Surviving tortoise silver lining in hoarding case

Shayne Mazur

A sulcata tortoise thought lost to the animal hoarding situation on Windy Run was found alive in early October and is doing well in his new home.

Michelangelo or “Mikey” had lived in the Windy Run basement his whole life, as far as Babette Nicholson knew. Babette is the wife of Derick Nicholson, whose mother Mikey belonged to.

“She bought him when he was a baby, and he’s been there ever since,” said Babette. “We’re thinking he’s between 5 and 8 years old. We’re not sure of the exact time she got him or how old he was. I know he was tiny though.”

The family who reported the animal hoarding situation worried the neglected dogs might have gotten to the tortoise. 

Suzy Watson was on scene when Marv Harp Jr. first waded into the basement in search of Mikey. Only certain individuals could go in due to safety and sanitary reasons.

“Marv went in there to find it—he had on waders—but he couldn’t find it,” Watson recalled.

Harp found Mikey a week later trying to make his way out the basement door.

“Marv is the one who saved it. He put the effort in, and he waded through disgusting stuff to find that tortoise. They didn’t give up on it. It’s a miracle basically that it survived,” said Watson.

Having found Mikey and washed him of dog excrement, Harp was left wondering what to do with an almost 50-pound tortoise.

That’s where Derick, Harp’s nephew, and Babette Nicholson came in.

“My husband went over there and said ‘We’re taking him,’” said Babette.

The Nicholsons were more than equipped to take Mikey in. They already house five dogs, four cats, three turtles and eight chickens, so adding a tortoise to the mix wasn’t a stretch.

“We took him to the vet…and he checked out great,” Babette said. “They put him on some antibiotics and he sounds better. He’s eating. He likes to sit in the sun in our living room window. He’s doing really good.”

The Nicholsons built a pen for Mikey to wander outdoors on less chilly days, but he “bulldozed” through it in favor of roaming the yard.

“He’s definitely got attitude,” Babette laughed. “You wouldn’t think a tortoise has a personality, but he does.”

Mikey is also getting on well with his fellow animal residents.

“The cats don’t mind him as long as he’s laying in the sun,” said Babette.