May 28, 2009

Jumping on Opportunities

The other morning, the girls and I were heading back from an early morning appointment when I noticed a box turtle sunning himself at the edge of our driveway.

I wasn't entirely sure what type of turtle it was when I was pulling into the driveway, but I decided to offer the girls the chance to see him anyway. Snappers are somewhat common in our area since a winding creek runs throughout the county, but I learned to identify them early on. (I found a quarter sized baby snapping turtle struggling to turn after rolling onto his back in our babysitter's back yard when I was about eight-years-old. Not a lesson you'll easily forget, let me tell you!) Boo was interested, so I made sure to tell her not to try to pick it up before we went back to the end of the driveway.

It turned out to be a palm sized box turtle. I recognized the markings from the time Dad rescued a similar turtle while digging a pond back when he had his bull dozing business. He was awkwardly balanced at the very edge of the concrete along a two inch drop. Minuscule for us, half his length for him. His neck was fully extended, and he was half asleep in the sun that warm morning.

We talked about what he was doing. Then, I gently picked him up. Boo noted how he pulled inside the shell, and I explained why he did so. I turned him so his head was facing away from Boo, just in case, and she felt his shell. I turned him back and showed her how his shell closed to completely hide his face and the claws on his feet. Then we set him back in the grass about a foot from the driveway, turned away from the road, said good-bye, and went inside to wash up for lunch.

On the way inside, I made sure to remind Boo she should never touch an animal she finds in our yard without either Hubby or myself telling her it's okay. And I emphasized the point the turtle was afraid of us since he didn't know we wheren't trying to eat him. (Boo is extremely empathetic for a child her age, so this is usually the best way to get such a lesson to stick with her since she would hate to make anyone scared or hurt.) I used to have the misguided notion I was helping animals if I took them in. While I'm loathe to pass up hands on learning experiences like this when they crop up, especially living out in a rural area like we do, I'd be doing a disservice to Boo and the local animal population if I didn't teach her this lesson first and foremost.

I'm looking forward to many more of these teachable moments this summer.

* The picture is a generic one of a box turtle. Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera on hand during our encounter.

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