Saturday, September 3, 2011

Farewell Turtle Dreams

Image © Rachel Hoyt.  All rights reserved.

I'm one of those people that knows you have to live life today or you'll miss out on the special moments, but somehow, despite living near it for 15 years, I failed to visit Turtle Dreams before it closed.  I've heard about the "place in Montecito for rescued turtles" for years and wished I could build an extravagant enclosure for my turtle Pokey for even longer, but somehow I never tried to visit until last week.  Jeanie Vaughan rushed to answer the my call just ten seconds after the answering tape began, but moments later her tired yet cheerful voice told me it was not a good time for me to visit because they were closing down. 

Jeanie and her husband Dennis retired to Montecito in 1995 with 15 turtles.  By 2008 they had built their own private zoo and were caring for 500 rescued turtles and tortoises.  These days it is just Jeanie, her daughter Christy, and community support that care for the elaborate collection.  Jeanie says she has friends all over the world helping her find new homes for the turtles and tortoises currently living with her.  I hope that wherever they go, they will always remember the woman who showed them a small slice of heaven, but feel equally pampered, loved and nurtured by their new environment.

I think the thing that is hardest about loving turtles is knowing that if you nurture them well, it is highly likely they will outlive you.  It is every parent's worst nightmare to leave their child penniless and forced to take care of themselves.  Nearly every turtle owner must face this terror, or worse, the knowledge that their inadequacies as a caretaker may have shortened the life of a mystical creature.

Jeanie, Dennis and Christy Vaughan have offered a dreamlike experience to turtles and turtle lovers for over a decade.  Pokey and I wish to thank them for their years of service.  Your contribution to turtle and tortoise conservation will not be forgotten.


An anonymous commenter below states that they are close friends with Jeanie Vaughan and that she wants the public to know she is not closing down completely.  Call Turtle Dreams at (805)969-5128 for more information.

Topaz & Tillman saw this post and wanted to say thank you to Jeanine for finding them a lovely home.


  1. that is a real shame- we visited her and the animals were very lucky - we run American Tortoise Rescue in Malibu and like all rescues mostly run by seniors face the fact that there are no young people coming up in our rescue world.

  2. I volunteered with Jeannie at Turtle Dreams for five years. Jeannie is a wonderful person and ambassador for turtles and tortoises of all species. She taught me how to care for them and the correct food to provide by growing some of their favorites in my yard. she adopted out two Desert tortoises to me 10 years ago. They are are joy to own. I have a little wooden house they sleep in at night and a nice grassy yard for them to roam in during the day. She showed me how to hibernate them during the fall. And yes they will out live me and I will have to find new home for them some day, but for now I enjoy them every day.

    Thanks Jeannie!!!! You have made a difference in the lives of many animals and people.

    Donna Williiams

  3. This is sad, because I always wanted to visit and see if our desert tortoise would be happy there. We've had him for over forty years. Would love to take a female, because I always think he is restless being alone. It seems so sad for him, even though he is a reptile. He sometimes gets in the house and does battle with a plant stand with mirrored sides.

  4. @tortoiserescue - Hello! It's great to see you here. When I couldn't visit Turtle Dreams I googled turtle rescue and found you. So, you may hear from me soon. :)

    @sadiemay (Donna) - That is wonderful. Thanks for sharing your story! :)

    @corky - It is sad for many turtles who may have dreamt of retiring at Turtle Dreams. I hope another facility will be born but doubt anyone could really take her place.

  5. I am so sorry to see Turtle Dreams close - it was an enchanting place. I live close by so I visited there several times. The care Jeanne provided to all her shelled friends was incredible. It was a tremendous amount of work to take care of 500 tortoises from all parts of the world and Jeanne does deserve to "retire". My two shelled friends "Sherman" and "Winston" send best wishes to Jeanne and are sorry they too will be unable to retire there when I am gone.

  6. I am close friends with the Vaughan's and they want the public to know that Turtle Dreams is not closing down completely. Due to the overwhelming task of caring for so many animals they will no longer be taking them in. However Turtle Dreams will continue to provide educational outreach to children in our community and be a network for pet owners. Volunteers are still needed to help with daily care. If you would like to help please call 969-5128 for more information.

  7. @Jayne - Thanks so much for posting your thank you note to Jeanene here.

    @Anonymous - I guess I will have to call again soon about volunteering. I did not mean to spread any false information, but when I called about getting a tour and/or helping in any way, she said they were closing down and did not want any help at this time. Perhaps it is because I mentioned I would like to write about her project on my blog that caused her to state that, but I truly would like to volunteer and help her facility in any way I can.

  8. @pokey's pals,
    I so hope I didn't come off sounding rude! What you have said about Jeannie and Turtle Dreams was wonderful and a beautiful tribute! I think you caught her on a bad day.... Please do try again. Since Dennis' death it has become so difficult emotionally and physically. You sound like like a great person and you can feel free to e-mail me for more info. :)

  9. @sbbunnys - No, you were not rude at all! I definitely want the info to be accurate and will give her a call sometime again about volunteering. Thanks for coming back to visit my blog again! :)

    Rachel & Pokey

  10. I saw Turtle Dreams and it was the most amazing and compassionate enterprise I have ever witnessed humans doing. For all the horrible things ignorant people say about the Western worlds and "white" people, we still rock it when it comes to organizing help for the mistreated and unfortunate creatures/animals/humans in this world. Let's hope we don't become endangered! Just a reminder - "turtles" live in water. "Tortoises" live on land. Americans tends to call them all "turtles." Oops. :)