Updated: Jan 31, 2020
A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Steve the Tortoise… the latest exotic pet rescued by my big-hearted daughter-in-law. As the story went, Steve’s owner came in to her clinic with Steve… a very sick sulcata tortoise.
After a thorough veterinary exam, it was determined that the tortoise had a giant kidney stone – most likely caused from an improper diet. I’m not sure how you can tell if a tortoise is in pain, but our girl determined that Steve was feeling an immense amount of pain just like a human would in his condition.
Steve would need a very delicate surgery to remove the stone before it killed him, but the surgery itself was risky. The owners decided to give Steve up instead of try to save him, but our girl wanted to try and save Steve’s life.
So this is the story of Steve the Tortoise…
Once upon a time, there lived a tiny tortoise named Steve. He was the cutest little tortoise in the whole pet shop.
One day, a nice family saw the cute little tortoise in the pet shop and decided to buy him. Because Steve was so little, his new owner also bought Steve a little tiny house, a little tiny food bowl, and a little tiny water bowl.
Steve loved his new owner. He really loved his new house, and he really, really loved to eat and drink. Steve loved to eat so much that it wasn’t long before he outgrew his tiny house, and the little tiny food bowl couldn’t seem to hold enough food for Steve’s growling stomach.
So Steve’s owner bought him a bigger enclosure for him to walk around in, a bigger food bowl to eat from, and bigger water bowl to drink from. This made Steve very happy, but the more Steve ate and drank, the more Steve grew and grew! And soon, his new owners didn’t quite know what to do!
One day, Steve had a terrible bellyache and he couldn’t eat a bite of his food. Day after day, his owner set a fresh bowl of food out, but even the smell made Steve’s stomach hurt.
Steve slogged over to the water bowl to take a sip. His reflection looked gray, and sickly. He tried the water, but it also made Steve’s stomach hurt.
The kids would come to see Steve and want to play, but all he wanted to do was sleep. Whatever was going on wasn’t good and Steve hoped his owner would do something quick.
As the days went by, Steve pains seemed to hurt worse. The food sat wilted and moldy, and the water untouched. Steve’s belly hurt so bad that he couldn’t even walk around his enclosure anymore. Even the slightest movement of his legs hurt him.
Finally, the day came when his owner picked him out of the enclosure and took him for a car ride. When they arrived at a strange place that smelled like antiseptic, Steve grew worried. Where was he, and who was the strange lady poking and prodding his aching shell?
There was a lot of talking in the room, and before Steve knew what was going on, his owner left without him.
“What is going on?!” Steve wondered. “Where did my owner go?”
Poor Steve was feeling quite miserable. His whole body hurt, and his owners were gone. Whatever was he going to do?
Before long, he was moved into a new enclosure where strange ladies in white coats came to feed Steve, but he felt so awful he couldn’t eat a single bite.
The next day, a lady wearing a stethoscope came into the room with a very long, pokey stick, and she tried to jab it into Steve’s armpit.
“Ouch!” Steve cried, snapping at the lady. “Leave me alone!”
Steve pulled his head and legs into his shell and hid.
“Go away!” he whimpered.
Suddenly, a sharp stick poked right through his shell.
“OUCH!” Steve cried, his head coming out to snap at the lady poking him. “Stop hurting me!”
Then Steve fell asleep.
When Steve woke up, he saw a blurry arm reaching into his enclosure. Fearing it was another sharp stick, Steve tried to bite it.
“Go away,” he squeaked, feeling weak and groggy.
Lucky for Steve, the arm just put some fresh food and water in the enclosure, and left again.
Steve waited a long time before testing his legs. They were a little sore, but he was definitely feeling better than before he fell asleep.
Steve smelled the food thinking it smelled really good. Reaching out his legs, he scooted his shell a few steps, and then a few more. Carefully, Steve made his way over to the food bowl, and after taking that first delicious bite, he couldn’t stop eating.
After eating all of his breakfast, Steve took a long drink of the fresh, cool water thinking, “This place isn’t so bad, after all.”
Day after day, the ladies would come and give Steve more yummy food, and fresh water. Day after day, Steve felt better and better. Even his reflection in the water bowl showed a happier, healthier looking tortoise.
Then one day, the lady he saw that very first day picked him out of the enclosure and put him in her car, and Steve went for another car ride.
“Where are we going now,” Steve wondered.
It wasn’t long and the lady set Steve down into a big enclosure with lots of stuff to plow around in.
“This is great!” Steve said.
Then the lady put a smaller tortoise in the enclosure with him.
“Hello, friend,” Steve said.
Instead of being friends, the mean little tortoise shot across the enclosure and started biting at Steve’s legs.
“Ouch! Stop it!” Steve cried, shelling up and trying to protect himself.
“Get out of my house!” the new tortoise grumbled.
“I’m not in your house!” Steve said, but the other tortoise continued hissing and biting him.
Finally, the lady came back and took the other tortoise away. Then she put fresh water and more yummy food out for Steve before flicking on a nice heating lamp for him to sleep under.
Steve continued feeling better and better… and he kept eating his yummy food and drinking his fresh, clean water. When the lady would come to clean his enclosure, Steve would bounce up and down with happiness. Even though the lady poked him with a sharp stick once, and tried to make him be friends with a mean tortoise, she had made his life so much happier by fixing his hurts and feeding him good food.
Steve the tortoise grew, and grew, as big as a tortoise could get. The nice lady made Steve an outdoor enclosure where he could dig, and crawl, and play all he wanted. She always brought him fresh, yummy food and clean water every day, and Steve never had a tummy ache again.
So as it turns out, Steve the Tortoise was saved from certain death by the successful removal of the enormous kidney stone. It was not known if Steve would pull through the surgery, and/or recover from it, but miraculously, Steve did indeed recover, and now lives at my son and daughter-in-law's house. Steve loves his new owner, and I swear… if he could bounce up and down like an excited dog, he would when she shows up to feed him.
Steve is a Sulcata Tortoise that will require many, many years of specialized care. During his lifetime, Steve could grow up to 200 pounds, and live to over 100-years-old. He will likely need a room of his own during the winter months in Michigan, and an outdoor enclosure that will be safe for a digging tortoise through the warmer months.
I never realized that tortoise’s had so much personality, but Steve the Tortoise is pretty darn cool! I have read that Sulcata’s are intelligent creatures that can even learn their names and come when called, much like a dog. Still, I cannot imagine trying to provide a good home for a giant tortoise.
When you think you would like to adopt an exotic pet, please do some research first. Many exotics require very specialized care, and may cost a good amount of money to do so properly. If you feel you still NEED to have an exotic pet, consider adoption from a pet rescue. Here is one of MANY for Sulcata adoption.
Thanks so much for reading about Steve the Tortoise!
If you liked this story, give it some love at the bottom of the page and share it with someone you think would enjoy reading. Become a member if you would like to be notified of new posts.