JANET TUTTLE FEEDS her emu Ralphie. Tuttle and the staff at Rockin’ T Equine Sanctuary and Rescue in Lisbon raised enough money to get the bird to a sanctuary in Georgia. CHRIS QUATTRUCCI / THE TIMES RECORD

JANET TUTTLE FEEDS her emu Ralphie. Tuttle and the staff at Rockin’ T Equine Sanctuary and Rescue in Lisbon raised enough money to get the bird to a sanctuary in Georgia. CHRIS QUATTRUCCI / THE TIMES RECORD

LISBON

After a three-month push to finance a Lisbon emu’s $3,000 journey to a new home in Georgia, Ralphie is on his way.

The emu has been in the care of Janet Tuttle at Rockin’ T Equine Sanctuary and Rescue in Lisbon for a decade. Ralphie came to Tuttle after an animal control officer picked up the bird in Bowdoinham. Since then, she’s struggled to find the right food, veterinary care, and enough space for the emu — part of the second-largest bird species behind the ostrich.

Ralphie escaped again in June, but was recaptured the next day. His foray prompted a push to find him a more secure, permanent home.

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia, agreed to take Ralphie, but a $3,000 cost to move the bird stood in the way.

“I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to do it,” said Tuttle. “It’s hard to even get money for the horses sometimes.”

Some of Tuttle’s volunteers helped organize a T-shirt fundraiser to get Ralphie to Georgia. Pat Thompson of East Coast Equine Transport will be making the 22-hour trip with the emu. Tuttle wanted someone she trusted, and had to find someone willing to make a special trip.

“Normally, it costs about $3,500 when she has a full load with horses. She was willing to drop the price,” said Tuttle. “He has his food, his water and his grapes. I’m going to be checking on him once he gets down there and I have the numbers to call throughout.”

No mood to move

It took about 20 minutes to get Ralphie on the trailer Monday. Tuttle said the emu wasn’t in the mood to move. She was on the receiving end of a kick, but says she’ll miss caring for the bird.

“It’s sad, but he’s better off there,” said Tuttle. “We cared for him for 10 years and it was fine, but we did all we could for him.”

Ralphie will join more than 1,500 exotic wildlife and domestic animals, including nearly 60 fellow emus at his new home in Georgia. The bird will have easier access to proper veterinary care and nutrition.

Tuttle estimates Ralphie is about 19 years old, putting him at about two-thirds the expected lifespan of an emu in captivity.

Tuttle’s sanctuary continues to provide a safe home for horses, but Ralphie likely will be its last emu.

“No more adventures with emus for me,” she said.

UPDATE: Rockin T’ announced Tuesday afternoon Ralphie arrived safely at his new home in Georgia.

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