ericka and jay johnson, sulcata tortoise, tortoise ring bearer
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Ericka and Jay Johnson were accompanied by ring bearer Tom Shelleck, a Sulcata tortoise.

Veterinarians Ericka and Jay Johnson met 20 years ago while doing a wild tortoise survey. So the couple decided that their ceremonial walk down the aisle wouldn't be complete without their 20-year-old sulcata tortoise, Tom Shelleck, accompanying them as ring bearer. The couple was married last year at Tohono Chul Botanical Gardens in Arizona.

To make sure they made it to the altar, a floral basket containing the rings was attached to the top of Tom’s shell.

“Jay and I are both exotic animal veterinarians and tortoises have always been at the center of what brought us together,” Ericka said according to The Metro.

The couple encouraged Tom to walk down the aisle by lining the walkway with strawberries, a sulcata’s favorite treat.

Having Tom accompany them during their big moment was adorable but it also allowed them to really savor the moment. It took the bride, groom and Tom three minutes to walk down the aisle, where it takes most people just a few seconds.


“We were timing him when we’d practice to see how long it would take and we ended up having to have two songs played so that we’d have enough time, and we still almost ran out of songs,” Ericka said.

“When it was time for him to go down the aisle I had my twin nephews place strawberries down for him to follow,” Ericka added. “He’s very outgoing and always hungry.”

Tom is clearly an important part of the couple’s life and it makes sense. A sulcata tortoise, much like a marriage, is a lifetime commitment. A sulcata can live more than 70 years and an adult can weigh anywhere from 79 to 200 pounds.

The only tortoises that are larger than a sulcata are the Galapagos tortoise and the Aldabra giant tortoise. The Aldabra giant tortoise can weigh up to 550 pounds and live for up to 150 years.

Ericka was a little worried that Tom would get distracted by mistaking some of their guests' freshly painted toenails for fruit. But he made it all the way to his destination without veering off course. “Fortunately that didn’t happen,” she said.

After the big day was over, Tom stood out as one of the most memorable parts of the wedding. “A lot of people were talking about it and we made some funny jokes like ‘the bride is supposed to be the center of attention but it’s the ring bearer,’” Ericka said.

"The day after the wedding I had several people text me like ‘Hey, do you have any pictures of Tom?’” Ericka joked.

Ericka and Jay are a great example of how a couple can make a wedding truly an expression of their love by sharing what’s important to them. Tortoises brought them together and now their dearest Tom Shelleck was able to lead them to the altar where they could make the ultimate commitment to one another.

Plus, let’s face it, it’s important that Tom agreed to the marriage because he’s going to be right by their side for another 50-plus years, so he better approve of the arrangement.


Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

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A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

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