A US nursery's beloved 70-year-old pet tortoise who would follow children around his garden and let them sit on his back has been attacked, beaten and stabbed.
The 29.4kg African sulcata tortoise, named Michelangelo after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, underwent surgery Saturday night to extract two chunks of wood that were embedded in his shell.
Tammy Lariz, a co-owner of Play ‘N’ Learn Preschool in Massar Avenue in San Jose, California, US, said she was horrified when she found Michelangelo bleeding in his enclosure.
She had gone to check on the animal on the morning of Saturday, January 30, after a neighbour called police about a man who was yelling and breaking things in the playground.
Upon their arrival, officers told Tammy and her husband Marc, who are part owners in the family business, they had a man in custody.
While her husband and police were assessing the property damage, Tammy approached the 20-foot by 40-foot fenced garden at the back of the playground, where Michelangelo usually stays in a miniature log cabin.
"My gut just said to go check it," she said.
Her heart sank when she saw a rake handle jammed into the tortoise, lodged around eight-inches deep between his head and leg. She yanked it out immediately.
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"The tortoise was very upset. He was so scared, you could tell," she said.
"It was the only time he ever hissed at us. He squeezed up his body really tight and didn’t want to come out."
A bloody metal bar and broken glass were also found around the stricken animal.
Mrs Lariz found long, thick shards of a gate post embedded in the top of the tortoise.
Every time the tortoise tried to move, she said, blood oozed out of the seams of his shell.
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"I thought he was dead for sure," she said.
"You just had to be absolutely sick to want to go over there and stab a tortoise like that. He’s super friendly."
She and her husband picked up the tortoise and put him in a blue plastic paddling pool with a few inches of water, which they say quickly turned red.
They rushed Michelangelo to a vet, who performed emergency surgery on the pet.
Dr Tal Solomon, of ARCHVET animal hospital, said: "It went great. The thing that saved his life, believe it or not, was that the end of the wood was square.
"He hit him so hard, he crushed the shell. It went into the tissue, but it was more of a crushing injury than a cutting injury."
The damage to the shell was so severe that Dr Solomon couldn’t pull the pieces back up. Instead, a divot will remain that will take months to heal. During the operation, they also discovered bloody shards of glass.
But despite his ordeal, thankfully, Michelangelo is expected to make a full recovery, the vet said.
Solomon said: "He’ll recover just fine. He won’t be his beautiful self, but he’ll be walking."
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