Courtesy of _michellefortin / Instagram
I think we've all been in a similar situation to Bruce the French bulldog at some point in our lives. One minute, you're tooling around the yard, checking out all the local smells, then—bam!—you're stuck in a deep, dark hole, staring at a tortoise butt with no way out.
Bruce (named for Batman alter ego Bruce Wayne) is a 1-year-old Frenchie, living his best life in sunny Scottsdale, Ariz. He's got a family who loves him, including a boy and girl to play with. The family also has a pet tortoise named Bianca who, the family tells The Washington Post, Bruce isn't quite as fond of.
However, on Nov. 21, Bruce suddenly went missing. The family scoured the house for him to no avail. Fearing the worst, parents Jason and Michelle Fortin began drawing up "lost dog" posters.
"We worried that maybe he was stolen from our backyard," Michelle told the Post.
Until, that is, she did one last tour of the house and backyard, and heard muffled barks coming from somewhere in the yard. Though initially indistinct, it didn't take long to track the barks back to the one place they hadn't thought to look previously: Bianca the tortoise's burrow—a 6-foot deep hole, pitched at a roughly 45-degree incline.
Tortoises dig burrows to help control their body temperatures and provide protection from predators. Bianca, being a Sulcata tortoise, is especially inclined to dig large, sprawling burrows, sometimes stretching to 20 feet deep.
Initially, son Kenton attempted to climb into the burrow and retrieve the pupper, but he found the hole too deep to manage. Bianca was backed into the hole herself, blocking Bruce from getting out.
After attempting to contact a local tortoise rescue organization, the family called the fire department. Four firefighters were standing in the Fortins' backyard 10 minutes later, just as baffled as the family. Eventually, Capt. Daniel Espinoza called Russ Johnson, president of the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary, who advised the firefighters on how to best approach the burrow with their shovels to avoid collapsing the tunnel as they dug. After roughly 40 minutes of careful digging, Bianca poked her head out to see what all the commotion was about, which gave Bruce just enough space to wriggle free and come bounding out of the burrow himself.
As with any story that involves firefighters and a happy ending, everyone posed for photographs afterward, and the Fortins even baked the fire team some cookies as a thank you. The Fortins say they've hired a trainer to work with Bruce on learning proper burrow safety. But in the meantime, Bruce seems to be no worse for the wear and Bianca continues her life as unfazed as ever.
"He's not skittish around her," Michelle tells Daily Paws. "He loves her and tries to play with her. Since we've been working specifically to keep him away from the burrow, he's done very well!"
The Fortin family, however, has itself a story they will never forget, and one that Michelle has immortalized on her Instagram Stories. (It's a real nail-biter.)