Sunday, November 25, 2007

Meeting Mr. Turtle

On my way home from work last Wednesday I saw a little turtle on the sidewalk facing the street. At first I didn’t think anything of it – the turtle stood so still that I thought it was a little statue or figurine that someone dropped while walking. It turns out that the turtle was very much alive – and was scurrying towards the opposite direction as soon as I stepped out of my car! Intrigued with the fast-moving turtle and remembering that Rene once owned one, I chased after the turtle, picked it up, and took it home. Normally, I am not in the habit of picking up animals and taking them home but I thought it would be cool to have a turtle.

As soon as I got home, I introduced Mr. Turtle to Chuy. Chuy sniffed Mr. Turtle intently at first, trying to figure out what this thing was that I brought home. After a minute or two or sniffing, Chuy decided to try to put the turtle in his mouth. Panicked, I brought Chuy inside the house so that Mr. Turtle could recover, settle in, and explore his new surroundings. I marveled at Mr. Turtle's speed and curiousity - whoever said turtles were slow creatures never met Mr. Turtle, because ten minutes later he was at the other side of the yard.

The next day was Thanksgiving Day, and remembering the episode from the day before, I put Mr. Turtle in a box atop the patio table before letting Chuy out. Unbeknownst to me, Rene had other plans for Mr. Turtle and let him out of the box. A few minutes later I heard Chuy barking and growling at something in the backyard, so I went outside to check it out. Guess what that dog had in his mouth? Mr. Turtle! I must’ve screamed as I pried Chuy’s jaws open because everyone in the house came running over to see what was going on. I dragged the dog inside and placed Mr. Turtle on the grass. Thank goodness for that hard shell! I yelled at Rene for letting the turtle out when Chuy almost attacked him the day before, to which he replied that the hard shell should protect the turtle no matter how many times Chuy put him in his mouth. After that episode, I didn’t think having these two animals in the same yard was a good idea, so Rene dropped off Mr. Turtle at his mom’s house. Rene later mentioned that Mr. Turtle did sustain some damage to his shell from the bite and was glad that I had intervened before Chuy made turtle soup out of him.

After letting him loose in my mother-in-law’s huge backyard, Mr. Turtle was nowhere to be found a few hours later. Everyone in the house looked for him and found him half an hour later, digging a hole about three inches deep. The next day, the next-door neighbor knocked on the door and told my mother-in-law that the turtle was out on the sidewalk walking towards the street. Somehow Mr. Turtle found a way to open the side gate, even though the gate is six feet tall with a latch. My mother-in-law put the turtle back inside the yard and made sure that the latch was fastened. The next day, Mr. Turtle was gone.

Rene thinks that Mr. Turtle is a native California turtle similar to the ones he’d heard of while visiting a turtle reserve at California City (California City, CA – there I said it twice!). Rene visited during the winter time, and the Park Ranger told him that the turtles were underground during the fall and winter months, about four feet deep, hibernating. Rene thinks that the recent land development near our house may have unearthed the turtle, forcing it to search for a new place to burrow until I picked it up and decided to make it my pet. I sincerely hope that Mr. Turtle is in a nicely holed up somewhere nice and cozy for the winter.

As for me, I will never pick up another turtle again – unless I am planning to serve it to my dog, who obviously considers turtle soup a delicacy.

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