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Shelly the Box Turtle

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Shelly's favorite food EVER. 

My life's gotten ahead of me again. Something about the combination of ceaseless travel, an eight-day power outage, storm damage and Phoebe's Sweet 16 birthday celebration has left me tumbling in its wake. It's also summer, and the photogenic and bloggable moments are coming so thick and fast I'm like a starving person at a buffet...I look at all the stuff and can't pick a single one dish I want. I want them all.

But there's this turtle who's demanding that I tell her story. Right now.

She came to me in 2008 as a yearling, a feisty little thing who was found just hatched in 2007 in a backyard garden on Fifth Street in Marietta.

Box turtles continue to amaze me. People take them out of their homes, find them on roads, figure that their shady backyard in the middle of town is a much better place for the turtle to live than that old woods they were in. People don't understand that box turtles are homebodies, that a suburban backyard is probably the worst place they could choose to "let the turtle go." A few trees and a mown lawn does not a habitat make.

So the turtle wanders, looking for something, anything that it recognizes. And somehow, right in the middle of town, expatriate turtles must find each other, mate, and lay eggs. And somehow this little turtle hatched in a garden.

She was found by a woman who caters food for Marietta College, and the caterer offered her lots of things, but the thing the little hatchling liked best was hard-boiled egg.



Through an article I'd written for the Marietta Times' Natural View supplement, a yearly tabloid-style compendium of natural history pieces in our hometown paper, the caterer found me and offered the little yearling turtle to me to raise.

That's a minimum three-year commitment of care. I took her on, intending to release her when she was big enough not to be eaten by a chipmunk. She'd need to weigh about half a pound, and have a nice hard shell.

In the meantime, the turtlet became friends with Phoebe. Who named her Shelly.


who took her outside for exercise and play.


  September, 2008. Shelly 1, Phoebe 12.


She was fearless.


Her diet improved, to include butternut squash


and earthworms, as well as mealworms and strawberries and melon and Repto-min aquatic turtle sticks, the staple for growing baby turtles quickly and well. Serve them in water, and the Brownian motion makes them look alive.

Three years go by with Shelly eating and growing and sleeping all winter in a cold tank in the basement. There is more to her story. There always is.

5 comments:

Yes, there always is...to a born story teller such as you, there's always more.

And your readers out here in the blogosphere wait breathlessly. Were it the late 1800s, and you writing somewhere in a far-off land, we your devoted readers would wait (as did Dickens' readers) for the next ship to come in with the latest installment.

Thank goodness for the speed of the Internet that not even 8 days without power can deter.

I love Shelly's bug eyed look and eager wide-open mouth as she went for that HUGE chunk of boiled egg. Num Num Nummmmm

I have a Q I hope you can answer in your posts about her. When box turtles are hand-raised like this, how do they recognize food when they are released -- safe places to live and all the other aspects of living life in the wild? Is it instinctive or are they given training before they are released? I'm looking forward to more about Shelly.

Oh I'm already in love! I want a turtle like Shelly resting on my chest, looking expectantly at my face.

3 yrs. with a box turtle!... gotta be a lot of stories there.
And somehow your posts are always magical; half expecting a series one day on rehabbing an orphaned unicorn.

Love that, waiting for a ship with Julie's words! We'll wait...xxxxooom

Posted by Anonymous July 21, 2012 at 8:05 PM
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