Turtles as pets: Care and concerns – Part 1

My turtle Fernando is a local celebrity on a very small scale. Fernando has a fan club that has members from Seattle to West Palm Beach and every where in between. Fernando’s star status in my town has led to many people bringing me turtles they have found. I can’t keep these turtles, so I just take them to a special place in the country to live. One day, a local landscaper stopped by with a shoe box. He said ” Oh, I didn’t know what to do…I ran over it with the mower…” I opened the box, and a small Eastern box turtle was inside. She was hurt. All of her legs had been damaged, and her shell was scuffed up. The turtle was tiny, only about five inches long. I didn’t think she would live but I reluctantly took her, and set about attending to her wounds. After consulting with my vet, and researching on the Internet I had the info and products I would need. I gently cleaned her wounds, I made her comfortable. To my amazement, this small turtle was not giving up. She was active, interested and hungry. I thought ” Well, she is obviously sick or in shock.” I kept her away from my Fernando, and I kept a close eye on her. After a few days, she was still active, eating and curious. Her badly mangled legs worried me. She lost two feet, and all the claws on another foot. This little turtle girl would not give up. She was moving around, adapting to life with me. She wasn’t dying.

I took her into the vet’s office, and he looked her over. He found no illness, and her injuries were healing slowly but surely. I was pleased with my abilities to tend to her delicate injuries. My vet said ” This turtle is fine, however after her extensive injuries, and trauma she will never be trusting. Certainly not like Fernando. This turtle won’t be an ideal pet.”

I wasn’t so sure. I had already fallen in love with her. She was so delicate, and dainty. She was strong, active and curious. I knew she would heal. I decided to let her go that weekend. I would drive to the place and set her free.

Then something changed, the little turtle became friendly, she was openly studying me, approaching me, and she didn’t suck up in her shell when I picked her up. I was growing too attached to this wild animal. I tried to set her free. She didn’t move, and I cried. I had to go back for her. I named her Lenore. For five years she has been a member of our family. She has regrown three claws, and without inspection you might not know she is missing her back feet. In my heart I was worried she would not survive in the wild, and a turtle like this deserves life, after what she went harassing. I was already committed to Fernando, now he had a turtle friend to interact with, and I have a darling little turtle girl too.

Caring for a turtle can be a lot of work, as they require special care and attention. Water turtles are known to carry salmonella, and require frequent water changes. Wild turtles probably won’t be as friendly as my turtles are. Turtles can live for extended amounts of time, so it is a serious commitment when you take on a turtle as a pet. If you are not willing to devote time to research and care of a turtle, in addition to many years of your life, and possibly then some, maybe a turtle isn’t the right pet for you.

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