YORK, Pa. -- At about 6:30 Wednesday evening, Bradley Ness' dog, Bella, began barking in the backyard and when Mr. Ness went to see what was disturbing her, he spotted it, crawling out from under the shed.
A very large tortoise.
"I couldn't believe it," Mr. Ness, 34, said.
They have had some wildlife show up in their West Manchester backyard -- a couple of deer last year -- but never anything like the creature that had emerged from under the shed. It was huge, about 18-inches around. It didn't look like something that just crawled out of the woods. It didn't look indigenous because Mr. Ness said he had never seen anything like it.
He grabbed the tortoise as it was heading into the brush behind the house and carried to the fenced-in backyard.
He called some neighbors over to look at the critter. They took some pictures. A few speculated that it was a box turtle, a local reptile that apparently had developed a glandular problem or had gotten into someone's steroids stash because Mr. Ness said he had never seen a box turtle that big. And besides, he said, it didn't look like any box turtle he had ever seen.
Mr. Ness wasn't sure what to do about it so he took a photo of it and emailed it to the York Daily Record/Sunday News, thinking that getting it out there would help. The newspaper posted it on its Facebook page.
Shawn Metz didn't even know his pet, a spur-thighed tortoise named Dozer, was missing until he got a call from a friend who had seen the Facebook post about 10 p.m. Wednesday. Dozer likes to be in his fenced-in backyard during the summer and had apparently burrowed under the fence of Mr. Metz's home in West Manchester and escaped, Mr. Metz said.
Dozer had wandered off before, about a year or two ago, Mr. Metz said. But they found him within half an hour in a neighbor's yard.
"Once he gets going, he can go pretty far in half an hour," said Mr. Metz, who used to collect reptiles and volunteers at York County's Richard Nixon Park.
Mr. Metz looked up Mr. Ness' address -- the Facebook page mentioned him -- and went to his house, about a quarter-mile away. It was approaching midnight when he knocked on Mr. Ness' door.
And Dozer was reunited with his family.
Mr. Ness said he could tell it was the Metzes' tortoise.
"When the little girl called his name, his head popped up," he said. "He knew them."state