Dress-Wearing Therapy Tortoise Helps Patients Forget Their Troubles

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When Lisa Chicarella adopted a 42-pound African spur tortoise, she had no idea that her new pet was suited for a special career. In fact, the tortoise was actually quite shy at the time and wouldn’t come out of her shell for two weeks. To combat this, Chicarella wanted to give the reptile a lively name that she could live up to—Wasabi.

After eight years in her new home, Wasabi has definitely grown into her name. She’s not only energetic and friendly, she also loves being the center of attention. These distinct characteristics led to Wasabi’s career as a certified therapy pet. Unfortunately, the job came about due to an unforeseeable circumstances. Chicarella’s dog Chief was on his way to becoming a therapy pet when he unexpectedly passed away. Following these events, the pet owner casually mentioned Wasabi to Therapy Pets Unlimited‘s executive and the idea of her participation as a therapy tortoise took off from there.

Now, Wasabi spends her days at nursing homes and schools. She’s also a frequent visitor at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore. No matter where she is, every time Wasabi visits a new place, she helps people forget about their troubles, giving them something to smile about. She always entertains onlookers with her unique fashion choices. During Wasabi’s first winter as a therapy tortoise, Chicarella wrapped her in heat packs and stuck them on with a diaper. This wasn’t the best look for Wasabi, so her owner decided to have a dress custom-made for her shell. This outfit was an instant hit with the tortoise’s patients, causing dresses to become her year-round wardrobe staple.

Thanks to her cheerful style and relaxed personality, Wasabi has become an accomplished (and beloved) mental health companion.

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