Lifestyle & Human Interest

50-Pound Pet Tortoise Traps Family's French Bulldog in Underground Tunnel: Firefighters Rescue Dog


Bruce Wayne is a 1-year-old, black-and-white French bulldog whose family has recently dubbed him “BRUCE THE IDIOT.”

He earned the coveted title after a misadventure on Sunday when he suddenly disappeared from his home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Once 10-year-old Kenton Fortin raised the alarm, the family started searching frantically for the missing pup. Dad Jason, mom Michelle, Kenton and his sister, Camille, 9, looked and looked, but found neither hide nor hair of the dog.

Had he been stolen? It wasn’t unheard of for French bulldogs. Soon the family had “lost dog” posters out, posted about him online and even reported him missing to the police.

But as Michelle Fortin made another desperate sweep of the backyard, she heard something: barking. But it was muffled and sounded like it was coming from underground.

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The mystery soon unraveled. The family also has a 15-year-old, 50-pound sulcata tortoise named Bianca living in the backyard.

Like many tortoises, Bianca had a custom-made burrow she’d painstakingly created to regulate her temperature — and, apparently, to trap hapless dogs.

When Michelle Fortin approached the tunnel, she could hear Bruce down there. The problem was that Bianca was also down there and the two weren’t exactly best friends, she told The Washington Post.

Kenton crept partway into the tunnel and confirmed the situation.

The family was at a loss over what to do. The 45-degree tunnel was over eight feet deep, according to a comment Michelle Fortin wrote on Facebook. They couldn’t reach Bianca to pull her out, and Bianca seemed plenty content to remain blocking Bruce.

“I felt ridiculous, but I had no idea what to do or who to call,” she admitted, eventually calling the fire department for help.

The request was a first for Fire Capt. Daniel Espinoza with the Scottsdale Fire Department.

“When I read the dispatch, I couldn’t believe it,” Espinoza said. “It was one of the most unusual animal rescues I’ve ever been called to … You could hear the panic in the dog’s bark, and it made the little girl start to cry. That broke our hearts.

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“Even though we didn’t know what we were going to do, we decided we’re not going to leave until we figure it out.”

The firefighters contacted Russ Johnson, president of the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary, who was able to advise them on the best way to extract the two creatures. He also warned them that the tortoise very well might crush and suffocate the dog against the walls of her tunnel.

Forty minutes into the rescue, Bruce went silent, and a deeply concerned Michelle Fortin ushered the kids inside, worried the rescue would turn into a retrieval.

“Ma’am, we are going to do what we can to give the dog the best chance,” she recalled a firefighter saying. “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.'”

But as it happened, while they were carefully attempting to excavate the tortoise and the dog, the tortoise became curious and crept up toward the light to scope out the remodel of her burrow.

Jason Fortin and one of the firefighters managed to haul her out of the burrow, which allowed Bruce — who was still very much alive — to come running out.

“HEROES!!!” Michelle Fortin later posted on Facebook. “Thank you, Scottsdale Fire Department] for rescuing our dumb dog today! Bruce Wayne the Frenchie went down into Bianca the tortoise’s burrow and then she went down there and trapped him in. For about an hour, we thought he’d been stolen. He had been in our backyard… And there is no way he can escape. We thought someone had stolen him or maybe an animal got him.

“Then I hear faint barking from UNDER THE FREAKING GROUND (posted a video in my stories). We didn’t know what to do, so I called Scottsdale Fire Department]. They came right away and it was scary for a while. The animals were too far down to reach by hand. They didn’t want to dig because they thought the burrow would collapse. At one point, the captain looked at me and said, ‘We’re going to do what we can to give the dog the best chance.’

“They got a herpetological expert on the phone who walked them through what to do. They started carefully digging, removing the burrow roof. Eventually, Bianca came up to see about the raucous. Jason grabbed her arm, a firefighter grabbed her shell, they pulled her out and Bruce popped out. I was crying inside not wanting to see him die so I didn’t get a video. Thank you, FIREFIGHTERS!”

According to the Post, she later posted an Instagram story covering the incident titled “BRUCE THE IDIOT.” She also baked some cookies to take to the fire department as a thank-you.

“Curiosity trapped this pup in a tortoise den today,” the Scottsdale Fire Department shared in its own post. “LT608 B-shift safely rescued the dog from the underground lair. Both the dog and tortoise were unharmed.”

Hopefully, Bruce Wayne will stay away from caves from now on — it’s certainly something the family is planning to work on with a trainer.

In the meantime, they are happy to have their mischievous dog back, even if he is a bit daft.

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