MEET TANK THE TORTOISE
His name was Louis when they got him, but Dr. Doug Jacobson and his wife, Dr. Lauren Jacobson, soon decided Tank would be a more appropriate moniker for the pet they adopted in 2014 from American Tortoise Rescue in Malibu.
“Nothing stops him. He weighed 60 pounds and was 11 years old then, and he is now about 80 pounds. Tank is strong and healthy. We named him for his size and strength,” said Dr. Jacobson, 43. “He is also very friendly. He likes to have his shell petted.”
Several times a week in the evening, the Jacobsons take Tank for a stroll around their home in Mission Canyon, much to the amusement of the neighbors.
“They laugh when we take him for walks. We follow him, and when he has gone too far, we bring him back home in a wheelbarrow,” said Dr. Jacobson, an ophthalmologist at Sansum Clinic. His wife is a pathologist in town.
The couple acquired Tank after a friend saw on social media that he was available and thought the Jacobson home on more than an acre would be the perfect place for him.
“When sulcata tortoises are born, the hatchlings are tiny and cute. People buy them and keep them in a shoebox or a terrarium. Then, when they start growing and get huge, they don’t know what to do with them,” said Dr. Jacobson. “There are too many in the United States without good homes.”
Which is certainly not the case with Tank, who spends his days in a large ? 50-by-60 square foot ? vegetable garden planted especially for him.
“His favorite food is romaine lettuce. It’s like candy for him. Mostly, he eats grass, and when it dries up, we buy grass hay for him. At night he sleeps in a house of cinder blocks and plywood that I built for him. It has a heating pad in it to keep him warm,” said Dr. Jacobson, who grew up in the Bay Area, where he graduated from Menlo-Atherton High School in 1994. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College in Colorado Springs.
Before earning his medical degree at Yale University School of Medicine in 2005, he taught fifth-graders at the Blue Valley School in San Jose, Costa Rica; middle school science at the Headlands Institute in Marin County; and field science at the Yosemite Institute, now called NatureBridge.
“I was thinking about medical school from the start, but I wanted to have an interesting and broad college experience,” said Dr. Jacobson, the son of Dr. Peter Egbert, an ophthalmologist at Stanford University Medical Center. “When I was in high school, I would go with him on medical missions to places like Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands. It was inspiring for me to see him restore sight and give people back their vision.”
After he did his residency at the University of Washington in Seattle, Dr. Jacobson continued to work with his father on medical mission trips.
“The first time we went to Ghana, Africa, I was assisting him, but the second time, we were side by side, each at our own operating tables doing surgery at the same time. It was an incredible experience for a young surgeon to be operating all day next to my mentor and dad,” he said.
In 2010, Dr. Jacobson came to Santa Barbara to start a private practice, and in 2017, he was recruited to join the staff at Sansum Clinic, where he specializes in cataract surgery and glaucoma management.
“They are both exciting. With cataract surgery, the outcomes are so good, and there have been incredible surgical advances in glaucoma in the last decade,” he said.
An avid bicyclist, Dr. Jacobson commutes to work every day by bike, and in his spare time, he rides his mountain bike on local trails or his dirt jumper at the BMX track at Elings Park.
“Lauren and I have been involved with the Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers organization (now called SAGE Trail Alliance) since we moved here and have been on the board for several years. After the Thomas Fire and debris flows, we have been raising funds to rebuild and reopen local Santa Barbara trails,” he said.
Twice a week ? Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons ? the eye surgeon can be found at East Beach playing ultimate frisbee, another passion of his.
On Saturday mornings, the Jacobsons are usually at the farmers market on Cota Street.
“We like to cook and eat healthy. I like to be a role model for my patients,” said Dr. Jacobson, who enjoys the plethora of arts and cultural offerings provided at the Santa Barbara Bowl and UCSB Arts & Lectures.
For those thinking it might be fun to have their own pet tortoise, he pointed out that the animals are considered exotic pets, making them illegal to buy or sell.
“And if they were available, be prepared to make a long-term commitment to their care because their life expectancy is 120 years,” he said.