Each night when my children go to sleep, they pray for many things. One of them is a pet. They swear to be mature enough to handle the unglamorous pet-maintenance drudgery, and waver daily between a dog, a cat and a bearded dragon.
My husband and I have been debating this issue for months, and decided that we’ll take the leap of faith when we move into a home with non-communal green-living space. But, “we make plans and G-d laughs” so when my ten year-old daughter bounced into the house the other day, rambling on and on like a maniac and wearing a smile from ear to ear, I knew their prayers had been answered.
“Mmmmmom,” she stammered. “I just found this baby turtle in the middle of the road while out riding my bike,” and she shoved it into my face. Indeed it was a cute, itty-bitty thing.
Fast forward an hour and we had made a home for it out of a medium-sized Tupperware bowl. I sliced up half a carrot into tiny bits, stuck the little guy inside with an inch of water and we took off to my six-year-old son’s basketball practice. The entire time out, the kids couldn’t wait to get home to see “Rainbow Jr.”---named after a pet turtle they had three years ago while living in Panama that had “mysteriously” died in the care of the nanny who later confessed to orchestrating an armed home invasion. (But that’s irrelevant now and will come out when my book gets published.)
Nonetheless, we got home and the turtle was gone! Trying not to panic, I tried to reenact the crime scene, searching with a flashlight for teeny, wet footprints to see where this 2-inch creature could have snuck off to. Nothing.
I called the neighbor, a good friend, who has a dog my kids just love. I asked her to bring the dog over to see if he could “sniff-out” the turtle. But once they arrived, the adorable, good-for-nothing pup instantly rolled onto his back and the kids huddled around him, caressing his belly.
I sent the kids off to bed, assuring them that the turtle would not crawl into their beds in the middle of the night, despite my own unfounded fear that it indeed would, and promised to find him the next day. I didn’t sleep the entire night imagining all the places this tiny reptile could be hiding and tortured myself with images of finding his rotten corpse months later.
Hours after I dropped the kids at school, I got a hunch and marched directly to where the hatchling was and as if guided by some divine force, found him entangled in the sticky threads hanging from under the couch. I exhaled a sigh of relief and rushed out to purchase a small aquarium, filled it with water, rocks and arranged a cozy little pad for the newest member of our family.
The kids returned home and deemed me a hero. All they wanted to do was go out on the patio to visit with the turtle, talk to him, handle him and watch him amuse himself in his little world. And because the warm, outdoor weather is best for this cold-blooded animal, that’s where we’ve got him stationed for now.
Moreover, an interesting trend is in the works. Several times a day my kids, one by one, retreat to the previously-neglected patio to pay Rainbow Jr. a visit. Most of the time they prefer to peer into his aquarium and study his movements. And while doing so, they talk to him and share their feelings and thoughts, confident that Rainbow Jr. is a trustworthy listener. Heck, I’ve even found myself sitting with him, the way I used to sit with my declining grandmother at the nursing home, chatting away, vacillating between small talk and the existential issues that plagued my soul.
I must admit that so far Rainbow Jr.’s addition to our family has been quite rewarding. Now let’s see how much longer these five kids can stay entertained by a turtle before having to move onto a more versatile and responsive pet.