Despite being fed a gourmet assortment of fresh greens and provided shelter and the companionship of two other Russian Desert Tortoises, Torti went missing about a month ago.
Louise Wechsler, a veterinarian, and her husband David, say the tortoise tunnelled out through an outdoor enclosure’s buried wooden barrier that, unbeknownst to them, had begun to decay.
The Wechslers searched high and low and then hired reinforcements.
“Some of the local Rent Your Sons were hired, led by Patrick Brown,” to search the area near the house, said David Wechsler. “No luck.”
Then they brought in the bloodhounds.
Dr. Wechsler called the Rhode Island branch of the American Man Trailing Police and Work Dog Associations. Two bloodhounds were dispatched from Jamestown.
Given the scent of the other two tortoises, the dogs “seemed to find a great deal of interest in the northeastern corner of our property, pointing toward Indian Hill Road.
But Torti was nowhere to be found, and three more weeks of near-constant searching — along with signs posted all over the place — yielded nothing.
Until the telephone rang on Sunday morning, August 26.
They ignored the phone a first, thinking it was a fundraising solicitation. But the caller persisted.
Mr. Wechsler saw his wife’s face light up as she asked, “In a garden?” “Before the wedding? When?”
The caller said he had been working as a craftsman before a nearby wedding. Ten days ago he had seen a tortoise matching Torti’s description — about nine inches long, looking a lot like an oversized box turtle. He hadn’t thought much about it until he saw Torti’s picture on a tortoise-missing sign at the police station.
A search of the area revealed nothing but they calculated that Torti had covered only about 100 yards in two weeks so couldn’t be too far.
“At this rate, she might arrive at Main Road by mid-September. She could make it to Walker’s Stand by wintertime,” Mr. Wechsler said.
Worried about their tortoise — it could not survive a Rhode Island winter — and in hopes of recruiting searchers, the Wechslers are now offering a reward — two lobster rolls at George’s Commons Lunch.
“By the way,” he adds, “Torti is sweet and never bits — but she is a total ingrate.”
The Wechslers were introduced to Torti by the Sisson family of Tiverton. Mr. Sisson was doing some carpentry when the tortoise wandered into his garage.
Mr. Sisson delivered the tortoise to Dr. Wechsler, a veterinarian who actually has a specialty in reptiles. There Torti, as she became known, joined two of her kind that had also been dropped off there over the years.
Dr. Wechsler said that Torti, whom she estimates is 15 years old, had to be nursed back to health after developing severe respiratory and internal infections, problems identified with the help of a CT Scan.
She might be found in or around a vegetable garden — her favorite foods are kale, spinach, peppers, dandelions and spring mix.
“If you see her, please put her in a box and call us (401-635-2423,” Dr. Wechsler said.
“She may be an ingrate but we miss her terribly.”