“How many people can say that they had to call the fire department to rescue their dog, who was trapped by their tortoise in their backyard?”
The answer? It’s a safe bet to say that the Fortin household of Scottsdale, Arizona is alone in this unbelievable title. The Fortins have a beloved 1-year-old French bulldog, Bruce. Their 10-year-old, Kenton, would be the first to notice the pup was missing.
Bruce, named after billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (see: Batman), also shares his humans with a 15-year-old sulcata tortoise, Bianca. This becomes important soon.
After hours of searching for young Bruce, the family was coming up empty. “We worried that maybe he was stolen from our backyard,” Michelle Fortin tells Yahoo News. Fliers went up around the neighborhood. Doors were knocked on. The police were called and a report filed. But nothing could’ve prepared them for where they found Bruce.
A scan of their own property would reveal muffled barks coming from underground. Literally.
“I approached the tortoise burrow, and I could hear Bruce barking from under the ground,” Fortin recalls. Bianca was holding her puppy brother hostage in her six-foot-deep burrow.
Bianca’s burrow is small by Sulcata standards, too. Commonly known as African spurred tortoises, these large reptiles can map out a subterranean home that’s 20-feet deep.
So naturally, the Fortin’s went into panic-mode. How in the world were they going to get Bruce out safely if he couldn’t get himself out? If he’s stuck in there, then that means Bianca – a 50-pound tortoise five times the Frenchie’s weight – is blocking him inside.
“I had absolutely no idea how we were going to get him out,” Fortin continues. “I didn’t know why the tortoise wasn’t coming out, because I couldn’t imagine she wanted to be with him down there.”
Tortoise & Frenchie: Natural Enemies?
Shockingly, Bruce and Bianca are not on the best of terms. Young master Kenton did his best to enter the burrow and retrieve his puppy, but no luck. Bianca was indeed holding him captive.
It was then the Fortins knew they needed backup. And after multiple calls, Scottsdale Fire Department was their only hope – who they told the family to remove their 10-year-old son from the burrow immediately.
Despite the firefighters’ extensive experience, this was a rescue far outside their comfort zones. It took the help of a wildlife expert: Russ Johnson, president of the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary, to get things done.
Johnson immediately became concerned that the weight of Bianca was going to suffocate Bruce, who she had pinned against the wall of her burrow. This spurred him into action.
Under his guidance, the firefighters would dig slowly and softly at the entrance of the burrow. Once they did, Bruce stopped barking.
“That’s when I was like, ‘This could very well not have a happy ending, and our dog could get buried in front of my kids and scar them for life,'” Fortin recalls.
Thankfully, however, this bizarre rescue has a happy ending. The firefighters’ digging prompted Bianca to check out the commotion. When she did, she was caught by her shell and removed from the burrow. And Bruce came running out like a pup on fire.
“I was mad and sad and also happy,” Fortin says, who promptly baked the firefighters cookies after the most bizarre rescue of their careers.