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Herbie, the family turtle

Sometimes I get a little too big for my britches. I know this about myself, and I know y’all know it about me too.  And in case I haven’t mentioned it, I appreciate that y’all love me enough to put up with it.  “It” being my tendency to get up on a soapbox, or two or three, about something I’m passionate about, and set my jaws into it like a bulldog. But there’s a thing about soapboxes, especially two or three soapboxes.  The bigger (or higher) they are, the harder you fall.  And oh, how the mighty have fallen. 

Some of you have been subject to my rants about responsible pet ownership. That when you commit to an animal, you commit to that animal for a lifetime, and that people would be doing themselves and their pets a favor by educating themselves before making that commitment.  About how many animals, adopted with the best of intentions, have a temperament or care requirements their people just didn’t bargain for…and how important it is to research the pet and know what they were originally bred for, what kind of personality they have, what level of care is required, as well as what health problems they are prone to.  And in that rant you probably heard me go on about ‘pet mills’ and ‘backyard breeders’ and how they are a major contributor to the number of animals that are euthenized in shelters.

Do you see what’s coming here?

So last Sunday Halle went out with LaTonya.  Not too long after they’d left, I got a phone call from LaTonya.

Can Halle have a $10 turtle?” LaTonya asks.

“Halle wants a turtle?” I ask in an amazed stupor.  Halle won’t even walk by a cricket in the hallway… I spend every monsoon escorting her to the toilet or her bedroom.Oh yes… she held it and everything.” LaTonya assures me.

Still confused, I inquire, “Well, what kind of turtle is it?”

“It’s just this little water turtle… the guy here says all he needs is a bowl and some gravel and water.”

“Oh… my friend Julie had a couple of those.  They’ve got round flat shells about an inch across right?”

So I sign up for this, so long as Halle understands it is a FAMILY TURTLE, because while I’m willing to take one turtle (which I believe is basically the equivalent of a highly interactive goldfish or beta), I’m not willing to get three.

Well, thank God for small slivers of insight. 

So they bring this thing home.  He’s cute as a button, and not much bigger. 

“Where are the directions?” I ask, a little horrified.

He just came with food, they tell me.

Well, where’d you get him?”  I ask, more than a little horrified.

“This guy was selling him on the corner of 7th St. & Broadway.  Halle read the sign and wanted to go back and look,” LaTonya explains.

I’m thinking that’s probably not a good thing, but what’s done is done.  So we set this turtle up in a plastic shoebox with some rocks and water, and I make a note  myself to take the turtle to work with me on Friday.  We usually get sent home early so I’ll take him (or her?) over to the PetCo by my house and see if they can identify him.

Do you see what’s coming here? 

The week goes by and Halle finally chooses a name for the turtle:  Herbie.  So I now officially refer to the turtle as he, and am wondering if he should be a little more active because he seems to snooze a lot. 

Friday comes, and I put him in a little mini bread tin that came with a plastic cover which I poked holes into… I feel pretty ingenious.  Herbie hangs out at my desk, and spends a good part of the morning trying to get out of his mobile home.  I figure either we’re just not home at a time where he’s alert, or my driving really freaked him out.

So I get the OK to take off as soon as the operational requirements are taken care of, and Herbie and I head over to PetCo.  I head for the amphibians and must have looked clueless because help was promptly offered.

“Herbie needs a new habitat,” I say, and hold out the little bread tin.

“Oh, a red eared slider?” the associate replies.

I’m feeling buoyed by the fact that she has so quickly identified Herbie, thinking this is a sure sign that I have a nice run of the mill turtle and not some exotic turtle that’s going to cost me a fortune.

Do you see what’s coming here?

“Yes, just like these,” she says and gestures to a tank with several turtles that really don’t resemble my little button on legs and who, compared to Herbie, are gigantic.  Picture a horse jockey standing next to a pro basketball player.  And these aren’t even full grown; apparently, depending in part on the sex of the turtle, red-eared sliders can grow to be 12 inches long.

“Oh,” I said.  Cuz that’s about all I could think in that moment.  She asks me if I’ve been to the Phoenix Zoo, and when I indicated yes, she informs me that I’ve seen these full grown before.  There’s a lovely bridge over a pond that you cross to enter the zoo, and we always buy kettle corn before we leave to we can feed the turtles that sun themselves on the logs in the pond.  Those turtles, apparently, are also red eared sliders.

“It’s actually illegal to sell those when they’re under three inches long,” she informs me, and as the blood drains from my face she assures me, “Oh, it’s not illegal to OWN them, just to sell them.”

“Oh, OK,” I said, momentarily relieved.  “Just out of curiosity, why is that?”

Oh, yes.  Here it comes.   One hell of an education about red-eared sliders. 

Apparently, it’s illegal to sell them until they are three inches long because back in the seventies, there was a major problem with children contracting salmonella poisoning from dime store turtles.  The logic apparently being a) a four inch turtle is too big for a child to put in his/her mouth (eeewww), b) they are no longer tiny and cute and small enough for a fish bowl.  And this is important, because without proper filtration, aquatic turtles are much more likely to carry (among other bacteria and parasites) salmonella.  Salmonella can, in very rare situations, cause meningitis, and there have been a handful of cases where children have died after contracting salmonella from turtles kept in the exact living conditions that Mr. Backyard Breeder/Bootleg Turtle Seller says they should be kept in as he sold one to my daughter, who still has her thumb in her mouth half the damn time.

So, I ask this fountain of knowledge to show me what kind of tank I need.
She tells me she’d start out with a ten gallon tank; I could do five, but I’m going to need a ten eventually and the ten gallon tanks are actually cheaper anyway.  I gather up my courage and ask how big of a tank I’m eventually going to need, seeing as ten gallons was considered a ‘starter.’

