Tuesday, 22 April 2014

RIP Spike - with us every summer until 2014

I'm very sad to write that Spike, our tortoise who has been with us every summer for over 30 years died a few days before Easter. He'd come out of hibernation as usual at the Spring equinox in March. It takes a couple of days to get his appetite back, we put him outdoors on warm days and always bring him in at night until there's no danger of frost. During bad weather and potentially frosty nights he lived in a big box with a heat and daylight lamp.

On the Wednesday, he was off his food but it's not unusual in the first few weeks for his appetite to be sporadic so I wasn't too concerned but when we got up on the Thursday he was gone.

When we first got him, the vet estimated his age at around 40 so he was over 70 when we lost him. I can only imagine it was old age, I'm not sure exactly how long tortoises live in captivity. You don't get much back from a tortoise in the way of love, cuddles and companionship and so I've found it surprising how much I am missing him.

Except for the first year or two of married life, Spike has been on guard in every garden of every house we have lived in every summer and his welfare was woven into my daily routine to such an extent that I permanently feel I've forgotten to do something. In the morning if he was indoors overnight, I would turn on his lamp to warm him up a little before he went out with some cucumber. After making every set of beads, I pick choicest dandilions and buttercups and other such tasty morsels for him to eat. He will graze from the lawn itself when he was hungry but as he got older, his mobility slowed a little. Of course when he was indoors, he couldn't graze and so was dependent on me delivering his meals.

Before it got dark, we would have to search for Spike to bring him in ... in all of our gardens he had three or four places he would dig in for the night but of course, we couldn't leave him out if the weather was going to be cold or wet so we had to bring him in. I can remember him surprising us a few times by him finding somewhere new and we would have to play hide and seek. Dinner was delayed several times for this reason every summer!

Over the years I have bought and constructed what I have thought to be the perfect places for him to overnight but he never used any of them for more than a night or two! He preferred to dig his own holes hidden and sheltered by foliage and use those so in the end we left him to it barring bad weather.

As you know, we've moved around quite a bit in the last few years. In the last couple of gardens, we have not had any plantains or hawkbit for him to eat and variety is obviously important in any diet so I used to pick them when out walking Missy and store them in the fridge like a prepacked salad. I cannot count the number of times I've had funny looks from passersby as I bent down to pick weeds and put them in my pocket! Even though he's been gone a couple of weeks now, I think of him every time I see a nice patch of plantains - I'm so much in the habit now of looking for them, I don't think that's going to go away any time soon.

He only had one summer here but he had a favourite sunbathing spot and that's where we buried him.

The tribute over his grave is made up of the first mowing of the lawn after he died, the idea being that the clippings are the last bits of greenery that he crawled over and then topped up with an abundance of dandilion flowers, he always absolutely loved dandilion flowers, they were the bestest of best things for Spike. 

Goodbye old friend, we miss you. Rest in peace xxxxxx