First responders get a lot of unusual calls on the job, but an Arizona family’s problem is likely a first. Initially, they thought their French Bulldog named Bruce Wayne was lost or stolen. However, they later found out that the pup had gotten trapped in their sulcata tortoise’s burrow, and Bianca the tortoise refused to let him escape.
The only thing the family could think to do was call the fire department. Of course, officials had no idea how to handle this bizarre case, but that didn’t stop them from trying to figure it out. Thanks to many determined heroes, Bruce and Bianca are both safe above ground.
Missing Dog in Unlikely Place
When Bruce disappeared one day, a tortoise burrow was the last place that Michelle Fortin thought to look. Her family helped her search all around the house for the 1-year-old Frenchie, but the pup was nowhere to be found. Fortin feared that the dog was lost or stolen, so she made missing dog fliers and social media posts.
The family had been frantically searching and spreading the word for about an hour before Fortin decided to look around the house one last time. When she went into the backyard, she heard a muffled barking sound. As she followed the sound, she couldn’t believe where it was coming from!
“I approached the tortoise burrow, and I could hear Bruce barking from under the ground,” Fortin said.
It’s normal for tortoises to dig burrows to regulate their body temperatures and escape danger. From the looks of it, Bianca’s burrow was about eight feet deep and three feet wide. It went into the ground at a 45-degree angle.
One-of-a-Kind Rescue Mission
As it turned out, Bianca was in the burrow with Bruce, blocking him from escaping. The 15-year-old tortoise weighs about 50 pounds, which is more than double Bruce’s weight. Fortin’s 10-year-old son Kenton tried to crawl into the burrow, but all he could do was confirm that the two animals were trapped down there.
“I didn’t know why the tortoise wasn’t coming out, because I couldn’t imagine she wanted to be with him down there,” Fortin said. “I felt ridiculous, but I had no idea what to do or who to call.”
So, Fortin called the Scottsdale Fire Department and explained their comical situation. The firefighters couldn’t believe it, but four of them came to help anyway. The dog’s barking grew more panicked as time went on, but they had no idea how to help him. They ended up reaching out to a herpetologist, an expert in reptiles and amphibians.
Russ Johnson, the president of the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary, told the rescuers how to get to the dog without causing the burrow to collapse. So, they carefully began digging at the area around the space.
Freeing the Four-Legged Family Members
After Bruce had been underground for about three hours, he stopped barking. Fortin feared the worst, so she brought her kids inside while they hoped for some good news. Luckily, the digging near the burrow caused Bianca to come out to see what was going on. A firefighter grabbed her by the shell before she could go back inside.
Once the opening was clear, Bruce bolted out of the hole. He was very thirsty, but he was still his normal, energetic self. The family was overjoyed to see that both their dog and tortoise were safe after the bizarre rescue mission. Everyone praised the firefighters for their hard work.
“They are the reason the dog is alive. It could have been a horrible situation. The firefighters did a fantastic job,” Johnson said.
The situation was an emotional roller coaster for Fortin and her family, but they’re already taking steps to avoid this problem from occurring again. They hired a dog trainer to help teach Bruce not to go into Bianca’s burrows. After all, they don’t think the playful pup learned that lesson on his own.
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