Custom Boot for Homer, the Desert Tortoise

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At 75+ years old, Homer, the California Desert Tortoise, is by far Thera-Paw’s oldest “customer”.  Homer is Daryl Goldstein’s tortoise, and Daryl has owned him for over 35 years.  

Homer’s foot problems “started two years ago when I decided to change from using hay to reptile bark as hibernation bedding for my three California Desert Tortoises” said Daryl.  “Reptile bark was recommended by my local pet shop and I decided to go that route. When my tortoises woke up from hibernation, I instantly noticed that some of the bottom scales on Homer’s right front foot were missing and the under skin was showing.  Homer digs around more when hibernated than the other two tortoises, and I contributed his digging and the edges of the bark to the removal of the scales.”

Here’s Daryl’s story and his search for a protective boot for Homer:

I started searching for some sort of protective boot to protect Homer’s skin but didn’t find any made for tortoises.  All of the boots I found were roundish in shape and not appropriate for Homer’s foot. I contacted a local wetsuit manufacturer to see if we could come up with something but they didn’t think that the wetsuit material was durable enough as tortoises go around nothing – they climb over everything! Maybe I could make or devise a bootie of some sort?

I took dimensions and decided to use a scrap of an old UGG boot with a piece of Velcro to hold it in place and then got to work and started “stitching” it together. While the basic design worked, I discovered that the bootie wasn’t very durable; I had to glue protective pieces of leather over it to keep the abrasion to a minimum.

I then saw a news story of a protective bootie that was custom-made for a penguin at the San Diego Zoo.  I decided to find out who made it and contact the company, Thera-Paw.  I told Thera-Paw about Homer and what I needed and YES, they were willing to look into it and see what they could come up with, despite having never made anything for tortoises before.  After several emails and with foot dimensions and some photos, they came up with a design that seemed like it would work and be durable.

Homer wore his new bootie daily for over a month before hibernation and it has proven to be an excellent design that allows him full range of motion, shows hardly any scuffing and he actually seems to enjoy wearing it.  I’m looking forward to having him give it a full “season” of wear next year.

It has been a great pleasure working with Ilaria Borghese and her Thera-Paw team during this time and I want to sincerely thank them for helping me and Homer!

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