A community in Arizona rallied together when their neighbor's pet tortoise wandered away from home
Elliot the tortoise had everyone from neighbors to DoorDash delivery drivers looking for him.
We've told so many stories about pets escaping from their homes, but this is one you've probably never heard before.
In June, a 150-pound African sulcata tortoise named Elliot got out of his family's yard, setting off a wild goose (tortoise?) chase within his Arizona community. Yes, you read that correctly, a pet tortoise got out and had to be found.
On the morning of June 19, Cindy Iverson went out to her yard after letting her dogs out and discovered that a storm had blown the back gate open. This set up the perfect opportunity for Elliot to escape.
"We panicked," Iverson told PEOPLE. "We looked everywhere. They're so nomadic. They just walk and walk, these tortoises. Once they get out, they can walk miles and miles."
At the time, the weather was very hot, and Iverson and her husband Gary were worried about 12-year-old Elliot's safety. Because of the heat and the tortoise's ability to walk for long distances, Elliot could end up in real danger if he wasn't found quickly. So Cindy reached out to her neighborhood email list and put out the call.
"Immediately, one person replied and said, 'Hey, I lost my turtle a couple years ago, a girl delivering DoorDash saw a tortoise last night, had her dad Google to see if anyone lost a tortoise, and they contacted me,'" she told PEOPLE.
That neighbor told Iverson that the delivery driver had freed Elliot from a drainage ditch. The sighting gave Iverson hope that Elliot would be found. It also showed her that the community was rooting for them and wasn't going to let anything happen to the tortoise. So the Iversons shared the story more widely using NextDoor and the Oro Valley Community private Facebook page.
“The whole community just came together in terms of watching for him. We put up flyers, we put up pictures, stuff on people’s mailboxes. We actually saw a van driving around last night, really slow along with us, trying to find him. So, it was just an incredible outpour of people trying to help us out,” Gary told local television news station KOLD News 13.
The Iversons have had Elliot since he was a baby, and it's clear how much they love him. They could have never anticipated how much their community would show up for them in their time of need. Though they've lived in Arizona for more than 20 years, they're newer to their neighborhood and haven't really had a chance to get to know many of their neighbors. Clearly, that didn't matter when it came to finding their beloved pet.
“It really gives you a sense of community, of friendship and knowing that if this happened to somebody else, we would be right there with them as well, trying to help them out. Oro valley has a really strong community in trying to help each other,” Gary said.
About a day and a half after the Iversons discovered Elliot's disappearance, they got a call that Elliot had been found. He was about a half mile away from home, caught in the fence of a horse farm. Naturally, he was hungry and thirsty, and had allegedly had an encounter with a cactus. But all in all, he was in good shape. Because of where he was situated, the family was unable to use a car to retrieve him, so they decided to cart him home in a wagon.
"He came right to me when he saw me, but we tried to put him in the wagon, and he was having no part of that. So we just pulled the wagon, and he followed us all the way across that property, across the neighbor's property, to our car, and then it took two of us to lift him in the SUV and trot him home," Cindy told PEOPLE. It's good to see he was still ready to walk despite his ordeal.
Elliot's escape showed his owners what community can be. It's really heartwarming to see a whole group of strangers step up and join in to help, even though they didn't have to. Thankfully Elliot is safely home, and the Iversons are planning to reinforce their fence so he can't escape again. We love a happy ending.