Surely it couldn’t be that much trouble and it would probably die in six months anyway. That’s what I thought when my mother gave my daughter a turtle that was only the size of a quarter. Think about it. Only the size of a quarter. Alyssa was ten at the time and I just couldn’t say no to her beautiful big brown eyes and upturned little face looking at me with hopeful anticipation and excitement.
Knowing absolutely nothing about “reptiles”, we made a trip to the pet store. We purchased some turtle food in a jar, a book on turtles, and a funny looking clear, green plastic, Lima bean shaped pond equipped with a tiny plastic palm tree. It was about as big around as a plate and only had three inch sides.
Oh boy, what an adventure. My big concern was that when the turtle died, which I’m sure it would, Alyssa would be unhappy and I wanted to spare her the pain. Besides, it was JUST A TURTLE.
We sat the turtle on a pedestal by the window in his new Lima bean home. Every day we talked to him. He would turn his head and look at us and dive back into the water. So tiny and quick.
Naming the turtle turned out to be an impossible task. First of all, we didn’t know if it was male or female. Alyssa came up with so many names and basically she called the turtle all of the names at different times. I simply called the turtle, “Turtle”. I know, don’t say it.
Six months went by and to my amazement, the turtle was still very much alive.
What had I gotten myself into?
A year went by and I was actually attached to this little hyperactive creature. It had grown a little bit too. Now it was the size of a fifty cent piece. Woohoo…big, huh?
At about a year and a half, the turtle was suddenly lethargic, didn’t want to eat, and wouldn’t swim.
I wasn’t going to let it die!
I sat down and read the turtle book from cover to cover. The answer to his sickness seemed to be that he needed a better pond.
Goal in site and child in hand, we were off to the store to purchase more supplies so that the turtle could have a new home.
Equipped with a five gallon aquarium, a filtering pump, gravel, and a “light”, Alyssa and I headed home and embarked on a rescue mission to save the turtle.
What a huge tank for such a tiny little creature, but Turtle loved it! He got well soon and began to grow.
Now Turtle needed a ten gallon aquarium, a bigger pump, and a better light.
Three years passed.
Turtle was still growing and was relocated to a more posh fifteen gallon aquarium.
Four years with our little friend.
Turtle was happy and continued to grow right into a twenty five gallon aquarium with two different kinds of lights, a large rock to sunbathe on, new gravel in the bottom of the tank and a bigger filtering pump.
No longer was he “just a turtle”. I looked forward to seeing the turtle even more than Alyssa enjoyed seeing her own pet. Plus, I since I was the one that cleaned out the tank all the time and fed him, I felt more attached to him.
It is now 2009 and Turtle is six years old. He lives in a fifty five gallon tank with large smooth river rock lining the bottom and a stack of large rocks for sunbathing placed in the center, a thermostat to keep the temperature perfect stuck to the side and a timer that controls the lighting. Most importantly, a huge filtering system to keep the water crystal clear.
Every morning, I uncover the tank and say, “Wake up Turtle!”
Then I sprinkle some stinky food into the aquarium. Worms are doubly stinky at 6:00 a.m.
Turtle is not a regular turtle. Turtle has personality. Don’t be skeptical. I’m serious! When I come through the front door, I say loudly, “I’m home Turtle. How are you? Welcome me home.” He swims to the corner of the tank, stands on his hind legs and sticks his head out all the way towards the top of the tank. I usually put my finger in the tank about a half inch from his head so that he can smell and see me up close. Turtle has grown to be the size of my hand which makes him so big that I can see his little nostril holes!
I also ensure that Turtle gets exercise. I stand at the end of the tank and we race to the other end. He will shove off the side of the tank like an Olympic swimmer, turn sideways splashing his foot on top of the water while trying to beat me to the other end. Upon reaching the end, I turn around and start going back the other direction as he shoves off that end of the tank and starts racing me again. I actually do this every afternoon until he is too tired to race me any more.
I love Turtle.
I have since learned that this sweet little fellow can live fifty years and can reach a weight of up to fifty-five pounds. Turtle could possible live longer than me! I guess after I die, he will look at Alyssa and say, “Hey girl! Throw some of those worms this way. I’m hungry! Oh, and by the way, it is time to clean out my tank.”