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TURTLE STRAYS (JUST HOW FAR?) FROM ITS HOME.

Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran 6/10/2005): To help Susan Musolino look for Trudlo, her missing 50-year-old tortoise, call her at 744-2747. The wrong phone number was provided in a story on Page A1 on Thursday.

PLEASANT HILL - Maybe he was having a midlife crisis? Maybe Ace Ventura: Pet Detective got him? Maybe he decided to check out that new tortoise exhibit - "Turtle Trek: A Journey of Survival" - at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport? Maybe he went to "Turtles" restaurant in Eugene? They have good soup, you know.

Whatever happened, Trudlo, the 50-year-old, African leopard-spotted tortoise is missing.

"He's out there somewhere in the bushes, and he cannot move," says Susan Musolino, Trudlo's owner.

Or, maybe, he's moving just fine, breaking out on his own, finally coming out of his shell, if you will. So if you see him - "He's the size of a basketball," Musolino says - she'd like to know. And there's $500 in it for you.

"He's really, really, really, really beautiful," Musolino says. But don't even think about it - he's taken. Where he is, however, is another question. How far could a half-century-old tortoise get in 13 days?

Well, given that the average tortoise can move about a city block an hour and that there are 12 city blocks in a mile, Trudlo could, theoretically, go two miles in a day if he didn't stop. Which means he could have gone 26 miles - a marathon - by now.

Musolino doubts it, though.

"He can't stand the cold," she says, referring to the recent rains since Trudlo vanished May 27 when someone left the gate open to her enclosed yard. "He freezes up. He gets weak."

Named for how Musolino pronounced the word "turtle" when she was a little girl, Trudlo has disappeared twice before in the 10 years that she's had the reptile; once for a couple of weeks, and another time for a month. But she's always found him somewhere amid the brambles of blackberry bushes on and around her acre of property here off Parkway Road.

This time, however, she's asking for volunteers to help her look. Bring long sticks to poke in the bushes, she says. Musolino has been on her hands and knees with a chain saw in the past 13 days, mowing down those blackberry bushes, looking everywhere. She even hired a "brush clearance guy" for $100 Tuesday. The man worked with his gas-powered hedge clippers for three hours.

No luck.

Trudlo disappeared about 6 p.m. that warm Friday night. Musolino's daughter, Kumari Kowalke, and her fiance were there, along with Musolino's son, Giri Kowalke, and his wife. "There was a lot of activity," Musolino says. Trudlo, playing in the grass, was suddenly gone. "We looked for hours with flashlights," says Musolino, a former foster parent with a history of rescuing cats and dogs, and finding them homes. She's even written a children's book - "Trudlo the Tortoise: The Most Loved and Happiest Tortoise in the World" - she'd like to publish.

Musolino found the animal at WISTEC, now The Science Factory, in Eugene where her daughter was a volunteer. Living in a cage with a 5-foot iguana, he was not well cared for, Musolino says, and she begged and begged for six months to take him until the children's science center finally relented. She gave him a home and a place in the kitchen, where he walks over her feet when she's doing the dishes.

"He's so sweet and sensitive," Musolino says.

And now he's gone. Again. Maybe looking for a female tortoise? "I thought about that because it's springtime," Musolino says. "He wouldn't have any luck, though. There's no other tortoises out there."

MISSING TORTOISE

Trudlo the tortoise has been missing since May 27, and his owner, Susan Musolino, is looking for volunteers to help find him. Call 747-2747 if you'd like to help. There's a $500 reward. Here's a description:

Height: About 1 foot - when standing on all fours

Weight: 10 pounds

Identifying marks: Leopardlike spots on domed shell; stumpy, clublike feet

Eats: Grass, corn, soybeans, peas, string beans and romaine

Average speed: About one city block an hour

CAPTION(S):

Susan Musolino is offering a $500 reward to whomever finds her beloved "Trudlo."
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Title Annotation:Animals
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 9, 2005
Words:707
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