Meet Blink, the 5-year old tortoise that was born with no eyes. Living under the watchful eye of Peter Van Denburg and his wife Cassandra, who rescued her 3 years ago, she is an active and joyfully trouble making tort.

Blink works with the Wildlife Defenders of Bridges for Brain Injury program, an organization that trains adults who have suffered traumatic brain injuries to conduct wildlife education interventions and provides support through animal therapy. With the help of her humans, she makes frequent visits to local libraries to educate the public and  young and visits assisted living facilities to provide support to those in need of animal love.  

Peter and his wife Cassandra  provide a home for Blink and a plethora of exotic animals in need and also work with therapy dogs international. They are a family that rescued each other and continue to rescue others, animals and humans. 

Another fine support tort, and a beautiful one at that. 

(Source: Joanna Adams, )


Blink herself, as Peter was quick to point out, should never have been a captured, domesticated pet at all. She should have been wild and free, except for one tragic flaw. She was born without any eyes at all.

This defect alone would have guaranteed an untimely demise in the wild, where she could not have survived. Peter theorizes Blink’s blindness may have been due to inbreeding.

He doesn’t advocate having tortoises as pets; normally, they belong in the wild. As such, their lifespan can be about 80 years, and they are more of a land animal. This contrasts with the more water-loving turtle, whose life expectancy is far less, at about 20 years.

Cassandra estimates Blink will grow to be about the size of a football. She is 5 years old now — they’ve had her since she was about 2 — and she has quite a ways to grow yet. Being a female, she has a shorter tail than a male and a flat plastron, or shell bottom. A male tortoise has a long tail and concave-shaped plastron.

Peter has taken Blink to Seneca Lake Terrace to entertain the residents there, as well as to local libraries. She loves to run around the yard, under the watchful eyes of Peter and/or Cassandra, and does so with great joy and abandon, oblivious to the dangers. She is very intelligent, responding when Peter comes into the room and the sounds of her feeding preparations and water sources.

While her hearing is most acute, she sometimes flips over helplessly and bumps into walls. Even though she has no eyes, she still has tear ducts which must be cleared when they plug, thus avoiding infections.

Blink’s food consists mainly of “monkey biscuits,” a fish, whey, soy, fat, herb and protein composite, as well as fresh fruits and bananas. She is often fed by hand.

Her veterinarian is Dr. Darby of Seneca Falls, who specializes in exotics and reptiles. He is emergency responsive and always has a veterinarian on call.

Peter and Cassandra met through the Wildlife Defenders of Bridges For Brain Injury. Their Animal Therapy Program is designed for adults with brain injuries who are higher functioning.

It has been 10 years since Cassandra’s accident, when she suffered a traumatic brain injury and she went through the Animal Therapy Program in Canandaigua. Peter and Cassandra also are active in Therapy Dogs International, the closest chapter being in Rochester. They are always looking for new, interested members.

We loved meeting Blink, enjoying her life under watchful gazes, and opening the eyes of others, to see what is possible because of two whose vision is broadened by compassion.