Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Trauma, Drama, and Drowning Tortoises

Where to start?

When I was a child, we had a British-bred tortoise given to us. He had an unlikely velocity, so we called him Speedy. *Pause for polite laughter*. In time, Speedy became a little lonely, and we got him a mate, Susie.

My childhood memories are punctuated by the sound of Speedy getting it on with Susie, much to her boredom and annoyance. But, oh, he was a tortoise of rare perserverance... To this day, I do a mean vocal impression of a tortoise mating.

We've had those tortoises for over twenty years, and they are the most pampered, cossetted and protected reptiles in the world. We eschew the flimsy, straw-filled cardboard box of Blue Peter fame - my parents put the tortoises down to hibernate in carefully constructed cardboard pens, surrounded by a non-toxic insulating material. The boxes are then placed in a polystyrene-lined wooden crate, with spaces constructed for airways, and are then insulated in polystyrene chips before the whole is sealed with a sturdy wire mesh to prevent rat-entry.

They are fed with a variety of market-fresh fruit and vegetables, cat food, and special toroise mineral and vitamin powder. They start their year with a vitamin injection, and their first month out of hibernation is spent in the conservatory.

You get the idea. Pampered. Protected.

This morning I had a phone call from my Mum, telling me that Susie was dead. (Bear with me). Poor, poor Dad had let her out of her enclosure for one of her regular strolls about the garden, become distracted, and lost her. They searched for hours, and then hoped she would turn up for food when the temperatures rose in the morning.

Unfortunately, in the morning, Dad found her in the bottom of the ornamental stream they have in the garden, limp and unresponsive. She would have been underwater, they think, for over 12 hours.

Mostly, I was distressed for Dad. Like me, he has a fairly unforgiving attitude to himself, and like me is deeply distressed by any suffering on the part of animals, especially animals that look to us for care. Susie, I knew, had had a lovely life, and would have suffered very little, being a cold-blooded creature introduced to cold water.

But there were plenty of tears for Dad.

I told Mum that Susie wouldn't have sufered, mentioned that cold-blooded/cold-water thing, and told Dad it wasn't his fault, and could have happened to any of us.

Half an hour later, I get a text.

"Susie's alive! She's at the vets."

God is good.

Mum, musing at that 'cold-blooded/cold-water' thing, had put Susie in the sunshine, and examined her. Whereupon she gasped for air, and started moving.

It's early days to be 100% relieved, but we're hopeful. I have, of course, researched tortoise drownings on the 'net, and find it's very common, and remarkably survivable.

Fingers crossed for Susie, the amphibious toroise....


At 2:33 pm, Blogger Michelle Styles said...

Oh hugs!
What a rollercoaster ride. Fingers crossed for Susie's full recovery.

At 3:35 pm, Anonymous mary beth said...

So glad Susuie's alive! You ought to send this in to a magazine. :-)

At 5:37 pm, Blogger Melani Blazer said...

Oh blessings that she's alive.

I wonder if there's a little sea turtle back in her lineage. :)
Good news is always a good thing, Anna. Defintely keep us updated. And pictures, where are pictures???

At 9:47 pm, Blogger Anna Lucia said...

Thanks everyone! They've emptied a whole lot of water out of her lungs, cured the hypothermia, and are happy with progress. Vet says we may need to tube feed, but we'll wait and see.

Fingers crossed.

At 11:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a remarkable and touching story! It reminds me of one of mum-in-law's ghost koi that almost literally became a ghost. The pump had stopped working while hubby and I were out for the day and she hadn't noticed for several hours. She called my Dad and he fixed the pump but many of the fish had gone into shut down mode. m-i-l was distraught when we got back, most fish had recovered but one was lurking somewhere near the bottom of the pond: status unknown. The other looked like a goner having been floating on the surface for about 2 hours. Hubby was very upset and went to the garden. He took the fish out and cradled it for about half an hour. Then he noticed the gills twitch. He gently lowered it back into the water and within another half an hour it was fully recovered. This was about two weeks before he found out he was accepted into med school. It is clearly his destiny to be a healer!


At 12:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW the lurker at the bottom of the pond reappeared the next day and was fine.



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