Dutch: A Year of Healing with Soberman's Therapy Tortoise

Posted by Janice Story on August 10, 2023 at 9:52 AM

Dutch Michaelangelo Soberman “Dutch”, our beloved therapy tortoise, has been a member of our therapeutic team at Soberman's Estate for over a year now. He was introduced to us by Psychiatrist and Medical Expert, Dr. Michael Vines. Dr. Vines has been with Soberman’s Estate since 2019 and it was that year that he found Dutch, and at that time Dutch could fit comfortably in the palm of his hand.12

Dr. Vines neighbor, unaware of a batch of newborn tortoises in their yard, were the original source of Dutch and several other tortoises discovered by the neighborhood.

On Dutch's arrival at the Estate last year, I recall our founder, Mitch Prager, expressing his gratitude. He said, "It's as though the universe aligned perfectly with our intent to adopt a tortoise. I had already built a habitat, not knowing where we would find our tortoise. Thanks to Dr. Vines, Dutch has now become a cherished part of our community and his presence has had a significant positive impact on our clients.”

Now, you might ask, how can a desert tortoise contribute to the recovery process at a residential treatment center? Mitch explains, "Tortoises adapt to their environment, just like how the world of someone addicted to drugs and alcohol shrinks, mirroring a cage. Once they overcome addiction, their world expands, just like the tortoise’s…”

Dr. Vines, when reflecting on the growth of the tortoise, noted, "Those neighbors who have confined their tortoises in smaller spaces or aquariums, still have small tortoises."  Dutch was not confined to a small space, he is now 4 years old and has quadrupled in size from when he originally came to us.   13

On leaving Dutch at Soberman's Estate, he expressed, "The potential for this tortoise is limitless. I believe he will interact with many interesting individuals here.”

The entire staff has enjoyed getting acquainted with Dutch, appreciating his unique charm. Our Operations Manager, Sandra Starr, particularly enjoys feeding him strawberries and vegetables from our garden. Everyone finds joy in watching him frolic in the sprinklers in his habitat. Of course, our clients also relish the peaceful moments spent in his company.

Recently, I've noticed how frequently one of our current clients mentions Dutch. John spends a considerable amount of time sitting with Dutch in his enclosure. Here is a glimpse into the interactions that are possible from the viewpoint of one of our clients.

“I came to Soberman’s on July 7, 2023 for a 35 day treatment plan… I quickly realized that sitting in my room on my down time wasn’t an option for me, so I found a trail in the front of the Estate. As I started walking along the path, I came across an enclosure and at first glance I didn’t notice anything so I kept walking.

The following day I walked the same path and looked into the area again, but this time I noticed a basketball sized tortoise was walking around in the middle eating grass. I immediately went into the enclosure to get a better look because I have always had a fascination with reptiles. I like how Dutch reminds me of a Jurassic tank completely covered in armor.

After that day I found myself visiting Dutch every morning and every evening. I started bringing him snacks morning and night and after a few days, he would walk right up to me knowing I had something for him. I would sit down and let him come to me and I’d place his snack in the grass. Usually the snack would be lettuce, strawberries, or some kind of left over melon from the kitchen we had in the fridge at the time.

I found it to be a peaceful time when I was feeding Dutch, and I guess I could even go as far as saying he was my friend while I was at Soberman’s. He was always there to keep me calm. When I was going through a very hard time in my life, Dutch helped me to realize that to stay sober I needed to embrace all the small things in life…all the small moments. He reminded me to never take the day for granted, because you just never know what will happen next.”

Thank you John for sharing you experience with us. And for the great reminder to all of us to embrace life and it’s little moments!


Soberman's Estate is a residential men's addiction treatment center that provides discreet, individualized, sophisticated recovery and wellness services for adult men that want to recover from substance use disorders, and or other behavioral issues such as trauma, anxiety, depression, stress, or other addictions. 

Topics: Treatment, Recovery, Mental Health, mindfulness

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