I know some crazy people. They brake for butterflies, refuse to put down traps for mice and have the vet euthanize chickens rather than, well, you-know-what. Jess is either crazier than most, or an angel – you decide. As long as I can remember she has helped rescue and place homeless cats and dogs through Furkids. Now she is rescuing Russian tortoises for adoption too (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This got her into a really funny situation a few weeks back (when she should have been celebrating her birthday). Naturally, names and places have been changed to protect the innocent (i.e. the tort) – over to you, Jess:
So, I have been tending to the culinary needs of Charlie, a Russian tortoise that lives at the Cloverville Community Garden where I have two veggie plots. Charlie was found a while back wandering around, no doubt an escapee from someone’s outdoor tortoise enclosure, since she like all Russian torts hails from the East – most likely Afghanistan, Turkey or Uzbekistan – where they are farmed or wild caught for the international exotic pet trade. Charlie has stayed at the garden, rambling a half acre, eating away, happy, for these past six months. However, for whatever reason, these past 10 days, Charlie has taken it upon herself to start leaving the garden and heading up the sidewalk of Bird Street towards some other destination. Several times Charlie has been returned to the garden by passersby, having walked north one, two, even three blocks away from the garden. Charlie has a big Cloverville fan base so many folks know where she belongs. I was about to write “return to community garden if found” in Sharpie on her shell, when, two days ago, Charlie disappeared. A couple of us looked around, no Charlie. I figured she had found a hibernation spot and that was it.
This evening, while picking kale and arugula from my garden plot, I saw a fellow named Floyd, an aging redneck guy who is a celebrity in the neighbourhood for jumping out of trees near the cement wall running along the border of Cloverville. He climbs up and waits for folks to come by and spray graffiti on the wall and he then accosts them. He is a character. I asked Floyd if he had seen Charlie and he told me that he saw a fellow named Hank pick Charlie up off the sidewalk yesterday morning and walk down the street with him. Hank is a homeless fellow and known Methhead and Crackhead. Just fantastic!
Floyd says Hank lives in a bunch of places, but his friend, James who lives on Renyolds street and deals Meth, knows where he might be. Floyd doesn’t want to come with me to James’ place “because we will get in a fight.” Fantastic, I am now heading over to a Meth House to ask about the whereabouts of a tortoise. Only in Cloverville. And, perhaps, only me. Wouldn’t most normal people just walk away from the situation at this point?
So, I get to James’ place and there are a bunch of really f$#%#cked up people sitting out on the porch. I ask for James. James comes bounding down the stairs, no doubt eager for another customer? I ask if he knows where Hank is, and as luck would have it, Hank is sitting right there, and yes, he looks like a seasoned Meth addict for sure. I tell Hank I hear he has my tortoise and I want him back. Everyone gets real excited. Lots of jokes about tortoise soup for dinner, but all are good natured and friendly. Hank says he has Charlie in a bucket of water in a back alley. My heart sinks. Charlie cannot swim, she is a desert tortoise. Is Charlie alive?
Naturally Hank wants to know how bad I want Charlie back and how much I am willing to pay to get her. I tell him I need to see the tortoise first to decide how much it is worth to me. Hank tries to get me to come down the alley with him, I tell him I’ll be right here outside James’ house when he comes back with the tortoise. Five minutes later he returns with Charlie. Charlie is freezing cold and a weird colour. But looks otherwise okay. I give Hank $10 and head back up the road to the garden and then realize Charlie will be out on the street again tomorrow morning, facing another “situation.”
So this evening Charlie is in a Rubbermaid box in my condo and I am weighing the pros and cons of hibernating a tortoise in the crisper drawer of my fridge.
UPDATE: As we go to press Charlie prepares for winter slumber, fortunately not in a fridge drawer, but natural style, in her own self-made earthen burrow, safe inside a friend’s greenhouse where seven other rescued Russian torts reside.