The Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Washington State University sees all sorts of animals come through its doors.
Marcie Logsdon, a clinical faculty member at the hospital, said it covers a large portion of the surrounding population with standard care but also can cover emergencies — like three months ago when Terri the tortoise came in.
Terri arrived around the end of March after being run over by a vehicle. She was missing a portion of her top shell.
“The first night especially was … a bit of a rough night, and we were worried because she suffered some additional blood loss,” Logsdon said. “Our treatment at the time consisted of food therapy … antibiotics and pain management as well.”
It took a little while, but Logsdon said they realized something else was up after Terri hadn’t defecated in several weeks.
“We discovered that at some point, previous to this whole trauma that she experienced, she had ingested a large quantity of rocks of various sizes,” she said. “I think we counted over 70 rocks on the X-rays that were in her (gastrointestinal) tract.”
Tortoises, like many reptiles, have slower GI transit times when compared to a dog or cat, but after three to four weeks, Logsdon said they were getting concerned. On top of caring for Terri’s shell, they also went to work on getting the rocks out of her system.
By the time Terri went home, almost three months later, her shell was healing and the rocks were gone.
“The people who found her were very invested in her, so they actually took her on and … paid for her treatment in its entirety,” Logsdon said. “They were a couple of amazing people.”
Those people, Kayley Ackerson and Wayne Cotton, of Benton City, Wash., said Terri continues to recover.
Ackerson described the tortoise as being like a stubborn 3-year-old, who gets into things she’s not supposed to and loves to explore the yard.
“Our first thought was she was just massively injured — either they’re going to be able to help her or euthanize her, just depending on if she does need the help and they can help her,” Ackerson said.
They think Terri is between 7 and 15 years old, Ackerman said. But animals of her species, African spur-thighed tortoise, can get as old as 100.
“I think the main reason we did it was being compassionate about her and specifically her species being able to live as long as they’re supposed to, and her being so young,” Ackerson said, of choosing to drive Terri the more than two hours to the WSU hospital, not knowing if she could be helped. “It just didn’t seem fair.”