This is a difficult story to write. As an animal rescuer, I thought I was a very responsible person and attentive to my animal family. I have had a particular challenge with my 4-5 year old previously abused and neglected African Sulcata tortoises, about the size of watermelons. The larger one, Bam Bam had managed to ram down a barricade of rocks and “saw” through the metal pen fencing with the edge of his shell for the second time. After his first escape, he had a thirst for adventure and freedom and once found and returned to his pen and sister, has spent every waking moment plotting another breakout. He succeeded a few weeks ago and was nowhere to be found. Unperturbed, his life partner Pebbles could care less about escaping and was happy there was more food for her. At 4:30 in the morning, I was checking and feeding my animal family in the dark, by flashlight before leaving for the airport at 6 am. Pebbles had indeed flown the coop. I assured my wonderful friends/ house-petsitters, she would not go far and would be seen when needing water. Off we both went (Pebbles and I) for our own Big Adventure. Pebbles was found a few days later by a neighbor and she had in fact climbed the equivalent of Mt. Everest for a tort, high up in the Turrets all the way up from the ironshore. She was retrieved and secured once again in the pen. Now an adrenaline junkie and a mountain climber, Pebbles succeeded in yet another breakout, unbeknownst to my pet sitters, Jhonan & Shelby.
On Saturday, Jhonan, a professional photographer, had left for a wedding shoot and thought he had forgotten his camera charger at my house, so had to return. Oddly he was not greeted by my older, goofball, lovelug dogs, Black Jack and Cassidy, a sweet natured Newfoundland and a Leonberger. What he found was a horror show. My dogs had attacked the tortoise. It was upside down, which causes death in minutes from the shell crushing the heart and lungs. It’s shell and surrounding tissue were badly mangled and chewed. Quick thinking, Jhonan turned the hose on the dogs and grabbed the tortoise. He took it inside the house and barricaded it in the dining area. It was bleeding badly and in shock, hissing in pain. The vet would not be in until Monday, so Shelby got on the internet for help. Blood loss, dehydration, quick starvation, bacteria and fungus are all killers. The poor tort would not eat or drink for 4 days and was weakening visibly, remaining motionless in its shell for days. Surviving until Monday, they took the tort to the vet and given critical care instructions. It needed an IV and torts do not have veins like other animals, so it is an intramuscular procedure. Also, tortoises and turtles are impossible to force feed, period.
Shelby and Jhonan began the twice a day critical care of soaking it in a huge tub of water, then debriding the injury with a toothbrush and antibacterial soap, followed by a cream antibiotic. Still not eating, this would slow any healing and hasten death. They tried baby food every three hours…no response. Due to Internet and phone line problems, I could not be reached or return their calls until the following Thursday in London. I became physically ill at the news. I suggested her adored food, corn on the cob and sure enough that did the trick. Due to their excellent care and quick thinking action, they saved my tort’s life who will survive.
Once home, I resumed the ritual and deal with the gruesome wounds twice daily. It cannot go back in the dirt pen due to germs, so is now residing in the safety of my 20 foot chain link cement dog kennel.However, I knew something else was wrong with Pebbles, something was not right about her. On my first day off, I ran all the errands you do after being away for 2 weeks and returned home laden with all manner of pet food, supplies, meds and a bit of groceries for me. It was threatening rain, so I did not pull in the driveway but through the tall grass right up to my stairs into the house. I got out of the car and almost tripped. There directly in front of me was Pebbles! Newly chewed up, sitting right in front of my car bumper. Two feet to either side and I could not have seen her in the tall grass. A foot closer and I would have run over her. I raced to the kennel and sure enough, the tortoise was still there. Shelby and Jhonan had rescued and saved the life of Bam Bam! The first escapee!! My much smaller tort, Pebbles had indeed returned home on her own and the dogs went after her as well and I arrived just in time. So BOTH tortoises are now home and will recover.
It will take months of care and healing, but when they are again well I am going to have fiberglass shell replacements made to protect them where needed. Seeing them side by side it became obvious what had been troubling me. Pebbles is much smaller, more active, squirmy and has a cuter face than Big Brut the Bam. Teaches me about ever taking a vacation…………….
Besides being loyal, caring RRR volunteers, Shelby and Jhonan are tortoise lifesavers. You don’t see that very often on a resume!
Once again, must go…..time to tub a tort.
Had to share another unbelievable animal story….this time mine.