Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday November 3rd 2019
As soon as Speedy is carried into the house, Isis picks up the strange new scent. Her nose begins to twitch and she twirls on her back legs, muzzle aloft, trying to locate its source.
It’s a tortoise, Isis, and she’s staying with us for a week.
“She’s winding down to her hibernation,” explains Y when she introduces me to Speedy. “I’ve been offering her a bit of lettuce, but she’s not wanted it for the last few days. I’ve brought this just in case, though “.
She hands me a fresh round lettuce.
“What about water?” I ask, uncertainly. It’s a very long time since I had a tortoise and I know very little about their care.
Y explains that some tortoises find it difficult to access water from dishes, and usually prefer to stand in shallow water when they drink. At home, Speedy is put into a baking tray, but since she’s definitely about to go into hibernation, it’s very unlikely that she’ll require food or water.
Well, that all sounds very straightforward.
Y covers the comatose Speedy with a large towel, and places her on the old sheets with which I have covered the floor. She’s in my spare room without heating. “This’ll be perfect for her,” Y assures me.
Unfortunately, after a few days, the temperature drops. Since I have a guest, I have to turn the heating up in the rest of the house. I ram a towel under the spare room door, hoping that this will keep the room at the same low temperature.
It doesn’t work.
Next time I check on her, Speedy is wide awake.
I begin to worry about her well being; after all, she is between seventy and a hundred years old. I need to make sure she gets to 101.
I offer her lettuce. She declines and retreats under a trolley where it’s impossible to see her. I carefully lift her out, put her back on her sheet and replace her towel before making a dash for the internet.
Hibernation, I discover, can be a life threatening experience for an imported tortoise. There is a surprising number of species. And they require different regimes, and specific environments. They all require a low, even temperature for safe hibernation, but the temperature needed varies among species.
Oh dog! Which one is Speedy?
The following days are a little nerve wracking: sometimes she’s deeply asleep, at others she is awake and has relocated. Now and again, her little mouth opens and closes weakly as though she needs sustenance, but she doesn’t respond to offers of lettuce or of water.
She’s lived with Y for fifty three years. I can’t let her die now. I text N, my animal expert friend in Cornwall. He advises me to leave her be.
I don’t disturb her, but continue to check on her, of course. She appears to be alive, but she’s not evincing any interest in me or in her surroundings. I assume that tortoises are passive, undemonstrative creatures, and keep my fingers crossed.
On Tuesday Y. arrives to collect her. “Hello my little Speedy,” calls my friend, picking up her pet, holding her close, and kissing her nose.
What happens next astonishes me.
Speedy stretches out her head and legs as far as they’ll go. Her little black eyes open wide and seem to twinkle, her head bobs up and down. She wiggles her feet energetically, and opens and closes her mouth as though in greeting She looks ecstatic. She’s clearly delighted to be reunited with Y.
As they say, we live and learn. At the beginning of this week I learn that a tortoise can form a close attachment to a human.
At the end of the week I meet a beautiful pup. He has a lovely forever home in Birmingham, but is very attached to his best friend who had to be left behind in Turkey.
And then there’s Isis, who becomes attached to something quite different and leaps from the proverbial frying pan into the proverbial fire!
To be continued ……………………………………
Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk