Recently, on a late afternoon walk on the second part of my favorite trail, I noticed a beautiful turtle sitting by the side of the trail in the dirt. “Oh you poor dear,” I said to him. “Have you lost your way?” He just looked at me from under his beautiful brown and yellow shell and said nothing. I assumed that he was on his way back to the lake, but he was pointed in the wrong direction! What to do? The lake, the large pond along the first part of my trail, where I had seen two turtles on a floating log once, basking in the sunshine, was quite a ways away for a little turtle, especially for one going in the wrong direction.
I walked back to the Clubhouse, all the way looking for something I could pick him up with, cautioned as I was by one of my fellow residents that the large turtle in our pond had resisted fiercely when he tried to pick him up to take him from across the street towards the water. With my luck, I noticed that the pool man, who was getting the swimming pool ready for winter, had left all his equipment outside the fence and among it was a large, shallow empty carton box. Since the man was nowhere in sight, I took the box and went back to my turtle.
He was gone! In that short of a time, perhaps four minutes, he was gone. Don’t you believe anymore that turtles are slow! I looked around for about five minutes and then, there he was! Four feet into the dead leaves on the other side of the nine feet trail! “I will help you and I will take you back to the lake,” I said and carefully picked him up and put him in the box. He did not fight but immediately withdrew all his extremities into his shell. I put him in the box and he did not move. I walked to the beginning of the trail and to the lake and carefully down the grassy, then muddy shore. I took him out of the box and gently put him beside the water in the mud. He did not move. I picked him up again, lifted him and placed him in the water, so that half his shield was submerged. Now, I thought, he has to come up for air soon. It took a few minutes, but then, one front foot appeared, then the other, and finally his head. He looked at me and I thought he would happily swim away. But he sat there motionless, half immersed in the water, head sticking up. I waited and waited. Nothing.
Then something amazing happened. From ten feet away, I saw a turtle approaching. Head up for air, head down, swim, swim, head up for air, head down, swim, swim. It came as close as six feet, then turned and continued to swim away parallel to the shore. And turned, and came back! From a distance farther away a larger turtle approached in the same manner, five feet, four feet, looking at my turtle, then turning and swimming away, returning again a minute later. And a third one came, and then a fourth and a fifth. As many as six turtles, anywhere from 5 to 7 inches long came to take a look, and two of them came as close as one foot from my lovely prodigal son. And then I saw it: all their shields were flatter and kind of mossy from being in the water, and greenish. My little one had a rounded shield, shiny brown with yellow markings. He did not like the water! He probably could not even swim! But then, where did he belong? Was he a pet that had wandered away from his family? Had he been on the way home when I found him?
When he did not move, I decided I had been dumb to mess with nature and I had to take him back to the trail where I had found him. I put the box down in front of him and gently pushed him in. And this time, he did not withdraw. He was not frightened anymore and curiously looked around and tried to climb up the side of the box, standing on his hind legs. I took him back to the place along the trail where I had found him, across, in the leaves, and he sat still and looked at me. I hope he has found his way home.
I learned my lesson. Not only dogs, but turtles as well can find their way home. I do wonder, though, how all those turtles in the lake all of a sudden saw my land turtle on the shore, and came swimming back and forth to take a look at him. Did he communicate by sending out an S.O.S.? He did not stick his head under water. Can anyone tell me more about turtles and their behavior? Mine was definitely like a fish out of water!
It’s a Wonderful Life!
Until next time,