By Ignacio Mardones
July 7, 2024

You never forget your first love and your first pet. Leandro Almeida still remembered his turtle, Manuela, which had gone missing 38 years ago. He never expected to find her again among his parents’ house mess.

It was 1982 and the Almeida family, a native of Realengo, Brazil, was experiencing a small major crisis.

Leandro, one of the children of the family, came crying to his parents’ room announcing that Manuela, his pet turtle, was lost. The adults told the little boy not to worry but the boy demanded that they help him find his pet because she was his best friend.


They spent hours and hours searching for her until the parents had to sit the little boy in his lap and tell him that his dear Manuela wasn’t coming back. The house was being renovated and most likely some master had left the door open and the reptile had escaped to the nearby forest. “It’s better this way, she’s in nature,” the adults said.

She was his first pet, his first friend and his first loss. The wound would stay in his memory, leaving a scar that time wouldn’t erase.


38 years passed by and little Leandro is now an adult, a father. His father had passed away recently due to his age and put to rest next to his mother. Now, it was his turn to enter his old house again and clean it once and for all.

Manuela’s loss had been overcome but never forgotten. Just as there are people who never forget their first love, he would never forget his first pet. As can happen with first loves, life also manages to reunite people with their first pets.

What is uncommon is when this happens exactly in the same place where they last saw each other.


It turns out that Leandro’s father was a hoarder, so the rooms were full of things – and a lot of rubbish – from years ago. While the man tidied his father’s house, life surprised him with an unexpected appearance.

The man was fighting against his father’s trash when his neighbor asked him if he also intended to get rid of the turtle. “I put the garbage bag on the floor and the neighbor warned me ‘are you going to throw the turtle out, too?’ I turned white, I couldn’t believe it,” Leandro told Globo TV.

Perla Rodrigues / TV Globo

It was then that the Almeidas learned that Manuela had managed to survive for three decades alone.

The family suspects that she survived thanks to the thousands of termites that infested his hoarder father’s old abandoned furniture.

Now Manuela walks through the house and entertains the generations she already knew along with new ones from the Almeida family.

Perla Rodrigues / TV Globo

The first pet is never forgotten and rarely returns. Leandro and Manuela are proof of that.