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Giant tortoise walking along B.C. sidewalks inspires tourist from Australia

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VANCOUVER, B.C. -

“I think this is amazing!” Jan Stewart smiles as she points her camera at the large tortoise she discovered sauntering along the sidewalk. “I can’t believe that you’ve got this walking up the street!”

Jan in on a vacation from Australia and is determined to photograph as many Canadian creatures as she can.

“I’ve seen elk, marmot, orcas,” Jan says. “I’ve seen bears in the wild.”

Happening upon this tortoise named Pong is proving to be the best animal by far.

“Pong is now number one!” Jan smiles. “I think it’s beautiful.”

While Simon Damborg doesn’t disagree with Jan, he’s not surprised to see the tortoise stroll down the street, because the prehistoric-looking reptile is his roommate.

“I wake up and there’s usually a dinosaur on my kitchen floor,” Simon smiles. “It would be weird to not have that now.”

Pong arrived in Simon and his girlfriend’s life — after the tortoise outgrew their friend’s place and required somewhere to recuperate after surgery.

“It was a temporary rescue three-and-a-half years ago,” Simon laughs.

It stopped being temporary when the process of rehabilitating the reptile created a permanent place for Pong in Simon’s heart.

“My heart is jumping,” says Maria placing her hand over her chest. Like Jan, Maria just happened to be walking down the same street as Pong.

“Oh my God!” Maria smiles, before gently petting Pong’s shell. “It’s a beautiful feeling looking at that!”

Whether the tortoise is sauntering down the sidewalk for his daily dose of exercise or watching others work out at the gym Simon and his girlfriend own, Pong always seems to lift people’s spirits.

“The joy that he (brings) people!” Simon says as more than a dozen people walk by offering Pong big smiles. “Sometimes people would walk with him for hours just to watch his little leggies mosey down the street.”

So Simon started sharing images of Pong's life in and out of their apartment on social media, showcasing the diaper the tortoise wears at work, how he’s learned to open the fridge to get a healthy snack, and by speeding up the videos —illustrating how the tortoise likes to follow his family around their home.

“I hope the joy that people get from seeing him is kind of like pay it forward,” Simon says. “That they go out of their way to help give joy to some other people.”

That joy is set to spread to the other side of the world — albeit at a tortoise pace — when Jan starts showing her photos of Pong to friends and family Down Under.

“He’s just amazing,” Jan beams, before offering Pong one last pat on his shell. “I love him!” 

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