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.