I’m not sure where I’m going to put a 40-plus gallon tank, which will probably be the minimum size adequate to house a mature slider.  I try really hard not to hyperventilate.

It’ll be a while before we get to that point.  I’ve got time to figure it out.

So I think my education is over, but no.  I finish Red Eared Slider 101 and move on to Aquatic Turtle 102.  I need a ‘water turtle kit’ which will include a filter, and among other things, drops to remove the chlorine from the tap water.  Because chlorine can kill aquatic turtles.  I also need a heat lamp and a special UV bulb to warm the basking area I need to create.  Herbie needs a place to sun himself and allow his shell to dry completely for several hours each day so that he doesn’t develop shell rot.  He also needs UVA/UVB rays, but rather than buy one of those $35 bulbs, I can just put him outside in the sun for about 15 minutes each day.  Now, the heat lamp might keep the water at the right temperature, but I’ll probably need a submersible aquarium heater.  I need gravel, and since I don’t relish the idea of looking for enough rocks of the right size to create a basking area, I also need a reservoir.  And a thermostat.  And a screen top, because Herbie will become quite a climber.

I think vile thoughts about Mr. Bootleg Turtle Seller as I kick myself in the ass for adding another high maintenance pet into the household.  Like Reggie the Piddler isn’t enough to keep up with, now I’ll have Herbie the Crapper. And while I might gripe about Reggie the Piddler, it’s not anything I didn’t know I was risking by adopting a toy breed, and a rescue pet at that.  And Ramie is starting to act like she’s approaching ten years old, so she’s going to need some babying for her golden years.

One bootleg red-eared slider:  $10

Minimum supplies to provide an adequate habitat:  $138.60

Taking a big dose of your own medicine:  priceless

The silver lining?  At least y’all will get a good laugh out of this.

Ei

 
Ahem…I (choke-cough) wouldn’t laugh (cough-cough) at (cough) you. At least it was only $138.60.  That decimal could easily be moved elsewhere.
  

Posted by Ei on December 28, 2005 – Wednesday – 8:32 AM
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CURLYGURL

 
Shaddap… I know you are laughing your ass off.
  

Posted by CURLYGURL on December 28, 2005 – Wednesday – 7:02 PM
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CURLYGURL

 
Oh, and did I mention the life span of a red eared slider?  For a healthy specimin, the average is 25 to 40 years.  But he might live to be 75.  Or more. My grandchildren will have something to remember me by.
  

Posted by CURLYGURL on December 28, 2005 – Wednesday – 8:02 PM
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Ei

 
Ah, the family heirloom…gotta love it. Yeah, I was…mopping the tears offa my face, in fact.
  

Posted by Ei on December 29, 2005 – Thursday – 7:29 AM
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Belle

Belle Godfrey

Love ya girl…but I am laughing!  Do you think Halle would think it was responsible to move him to his natural habitat at the Zoo?  She could go visit and tell others that Herbie was actually hers and she was sharing with them by placing him at the Zoo? Just a thought…. Hugs chica!
Belly 

Posted by Belle on December 28, 2005 – Wednesday – 10:05 AM
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CURLYGURL

 

The thought crossed my mind, girl, but I think even giving him away would be ‘distributing’ him, and (as I learned today), that is also illegal until he is four (not three) inches in length.  Besides, I’m not entirely sure how old Herbie is or his exact origins, but he is probably a hatchling and was probably bred and hatched in captivity.  I’ve never seen a zookeeper out in the pond with the turtles and never seen an employee feed them, so my guess is they’re relatively wild.  I don’t know if Herbie would be able to forage for food (which in the wild would be insects and small fish), or even be strong/aggressive enough to compete with the big turtles for kettle korn, assuming that at one inch in length, he didn’t become a snack himself (a full size red slider can get up to 11 inches in length).  And I’m not sure what the zoo’s policy is on animal surrenders, but I imagine that even with the animals they don’t really have to do much care for, they would want some kind of health history before knowingly introducing a new animal into the environment.  I read that most ‘pet store’ turtles have been under stress from improper living conditions, and are more prone to respiratory and bacterial infections and tend to be malnourished and dehydrated.  Considering I kept him in a shoebox with unfiltered and chlorinated tap water for close to a week and god knows what he lived in before that, it’s a miracle he’s lived this long.  Unfortunately, he’s still as likely as not to die even if I provide 100% perfect care from here on out, just from the conditions he lived in before.  So I’m going to do the best I can to keep this little guy kicking.  If his maintenance turns out to be too much, I’ll cross that bridge if/when he reaches healthy adulthood, or at least a size I could ethically find him another home.
 

Posted by CURLYGURL on December 28, 2005 – Wednesday – 7:59 PM
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Belle

Belle Godfrey

Your amazing……a heart as big as the size of my home state sista!  Those three kids are truly blessed!  Most moms would have already folded!!!!!!! Bel~
  

Posted by Belle on December 29, 2005 – Thursday – 7:50 AM
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CURLYGURL

 

Girl, don’t you know that one of the things that stuck with me from the bible (mind you, this is my own personal interpretation), is that Eden and the animals came first, and the human race was brought to eden to work and care for it and it’s inhabitants, to rule over all the creatures that fly in the air and walk on the ground. I figure if Adam and Eve got the boot for eating an apple, I’m in deep doodie if I kill this turtle.
 

Posted by CURLYGURL on December 29, 2005 – Thursday – 11:20 PM

  

 

via Herbie, the family turtle – CURLYGURL’s MySpace Blog | Cyndi–s Jewels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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