Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Unbelievable Life of Shelby the Tortoise

Shelby is a Russian Tortoise who was born in captivity.  He lived his first years of life in a small aquarium.  Shelby had dreams of stretching his legs and seeing the world.  He frantically tried to escape from his aquarium, walking back and forth, looking constantly for an exit.  Shelby came to live on our property when the college girls who owned him asked my mom to give him a better life.  Shelby moved into my parents' chicken coop.

A couple of weeks after Shelby moved in, my mom left the chicken coop door open to get something from inside.  She came back to find Shelby gone.  We looked everywhere and were devastated to think Shelby would starve alone in the wilderness or get eaten by a raccoon.  One month later we got a call from the Fire Department across the street.  They found a tortoise wandering around the station.

Shelby was thin, but he was alive!  My mom was overjoyed.  Because Shelby had survived such an ordeal, my parents decided he needed to live the life of a king.  My mom began to read about how to bring a tortoise back from starvation.  She took him to the vet and found a local tortoise rescue.  She found out what tortoises need in order to have a perfect winter and summer habitat.  Shelby gained weight and seemed to thrive in his new environments.  My parents spent more money than they had ever dreamed they would spend on a reptile.  It was a beautiful day in May when tragedy struck again.  My dad called frantically saying my dog, Pumpkin, had come over and pulled Shelby from his habitat.  Shelby was gone again.

I was hesitant to blame my sweet dog.  This is a dog who protects chickens and turkeys!  How could he murder a tortoise?  I went over to investigate and found incriminating paw prints at the scene.  We waited for Pumpkin to throw up a giant piece of tortoise shell or need emergency surgery for a blockage.  Pumpkin seemed well, but Shelby was nowhere to be found.  

After a month, we mourned Shelby's loss.  His habitat and our hopes grew thick with weeds.  Three months after his disappearance, my parents received a phone call.  Our neighbor across and down the street found a tortoise walking around in his apple orchard.  Yes, Shelby had survived three months in the wilderness without a constant source or food or water and was not eaten by a bear, raccoon, fox, mountain lion or other critter.  A small tortoise had accomplished a feat most humans couldn't.    

And yet again, we were filled with great happiness to have Shelby back in our lives.  My dad quickly built a barrier to cover his outdoor habitat. 

We like to think Shelby is happy to be home.  He is very active and trying to gain back all of the weight he lost.  He spends much of his day with his new girlfriend, "Shelly."  He doesn't seem to care she lacks appendages.  We hope Shelby decides to live out the rest of his long life with us on the farm and that his days of adventure are long over.   Welcome home, buddy!