by John Dryden from Duncan, BC
I noticed the turtle instantly. It was about 20 meters away, but I knew it was a turtle the moment I saw it. It was a small green shape scuttling across our lawn.
“Hey look!” I hollered to my wife and kids. “There is a turtle on our front lawn!”
I ran inside to get a box and video camera. I called the Saltspring Island Wildlife Association. They asked me if the turtle looked hurt. I told them that the turtled looked to me to be very healthy. The Wildlife Association suggest we find a pond and set the turtle free.
So off we set – my wife, our three kids and the turtle all climbed in to the family van and drove to the closest pond. The turtle was very still the entire ride and it kept its head close to its shell.
When we arrived at the pond the box was placed on the bank of the pond and gently tipped. This little turtle moved incredibly fast and lunged into the water disappearing, then resurfacing in the midst of a group of hovering bugs. We took this as a thank you, as a sort of farewell wave from a happy, saved turtle.
It was a great feeling to have worked together as a family and to have improved the life of one of nature’s creatures. It was a proud communal moment for our family. There were lots of smiles, waves and cheers as we drove away. I remember Liz saying, “Just think kids, not everyone can say they have saved a turtle.”
It was four days later when I saw the poster stapled to a telephone pole.
“Lost” it said. “Treasured family pet. 21 year old Samantha the turtle.”
The description of Samantha fit our rescued turtle perfectly.
My feeling of heroism turned to guilt and sadness. I knew my family, who still felt proud for helping the misguided animal would be shattered.
I told my wife - not the kids – and I resolved to call the number listed on the poster the next day.
I hid in the garage and dialed the number.
“Hi,” I said to the woman who answered the phone. “I am calling about the lost turtle.”
“I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is Samantha is ALIVE.”
I went into my account of the rescue.
Samantha’s owner was a very kind person, who was pleased to have received my call about her pet. Turns out, the owner was away for a few days. Samantha was left in her own back yard pond and actually dug under her fence to get out.
Apparently turtles get frisky now and then and Samantha took it upon herself to try to go find a mate.
It was difficult to say to someone that you had their 21 year pet and you had set it free in the wild. But Samantha’s owner was kind and happy to have had any news about her pet. She told me she would go and look for Samantha in the pond.
I never found out whether or not she found Samantha.
But I did learn from her. I learned how I would respond if something similar happened to me and I gained new appreciation for those who put up the missing signs – sometimes any news at all is good news.