Monday, June 15, 2015

Box Turtle Buddy

My sister and I were enjoying rare free time together last month when we spotted a box turtle in the yard. We raced to the fridge to grab a couple strawberries and embarked to make a new friend.

He seemed to appreciate our gift and ate his fill before ambling away.

Nearly a week ago, I was greeted by a visitor on the front step: the same turtle. Reckless, he ambled up to me when I sat down on the ground. I placed my phone on the concrete in front of him to see what he would do with it. The curious creature inspected it from all angles, bumping his beak against its edges, before losing interest. I held out my hand to him, much the way I do with the cats. This too he bumped his beak against. It felt like getting a tiny high-five. He began to walk away, and I reached out and stroked the back of his head. Instead of pulling back in his shell, he let me pet him. He was friendly and trusting, with beautiful markings.

I returned inside to finish some work, but I didn't stay in long before I returned to my reptilian friend, this time with blueberries. He found this quite exciting.

Not at all intimidated by my ever present camera, he treated it with the same interest as he did everything else.

Finally he made his way through the grass to continue whatever expedition of great importance he happened to be on that day, and I was sad to see him go.

That evening, I decided to do some research. Most turtle types are territorial, so it's very likely that this little box turtle is the same one we met when my family moved in and the same one I encountered almost exactly a year ago. Apparently, box turtles live from thirty to fifty years. I hope this one stays around that long; I've come to consider him a friend. The next step in my research was to determine what kind of box turtle he is. That step did not go well. He has five toes on his front feet and three on his back feet, however, his markings aren't consistent with the three toed box turtle. I honestly have no idea. As far as I know, he could be a box turtle cross breed or simply a mutant. Either way, he's a beautiful turtle.

My father will sometimes tease me about talking to animals as if they were people, especially when it comes to the cats. In some ways though, they really are like people. Not all cats act identically. The same goes for dogs, hamsters, horses, and even turtles. When we head out into the world, we make friends and allies. Each will be different and startlingly beautiful because of that. Animals are just the same. This is why I decided to name the turtle, because--besides it being easier to say a name than "that box turtle that lives somewhere around our house"--he, in his own turtle way, has an undeniable personality.

His name is Gerald.

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