Hurricane Matthew forces 150 pound tortoise to find refuge in Decatur

DECATUR, Ala.--With Hurricane Matthew sending eastern seaboard residents running as best they can from their homes, it's not unusual for evacuees to take their pets with them. After all, pets are part of our families too.

But, in one family's case, their beloved pet makes it a little harder to just pick up and go. Literally.

"How many ladies are traveling around with a giant tortoise?" asks Alicia Rich.

Rich and her family made the last-minute decision to leave their Georgia home as Hurricane Matthew came barreling toward them.

"I had a friend calling around, looking for hotels, I just got on the evacuation route and kept going, until she found a place for me to go, and it ended up here, in Decatur," explained Rich.

One stipulation for the hotel...they had to accept a 150 pound tortoise named Bowser.

"Everybody's eyes kind of get big at first, and then they get even bigger when they see him," said Rich.

Rich and her four kids drove 12 hours with Bowser in their car. She said it was a tough decision, but ultimately, she couldn't leave him behind.

"It came down to being able to take all my business supplies with me that are my livelihood,  or my tortoise, and I can't replace him you know, but all the rest of the stuff was replaceable," she said.

She said the hotel has been great about Bowser, but sharing a small space with a tortoise poses some slight problems

"Moving him around, trying to step over him to shower, in the bathroom," said Rich as she laughed.

She wouldn't have it any other way though.

"It poses some challenges but it's worth it, you know, I have with me all the things that are important," she said.

It's not a spacious backyard in Georgia, but Bowser still seems perfectly content.

As for where the his name comes from, Rich said she was a big Super Mario fan as a kid. She also said the evacuation is still in effect, and they're not permitting anyone back into their county. At this point, she has no idea what exactly they'll be coming home to.