CLEVELAND (AP) — A wayward tortoise's surprising trek around Ohio has ended happily for its owner, whose two-week search, in a twist of fate, might have saved her sister's life.
Otis the California desert tortoise managed to push open a sliding glass door and escape from Kathie Heisinger's home in Sebring in Mahoning County on May 30.
Heisinger created flyers offering a $200 reward that was quickly matched by the Sebring Volunteer Fire Department, prompting her to make the reward $500 total. Village residents soon joined Heisinger in her search around Sebring.
"There are a lot of good people in the world," Heisinger said.
Otis quickly became a minor celebrity. Facebook posts and shares, newspaper and television stories and the flyers led to more than 100 phone calls from people who believed they had spotted him.
Heisinger then heard rumors that employees of an amusement company working the Sebring Fireman's Festival the weekend Otis went missing might have scooped him up. She called the company headquartered 20 miles away in Stark County and the owner told Heisinger his employees had indeed taken possession of Otis — at least temporarily.
Otis had once again escaped after knocking over the cardboard box the workers thought would contain him.
The owner kicked in another $200 to make the reward $700, and Heisinger, her sister and friends resumed their search.
But by this time, Otis already had found another new home. Tyren O'Steen spotted the tortoise on a road near the amusement company and thought it would make a good pet for his three children. Then last week, after reading a newspaper story about Otis, O'Steen called Heisinger, who was reunited with her beloved pet of 25 years.
"I could tell the tortoise meant a lot to her," O'Steen told another newspaper that publicized Heisinger's plight, The Alliance Review.
Heisinger said the ending was "heartfelt for a lot of people." She expressed her gratitude for all who helped out in the search, which she said might have actually saved her sister's life.
Heisinger said it was uncharacteristic for her sister, who lived alone, to have helped out. One day, Lynn Dicko complained about her foot hurting and returned to Heisinger's truck. By the time Heisinger drove her home, she had lost all feeling in her leg.
Dicko underwent emergency blood clot surgery that night. Doctors told her that if she had delayed seeking medical help for a couple of more hours, she would have lost her foot — or even worse. Dicko spent time in intensive care and is now on the road to recovery.
"That's God's way of having a plan," Heisinger said. "I'm a Christian, and nothing in this world will not convince me that wasn't meant to be."