orchard! I know Cubby is smart, but she just doesn’t understand the climate changes here in New England. After my demise, my son has told me, he will be sending her someplace warm where she can roam freely. In the meantime, check her out on facebook at Blue Button Farm!

We are thinking of attaching a GPS to her!

Every year, Cubby searches for soft ground where she can lay a clutch of eggs.
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