Shirley Chicken the Chihuahua/Pug and her best friend, a 50-year-old tortoise named Stanley, enjoy regular trips to their local Starbucks.
Their mom, actress Jill Lover, gets a latte and then — because it’s Los Angeles, and the weather is so often fine — the three sit out in the courtyard.
Stanley munches on clover and dandelions, and greets his many admirers, who pet his head and neck and take his picture.
“I know some people think I’m nuts for bringing my tortoise out, but he really is like a low-key dog,” says Jill.
The actual dog, by the way, sometimes gets a little bit jealous when her hard-shelled buddy is getting too much attention, Jill says — and “if someone is petting him, she’ll get in their face and give out unsolicited kisses.”
Shirley Chicken is indeed a lover.
She was adopted from the Lange Foundation about eight years ago, which has given her plenty of time to develop a deep fondness for such things as pestering people with sandwiches for some of their food, and watching true-crime TV. “Like 48 Hours or Dateline,” says Jill, who adds that Shirley also “refuses to eat her food unless it’s microwaved. ”
Stanley, a more recent addition, is a California Desert Tortoise and “literally a rescue,” says Jill.
Five years ago, someone discovered the tortoise walking across a busy street in Los Angeles, in danger of being run over. A friend of Jill’s stopped to collect him, then canvassed the neighborhood, seeing if anyone was missing a pet tortoise.
Unclaimed, Stanley — whom a vet determined to have lived for nearly half a century — was given over to Jill, who had been longing for a tortoise for quite a while.
As, apparently, had been Shirley.
According to Jill:
“Shirley immediately accepted him in our home. Which was funny, because she’s scared of little aquatic turtles.”
The Tortoise and the Chug — as Jill calls them on Instagram — now live an almost comically fantastic life together.
This being Los Angeles, and their mom being an actress, they of course sometimes have celebrity encounters with the likes of Teri Hatcher.
On top of their regular Starbucks jaunts, they also go to the beach and take car rides (though only Stanley will abide being strapped into a car seat).
The critters also pay visits to various local eateries, like one restaurant that Stanley likes to march right on into, because the proprietors will always feed him some lettuce.
Jill — a Wisconsin native — dresses them up in matching “Cheesehead” costumes in honor of her beloved Green Bay Packers.
And one time, Shirley and Stanley delivered balloons to Jill’s best friend at work.
“Shirley and Stanley surprised him at his office. Stanley slowly delivered some balloons,” she says.
Naturally, wherever they go, the dog and the tortoise — particularly the tortoise — draw a lot of attention. People have questions, they have cameras that get pulled out.
Jill uses the opportunity, as often as possible, to extol the virtues of pet adoption.
“Especially in LA where the shelters are absolutely overrun with animals looking for forever homes,” she says.
Jill also tries to educate about tortoises: their big personalities, their funny quirks, their longevity, their friendliness.
And how even pet California Desert Tortoises may hibernate for many months of the year.
Yes, for months at a time, Stanley is not at Starbucks or the beach, or hobnobbing with television stars, but lying still on a dog bed while life goes on around him.
Which gives Shirley, who loves Stanley but also loves attention, some chance to take the limelight for herself.
“He’ll shift a little in his bed once in a while, but otherwise, he’s out,” says Jill. “Shirley enjoys this time when it’s all about her again.”
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