While a tortoise’s life is never quite one of expediency, it’s been even slower going for George Bailey. As Simplemost reports, The 70-pound sulcata tortoise was born with a metabolic bone disease that halted his leg bones from developing, and he’s never been able to walk properly—until now.
George, aptly named after Jimmy Stewart’s character in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), is the recent recipient of a custom wheelchair apparatus that allows him significant mobility for the first time in his 11-year life.
George was rescued from an exotic animal facility in Knoxville, Tennessee, by Jamie Loebener, who observed that George could maneuver mostly by propelling himself with his front legs and dragging his rear legs behind him.
In reptiles, metabolic bone disease can be the result of an imbalance between calcium and phosphorus or from living in a cool environment.
As George ages, the problem will only get worse, so Loebener turned to a company named Walkin’ Pets for assistance on getting George moving. The operation, which is based out of Amherst, New Hampshire, specializes in designing customized walking assistance devices for animals. While they typically work on cats and dogs, they had previously assisted tortoise Scoot Reeves, who had been run over by a vehicle and was left with paralysis in his rear legs.
Walkin’ Pets was able to create a wheelchair for Scoot and did the same for George, one that contours to his shell and provides a stretchable harness that will allow for a good fit even as George continues to grow. (Sulcata tortoises, also known as African spurred tortoises, can eventually reach 110 pounds or more.)
The harness is built to last, and so is George. If all goes well, he’s got nearly a century of living—and exploring—left to do.