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What's Become of Sluggo?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wildlife rehabilitation is often a long road. Especially with box turtles. Sluggo is a longterm client. You may remember that he was hit in the spine by a lawnmower blade last summer. I couldn't do anything for the injury with its jumbled pieces of shell bone, so I gave him shots of Baytril, a strong antibiotic, to prevent infection, then just fed him and supported him in the ensuing year. 

He won't use his back legs. He has feeling in them, and he pulls them strongly into his shell when you try to pull them out, but he doesn't use them to locomote. He drags himself with his strong orange front legs.

Lisa Fosco of Ohio Wildlife Center in Columbus believes that that's because it hurts to use them. Will that get better? We can't say. But like anyone who has a loved one who's suffering, you cling to hope. 

He's a strong, beautiful gentleman with great color and a nice personality.

I took him in for evaluation at OWC. Lisa immediately set to picking and chipping at the dead shell and bone  around Sluggo's injury. 

The black part looks yuckky but it's actually a sign of healing. It's good, it's what you want. 

Lisa cleaned him up really nicely using her fingers and a forceps. I was wincing but Sluggo couldn't feel it as the bone she was removing was long dead. She pointed to a deeper triangular divot at the bottom of the wound and said she thought that was probably what was keeping him from using his hind legs. Sigh. He's not done yet. The hard part is not knowing if he'll ever be releasable.

To be honest, I thought I'd be leaving him in the care of someone who knows more than I do about such injuries, but Lisa wanted me to hang onto him. She made a good point, that he'd do better with individual attention such as I can give him (when I'm around, that is...) than as one of a bunch of patients in a rehab setting. So she sent him back home with me.

I took him out to see how he was doing.

He was tired of being in a cardboard box, that's for sure. I set him on the concrete and he peed in excitement. And then one hind leg came out.

He was making for the spiderwort tangle, and he really, really wanted to get there. And the other hind leg came out, the one I never get to see.

Truly, he more just dragged them than anything, but they were out and moving, and that's a huge start.

I thought that going forward I should try to get him to walk on concrete, because the second he got into the soft mulch he tucked them back in and dragged himself with his front legs.

Lisa showed me how to massage his legs, how to stroke his feet "so he knows he still has feet, knows that they're still there." 

I hope he comes to trust me enough to let me massage him every day. Right now he remembers getting injections there and he pulls his legs in when I go to touch them. 

I never visit the Ohio Wildlife Center without marveling at the job these good people face. Over 4,000 animals are admitted every year, the vast majority coming in right now through July. Rehabbers call it baby season. There were bunnies everywhere, little blind ones and ones that were big enough to nibble on dandelion greens and clean their faces with quick paws.

And there were baby ducks, standing in their food, dreaming of their mamas.

If you've any extra resources, please think of OWC. The people I saw hurrying around the clinic were so tired they were reeling and punchy, warmly accepting box after box of rabbits and thanking the kind folks who had brought them in. I left, resolved to keep working with my one little case, and in awe of the volunteer network the Ohio Wildlife Center maintains. And wishing I had a few lotto millions to shunt their way.


it probably makes but a tiny dent in the world, but the work of rehabbers can never be recognized too much...

Such a large difference you have made for Sluggo! It is amazing to do all you do. Thanks for the update.
Kathy in Delray Beach

Posted by Anonymous May 13, 2012 at 5:44 AM

Happy Mother's Day Julie
and all mothers

Posted by Janet P. May 13, 2012 at 6:19 AM

So glad for your update on Sluggo, poor guy. Lucky box turtle to have your care. OWC is awesome and your mention of them reminds me where to go with my overabundance of new lettuces. Happy Mom's Day!

Posted by Amy G. May 13, 2012 at 7:55 AM

Amazing rehab story of Sluggo. You're an angel, Julie. And Chet Baker is your angelic sidekick making sure Sluggo is safe. We have Project Wildlife here in San Diego and they do tremendous work also. I've brought my fair share of wildlife to them, and am so glad I have them to go to in a time of need. Happy Mother's Day!

"...Lisa showed me how to massage his legs, how to stroke his feet "so he knows he still has feet, knows that they're still there."

Very sweet.

Sluggo knows there are some very caring people in southern Ohio.

Bless you for your work with Sluggo and all the others who need tender care -- and have a wonderful Mother's Day!

The folks at OWC sound like my kind of people--caring for all creation.
And, you too, Julie are that kind of person. Here's hoping Sluggo makes a full recovery.

I'm so afraid of hitting our farm's Blanding;s turtle with the tractor/lawnmower. F feel like i need to somehow 'sweep' the area being mowed ahead of the tractor. What would you suggest, Julie?

We lost our box turtles in a horrible freak accident last summer--and I still mourn them. If only more people knew that turtles had such personalities.

I love seeing those beautiful hind legs. That's such a hopeful sign. It's amazing what care can do, and even more incredible the good hearts and healing hands that do it. Sending good healing vibes to Sluggo.

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