Sheila and Tommy

Sheila and Tommy (Picture: Caters News)

What is the secret to a long life? Well if you ask this 121-year-old it’s dandelions and sleeping for six months a year.

Tommy the tortoise is celebrating her birthday and is now the world’s oldest living pet.

She has survived two world wars, six different monarchs and 21 US Presidents.

Born in 1898, Tommy has been in Sheila Floris’s family since 1909 when her grandmother Margaret Cloonan bought her for £1 – when the tortoise was already 11 years old.

Sheila claims that Tommy’s longevity can be attributed to her healthy diet of garden weeds and plenty of love and care from her owners over the last 121 years.

And it seems to have worked as Sheila, 62, who has cared for Tommy since she was a child, claims to never have had to take her to the vet.

Sheila said: ‘I was five years old when she was passed to my family.

Tommy the tortoise with Sheila's sister and Father

Tommy the tortoise with Sheila’s sister and Father (Picture: Caters News Agency)

‘My earliest memory of her is in my mother and father’s garden crawling around.

‘She was lovely to grow up with. I remember her racing around the garden and being quite speedy.

‘She’s very special, she’s a survivor.’

Margaret named the tortoise Tommy thinking he was a boy but discovered her true sex after she started to lay eggs.

Sheila said: ‘The eggs were empty but we were all shocked, we’d always thought she was a boy. It was too late to change the name so the name has stuck ever since.’

Sheila added that growing up Tommy was exotic compared to most pets her friends had.

She said: ‘In the 70s most tortoises died but my mother was really good with her, she’s survived so long because she’s been so well looked after.

‘She’s like a family member, she’s like a duchess, we’ve all grown up with her.’

Tommy spends her days in the garden and enjoys a particular spot under a hedge.

Remarkably, Tommy hibernates for six months of the year but always wakes up on either 1 April – which was Sheila mother’s birthday or Mother’s day.

Tommy the tortoise with Sheila and her dog in the 80s

Tommy the tortoise with Sheila and her dog in the 80s (Picture: Caters News Agency)

Sheila said: ‘Tommy enjoys munching on grass, weeds and dandelions.

‘She’s easier than any other kind of pet.

‘She’s cheap. She eats from the weeds from the garden and hibernates under the soil, she looks after herself. There’s no expense.

‘It’s funny how she wakes up on those two days, it’s like mum calling her and telling her to wake up even after all these years.

‘Tommy has always been there for me, she’s been part of the family, it would be strange not having her around to be honest.’

Sheila believes that Tommy will live on for at least another 50 years.

She said: ‘She’ll live on till at least 170, she’s strong and she’s well looked after.

‘Tommy still makes us laugh by racing around the garden, if I go outside I’ll call her name and she’ll come out to me.

‘The future is bright because she’s got people around her who love her and are very protective of her.’

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