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Missing Omaha turtle found, returned home for a lettuce feast

Missing Omaha turtle found, returned home for a lettuce feast

Missing Omaha turtle found, returned home for a lettuce feast

Natasha, the wandering Russian tortoise, is at home, sleeping peacefully in her hollow log after enjoying a bath and a feast of romaine lettuce.







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Sandie Yeaman, left, couldn’t believe how many people volunteered to help her find Natasha, the Russian tortoise that had been missing for days. Friend Jodi Pilmeier is on the right.


CHERIE JUSZCZYK


“I’m so happy. I’m just crying,” owner Sandie Yeaman said Monday night.

Yeaman, along with the throngs of volunteers who showed up from all over Omaha, had spent hours searching for Natasha. The turtle had escaped from her enclosure and yard near 176th and Pacific streets on Friday. Yeaman was terrified that the turtle would end up near West Center Road and be killed on the busy street.

Natasha was caught three times, but was returned to the small lake near her home by people who thought that was where she belonged. But turtles don’t live in water like turtles.

“She was seen twice at Spare Time Bowling at the back door,” Yeaman said. “I know he went there because he smelled good.”

People read and…

Friends Sondra Combs and Joyce Roll definitely turned her on.

Combs, who lives near 168th and Rolling Ridge streets, decided to join the search on a whim after reading the many comments about Natasha on her neighborhood’s online app Monday after work. He called Roll and they headed to Lakeside Park, just south of the Pacific.

Combs had wondered, “What would a turtle do?” before checking an inlet on the south side of the small lake. There was no sign of the turtle until she headed back to the road.







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Natasha, emaciated since Friday, had lost weight. “She was quite a chubby girl,” owner Sandie Yeaman said after the Russian tortoise was found on Monday night.


CHERIE JUSZCZYK


“There was a bush to the side. There she is, plain as day, Combs said. “He was eating a stalk of something. She just looked at me.”

Combs panicked for a moment, unsure whether to call 911 because she didn’t want to touch the turtle, but she didn’t want it to escape.

Then Roll appeared with an ALDI shopping bag, putting the turtle in the bag and bringing a happy ending to Natasha’s breakout.

Yeaman was called and the researchers all shouted.

“It was such an incredible moment,” she said.

Yeaman couldn’t believe the lengths volunteers went to to help her find the pet she’s had for 25 years.

But she has been holding pop-up events for memory care patients at Christmas for several years and people were keen to help her in return.

“You helped us,” the volunteers told him, “it’s time to help you.”

Signs were posted, one person volunteered to fly a drone, and a young man spread strawberries along a concrete path in hopes of luring Natasha into one of two traps around the lake. The traps contained pieces of romaine lettuce.

“We put in little plays like Hansel and Gretel,” Yeaman said.

One searcher was overcome by the sweltering heat and had to be checked out at CHI Health Lakeside.

Natasha was starving when she was found, Yeaman said.

“I can tell just by looking at her that she’s thinner,” she said. “She was quite a chubby girl.”

When he wasn’t checking the traps every two hours with other volunteers, Yeaman got down on his hands and knees and discovered holes in both the enclosure and an ivy-covered wall in the backyard where Natasha escaped.

“First thing in the morning, I’ll redo his pen and put a net over it,” Yeaman said. “She’ll never come out again.”