|I took this pic after I gave him his first bath. He was too weak to open his eyes.|
- First, I'd like to thank Mary Esther from the International Reptile Rescue in Canby, OR. Her advice, hands-on expertise, and encouragement helped me immeasurably throughout Norbert's rehabilitation. Mary Esther has a huge heart for reptiles, and has some pretty amazing (and some tragic) rescue stories to tell from her 30+ years of experience. I am honored to know her, and to count her among my friends.
- Second, I'd like to thank Joe H. and Robbie (and all others who chimed in) from the Turtle and Tortoise Forum for their advice, empathy, and encouragement. You guys have no idea how much you helped!
- Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my wonderful husband for encouraging, supporting, and comforting me throughout all the ups and downs of this journey!
Now, Norbert (aka Stumpy)'s story:
A friend of an acquaintance was looking for someone to take in the tortoise that their 16-year-old son had gotten bored of. It sounded fun, so I said "yes" - having NO idea what I was getting myself into.
The little tort was brought to me in a cardboard box filled with straw. He was small, VERY skinny, and so crusted over in dirt that I couldn't tell what color his shell was. He also had a horrible, decaying smell about him. I was too shocked to say anything (anyone who knows me can attest that this does not often happen) to the boy's Dad. I was also too shocked to take a picture of the little tort while he was still covered in dirt.
|Left: Timmy's healthy leg. Right: Norbert's skinny leg|
As it turned out (once I found my voice again, and was able to ask), the tortoise had spent 2 years living in a barn stall, without heat or lighting. The boy whose tortoise this was had lost interest, and didn't feed or water it for 6 months! I could tell by the look in the Dad's eyes that he was ashamed, and he said that he had no idea that it had gotten this bad until he picked the tortoise up to bring him to me.
As soon as we were home, I ran a warm soaking bath for the little tort. He was so weak that he couldn't lift his head, so I placed a small flat rock into the bath so he wouldn't drown. After a few minutes of relaxing in the warm water, he began to drink. And drink. And drink. As he warmed up, his smell became worse. I kid you not, he smelled like dead animal. I gently scrubbed away the dirt on his shell with a toothbrush. His shell was a sickly pale green color, and had what looked like bite marks from a dog in 4 or 5 places. Surprisingly, the shell felt good and hard, and his plastron was in perfect condition. His skin was pasty and almost transparent. He was so thin I could see his bones, and his face was sunken. His beak was overgrown, and his eyes were swollen shut. Amazingly, his nose was dry, and he wasn't wheezing.
|Freshly bathed, and warmed up a little|
|Here you can see the 3 dead, rotting toes (the top one is still healthy)|
I pilfered a heat lamp from my two healthy tortoises, and gently placed the little tort on some newspaper inside a 10 gallon aquarium - not an ideal enclosure for a tortoise, but ok as a "hospital" tank. I put in a large handful of dandelion leaves in front of the poor tort, not sure if he'd have the strength to eat. I made a little hide house out of a shoe box. Slowly, VERY slowly the tortoise opened his mouth and chomped on a leaf. His beak was so overgrown that he had a bit of trouble taking a good bite, but he managed to wolf down one leaf. Then he rested, and a few minutes later, ate another. I let him eat for about an hour (since he was eating so slowly), then removed the rest of the leaves, since I didn't want him to make himself sick by over-eating.
|Still too weak to lift his head or open his eyes... but OH did those dandelions taste GOOD!|
|Here are the cracks he had between his scutes|
|Eating again - several days later. His shell is still painted with betadine|
|...starting to explore just a little while sun bathing|
|The brand new stump - no more rotting toes! New pink skin!|
|(yum! Clover flowers!) You're looking so good, little guy!|
|Shedding the overgrown beak piece left those 3 funny little tips.|
|Stumpy exploring the little path that goes through our rock garden. I had just hosed him down. Doesn't his shell color look amazing?!|
|That's right. I tied a big bow around Norbert when Rachel came to get him!|
|Life is good when you have a full belly and a warm home!|