Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lets talk about turtles....

I always liked reptiles. I used to have frogs when I was young; I snuck them into the house and put them in cages under the bed to hide them from my parents. I was never afraid of snakes and frequently tried to catch garter snakes around my neighborhood. I also used to try to lour the little lizards that lived in the rock wall in front of my house out with fruit and berries. My favorite animal is the alligator… well kind of an alligator/crocodile combo because I want to mush qualities from both into a crazy super combo animal. So when I was in a random Petco a long time ago, and heard this woman saying that she didn’t want these two turtles, and wanted to give them to the store. At this time Petco didn’t have the ability to sell turtles. So they said that they couldn’t take them. Why was anyone shocked to have me walk up to her and say I would take them.  I had no Idea what I was getting into. Because now I have a very healthy love… ok maybe obsession with turtles 20 years later. 

 Turtles make awesome pets. They have a ton of personality and really are pretty low maintenance. I mean yes you have to buy them a bunch of expensive junk to keep them that way, but once you got it all you really don’t have to do much with it.  They are like little mini dogs; they come to you by name, play with you, eat out of your hand, follow you around the house, like to be rubbed and pet.  Sit and watch you as you do things around the house. I mean what’s not to love about a pet like that. 

What I find so ironic is sitting here saying all this stuff about how awesome of a pet they are, but I hate when people say that they want to get one as a pet. I want to grab them and shake them and say are you sure? I mean are you prepared to have something for the next 40 years? Because a turtle is supposed to live that long. So are you ready to making that thing a part of your life for the next 40 years? That means it will be around for the new houses, kids, pets, relationship? Your turtle will be with you for it all. Are you really ready for that? Are you ready for all the expenses involved in their care? I think it bothers me because you can find so many little baby turtles for like pennies at flea markets or fairs. And this cast a misconception on them as being inexpensive. Well I can tell you otherwise. I have spent 400 bucks in one day just on lights, filters, and foods for my turtles.  But people get them all the time and sometimes they figure those things out and deal with it like I did, or they figure it out and dump them. Sadly that happens a lot more. 

Did you know that in Washington State the native species of aquatic turtle is called the western pond turtle?  It’s native to Washington and Oregon and has been around for like thousands and thousands of years. Did you know that right now it’s almost extinct? Did you know that the main factor involved in its extinction is that it’s being overrun by non native species such as sliders and cooters that are native to southern states like Mississippi? Did you know that the red ear slider is the number one sold turtle in the pet turtle trade and that most of them get dumped into local ponds and lakes or die before the age of 5?  Did you know that when you go out to Green Lake or the arboretum and see all the turtles out bathing themselves on logs in the sun. Did you know that none of those are the western pond turtle and almost all of them are non native species that shouldn’t be in our state, and many of them at once time were some kid’s pet turtle?  Isn’t it sad to think about an entire species being killed off simply due to irresponsible pet owner ship?  

People might not understand why I like my turtles so much… I just do. They are awesome and anyone who has gotten to see how personal they are I think can agree with me. But honestly even if I did want to get rid of them where would I put them? I would never want to contribute to an already devastating problem. I would never want to neglect them until they died, or adopt them to someone who might dump them after 5 years and still making them a part of that larger problem. See this is all what I consider responsible pet ownership thinking about where your pet will end up even after it’s out of your care. Lucky for me and my turtles, I love everything about them so I’m planning on keeping them around. I love that fact that I come home from work and the tortoises’ come out of the hut and greet me walking around until I open the cage and pet them. I love that all the aquatic turtles watch me as I make dinner.  I can’t wait until summer comes when I can take them to the park and use them to educate people on why they shouldn’t own a turtle until you know what you’re getting into.

 I can only hope that I will be 50 and still have my turtles. I hope that my kids and grand kids get to have the chance to play with them. They are a part of me and once again I am reminded of how a chance moment in a pet store has changed my life forever.  Its these moments that happen that  have defined my life.

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