When a 56-year-old turtle needed a new home, Tiffany Hutchings did not hesitate to provide one.
Hutchings has lived her whole life in Prince Rupert and has never been without a pet.
“I’ve always loved animals, reptiles [and] creatures,” Hutchings said.
It started with the family dog (and she’s always had dogs), but her real first step of her own into the world of animals was a green anole, a type of small lizard, which her parents allowed her to have as a child.
Not long after that, as a teenager, she got her first snake. From then on, people naturally gravitated to her, leaving their pets which they could no longer take care of themselves.
She now has more than 19 pets at her home, 12 of which are slippery serpents. So far in her lifetime, she’s taken care of easily more than 100 pets.
She not only lives with animals but works with many of them too.
If you’ve got a pet within the last 16 years in Prince Rupert, it’s most likely that you’ve already met Hutchings at Leanne’s Pet Shop. She first started working at the pet shop back in 2005 and hasn’t looked back.
For her, education is a big part of why she works with pets and animals.
“Seeing the bond between people and their pets — having something positive like a pet in your life can do wonders,” she said.
Hutchings especially enjoys bringing together youngsters with their first pets and teaching children about animals, particularly when it comes down to the stereotypically scary ones, like snakes.
“I like to help them to not be afraid,” she said. “[I] try to show them they are not scary. I’ve had teachers who were terrified at the start touching them by at the end of the day.”
Not only does Hutchings work at the pet shop, but she also volunteers at the Prince Rupert Wildlife Shelter. There, they take and care of any wildlife, from a pigeon to a moose.
Through her time at the animal shelter, she’s seen the full spectrum of how animals can be treated, from being spoiled to being neglected.
One of her most memorable successes at the shelter was the revival of a big ball python, left in a garbage bag, out in the cold. They took in the behemoth and started warming it up with lamps. Hutchings then had to feed it by hand and down its throat with a plastic syringe. This occurred for several weeks to nurse it back to health when she could find it a new home.
A python hasn’t been the only large animal Hutchings has nursed back to health. She’s even nursed a moose. Standing over a metre tall a calf was brought into the shelter and would devour two-litre bottles of goat’s milk in 30 seconds.
So, it was no surprise that Hutchings stepped in when, one day, an older woman came into the shop asking if they would be able to find a new home for her elderly turtle.
The turtle was named Tuffy after the previous owner’s favourite childhood book, Tuffy the Tugboat.
And tugged on he has.
Tuffy, born in 1965, is a Mississippi map turtle, which is normally expected to live up to 40-years. He is now nearing 57 years of age. With his previous owners, he had lived his whole life in the same home.
“I was so happy to help out an old turtle [find] a place to live out his senior years,” Hutchings said.
Now, Tuffy will never be short on company in his new adopted home, surrounded by an ecosystem’s worth of animals and taken care of by Tiffany.
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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