Archive for Thursday, August 24, 2006

Slow reptile makes friends fast

Turtle brightens days for residents at nursing center while on adventure

August 24, 2006

Eudora Nursing Center registered nurse April Crump knew she had to make the call Thursday morning.

After residents at the nursing home saw a photo of Gabriel, the desert tortoise owned by Joe and Shannon Pickett, in the Aug. 17 issue of The Eudora News, she knew what she had to do.

Joe Pickett holds Gabriel up so its caretaker April Crump can say
goodbye before the Picketts reclaim the tortoise. Pickett's wife,
Shannon, and 18-month-old daughter, Josie, watch.

Joe Pickett holds Gabriel up so its caretaker April Crump can say goodbye before the Picketts reclaim the tortoise. Pickett's wife, Shannon, and 18-month-old daughter, Josie, watch.

Crump got in touch with Joe Pickett early Thursday morning at Eudora Middle School, where he is a seventh-grade science teacher. She told him the tortoise had been found at the nursing center and the two made arrangements for Gabriel to be returned to his owners Friday morning.

The tortoise escaped from the Picketts backyard in the 1400 block of Fir Street in June and roamed two blocks east to the nursing center in the 1400 block of Maple Street.

Gabriel is usually kept in Joe Pickett's classroom during the school year, but he had taken him home for the summer.

One of the residents at ENC, Ethel McGreevy, was the first to see the tortoise the day of his escape. She was watching birds outside the window in the back patio area and saw a rock move.

Crump retrieved the animal and for the next six hours, the residents fed and played with the tortoise. They named him Bob.

"The residents love any kind of animal," Crump said.

Crump said she called the local veterinarian and pet stores to report the finding in case anyone called looking for the pet. She said they also watched in the papers to see if anyone placed an ad for the lost pet.

"We were clueless to where he belonged," Crump said. "But, we could tell this was not a normal turtle out in the wild."

At the same time, the Picketts talked to neighbors and used word of mouth and asked people to be on the lookout for the tortoise.

Once school began, Joe Pickett made an announcement to fellow staff members and the students in each of his science classes to help spread the word as well.

His wife, Shannon, received the desert tortoise 10 years ago when it was a baby as a 20th birthday gift from some friends. She said her friends knew she loved turtles.

"I figured someone would have picked him up because he's so cool and different," Shannon said Friday morning. "It was fate. He wanted to find you guys."

Until the owners were found, Crump took the tortoise home with her and had cared for him since June. She called an area pet store to find out what kind of turtle it was and what kind of food it needed.

"He eats tomatoes, red peppers -- anything red, and fruits and vegetables," Crump said. "Watermelon is his favorite."

She said while caring for Gabriel, she and her family made two outdoor cages for him. One was smaller and the other had sand in it and a ramp so he could have more room.

"If it rained, we'd bring him in," she said.

Crump and her two sons -- ages 8 and 11 -- would also walk him each night.

Crump said she brought the turtle back to the nursing center on a regular basis for the residents to enjoy.

"After a month went by, we thought we'd never find the owner," Crump said.

The Picketts were relieved to find out their pet had been taken care of.

"We're happy you found him and took such good care of him," Joe Pickett said.

Crump said her sons were sad to see him go, but they understood.

"I will definitely miss that little guy," she said. "He has such a personality. It's a happy and a sad day."

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