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Coralie the Tortoise wearing her 'yard face.' Coralie the Tortoise wearing her 'yard face.'
Coralie the Tortoise wearing her "yard face"
April 5, 2021
Adopt Don't Shop
By Lori Fagerholm Adopt Don't Shop
By Lori Fagerholm
April 5, 2021
Adopt Don't Shop
By Lori Fagerholm

Growing up, I always had shelter pets, so I learned firsthand what amazing family members they can make. There are so many homeless animals waiting to find their forever families. I'd love to see more people consider adoption rather than breeding and shopping. Everyone's values are different, but it’s a top priority for me that as many existing animals as possible have the best possible homes before breeding more.

A few years ago, my friend Skye adopted a rescue tortoise named C.C. Tortellini. Getting to know C.C., and watching her bond with my friend, was a life-changing experience. C.C. had underdeveloped hind leg muscles from having been kept in too small an enclosure, so Skye created a plan for physical therapy, and he eventually got her lifting herself up off the floor and walking without aid. It was an incredibly moving process to observe, and the bond C.C. formed with Skye through the many hours they spent doing it was equally moving.

One day, Skye noticed C.C. seemed to be making little whistling sounds. He started imitating the sounds, and C.C. replied in kind, and soon, they were having "conversations" that were several minutes long. It's still one of C.C.'s favorite things to do. I'll never forget the first time she whistled to me. I was visiting Skye for a couple days, and had been given the opportunity to hold her in my lap while feeding her. Apparently, this made an impression on her, because the next day, she recognized me immediately, and she had a lot to say! Later, I had the opportunity to tortoise sit while Skye was doing some home renovation, and when C.C. would wake up in the morning, the first thing we'd always do was to have our "conversation."

C.C. inspired me to start learning about turtle and tortoise conservation and adoption. Now, supporting and spreading the word about tort rescues and conservation organizations is one of the most important things in the world to me.

I adored C.C. so much, and had so enjoyed learning all about tortoises and their care, that I was starting to feel like I needed a tort in my life full-time. Another friend, who fosters rescue torts, had asked whether I'd be interested in adopting one of her charges. But they were all desert species, and I only had experience with tropical ones, like C.C., who's a yellowfoot.

It was on a trip to the East Bay Vivarium to pick up supplies while tortoise sitting that I happened to meet Coralie. At the Vivarium, I asked what they could tell me about the care of desert species, and they asked whether I'd like to handle a little Greek tortoise who had recently been surrendered to be adopted out.

From the moment she was placed in my lap, I loved this little tortoise. My husband and I have always been cat people, and our lease says "one pet," so I felt like the pet should probably be a cat, since they're his favorite, and the only animal I adore as much as tortoises. But I couldn't stop thinking about that adorable, brave, curious little tort that had crawled around in my lap at the Vivarium. Every time I went to pick something up for C.C., I made a beeline for Coralie’s enclosure to see whether she was still there. Hatchling season came and went, and all the cute babies got adopted out, while this gorgeous, healthy tort went unclaimed. And after about the hundredth time I mentioned her, my husband said, well, you should probably go back to the Vivarium and put a deposit down before someone else can adopt her, because clearly, we're going to be bringing her home.

I try to emulate Skye, both when he was getting to know C.C. and still today, now that they're fast friends and she adores him and follows him around like a puppy. He observes her so closely, with no expectation or preconceived notions. This has allowed him to notice minute behaviors some others might have missed. After several months of doing the same with Coralie, she began to trust me more and more. She'll come to me for comfort if we're out in the yard and she gets nervous, and will curl up and fall asleep beside me on the sofa, trusting she's safe and protected there.

Coralie has taught me so much. To slow down, to observe, to get quiet and try to meet her on her level—sometimes literally. In that way that a small child can make you want to crawl around on the floor and play and share in their sense of wonder, Coralie makes me want to experience her world as she does, as much as that's possible for a human being to do.

And I'm happy to report that she enjoys morning whistle conversations as much as C.C. does!

I think people sometimes feel they'll only be satisfied with a pet who's the exact species or breed they've pictured in their minds. What I learned visiting shelters was that I could make a connection with an animal completely different than whoever I might initially have thought I was there to adopt. When you look into an animal's eyes and feel that tug on your heartstrings, you know you're right for each other. That's how I felt when I found Coralie.

Coralie the Tortoise and the author on the sofa.
Coralie and Lori snuggle on the sofa.

 

About the Author

Lori Fagerholm is an illustrator and graphic designer specializing in print design of educational materials for grades K-6 and digital illustration, largely of animals and wildlife. You can visit her online portfolio here: LoriFagerholm.com.

Lori was a two-time donor to the CTTC-Valley's Sick & Injured Tortoise Fund and has this to say about their program:

"The work CTTC-Valley Chapter does with its sick and injured tortoises is deeply inspiring. Seeing the pictures and reading the stories of the tortoises CTTC-Valley rehabilitates makes me feel connected to the animals and gives me confidence they're being well cared for. It's thrilling when rehabilitated tortoises are adopted!"

"The work CTTC-Valley Chapter does with its sick and injured tortoises is deeply inspiring. Seeing the pictures and reading the stories of the tortoises CTTC-Valley rehabilitates makes me feel connected to the animals and gives me confidence they're being well cared for. It's thrilling when rehabilitated tortoises are adopted!"

Lori also recommends the following organizations, doing great things for turtles, tortoises, reptiles in general, and animals around the world:

The Turtle Conservancy does amazing work protecting, breeding, and educating the public on endangered turtle species.

The Turtle Survival Alliance, among many other things, tirelessly rescues and rehabilitates trafficked tortoises, including the very endangered radiated tortoise of Madagascar.

Sea Turtle Inc. and its partners did an amazing job rescuing and rehabilitating cold-stunned sea turtles after the recent storms in Texas, but they rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles year round.

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance manages and supports many amazing conservation organizations worldwide.

The Wildlife Conservation Network is an umbrella organization that seeks out and supports innovative and highly effective conservation programs around the world.

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