LOUISVILLE, KY -- Have you noticed that something — or should we say, someone — is missing from Downtown Louisville?
Here's a hint: He has four legs, a shell, and cruises along slowly.
Spike the Tortoise became a local celebrity last summer after taking daily walks with his handlers, which attracted tons of fans on social media. It seemed like the whole community was rooting for Spike.
The 14-year-old African spur thigh tortoise achieved hero status on June 20 after surviving a crash that left him with a cracked shell and broken pelvis. The Courier-Journal originally reported that the 128-pound reptile was run over by a car in Wayside Christian Mission’s parking lot on Jackson Street and was pulled for 6 feet before getting lodged under a car. He was taken to the Shively Animal Hospital, where a team of veterinarians saved his life.
But giving Spike a second chance at life wasn’t cheap. Steep medical bills inspired Glenn Smith, a New Albany resident who befriended Spike while working downtown, to set up a GoFundMe page. After last June’s incident, donations ranging from $10 to $1,500 poured in.
To date, the Shively Animal Hospital has received about $10,000 to satisfy the tortoise's medical bills. Even in recent months, donations have continued to flow into Smith’s GoFundMe page for Spike's upkeep. Encouraging messages like, “We love you Spike and keep fighting!” and “Get well sweet fella! I’m praying for ya” pepper his page.
Nina Moseley, Spike’s owner and “mom,” is happy to report that Spike has fully recovered. She got the reptile as a gift for her son's sixth birthday, and he's since become the official mascot of the Wayside Christian Mission on Jefferson Street, where he lives. Speaking to her by phone, she explained that it took Spike about five months to “get his stamina back.” His vet called his recovery “a miracle” after a December X-ray showed that his pelvis was completely healed. Initially, doctors pieced his shell together with acrylic paste and wire. Now it is being held up with boat epoxy.
While the accident slowed Spike down, Moseley says that it hasn’t crushed his spirit. The tortoise is back to taking three-hour walks in the evening when the weather is warm. Before the incident, he would walk for four hours.
Due to the trauma, she says Spike isn't expected to gain more weight even though his species can grow to over 200 pounds. But he still eats like a champ — he loves cucumbers, apple slices and romaine lettuce. “His favorites are bananas and green bell peppers,” Moseley says.
On cold days, Spike hibernates inside the mission. As the weather warms up, Moseley says that Spike fans can catch him outside again, taking in the sites with his handler, William Duncan, leisurely walking downtown. "The sunshine is good for him. It helps keep his shell hard," Duncan adds.