Meet Boxy Sammy. He’s an Eastern Box Turtle. Last week while my atavistic son was honing his fire making skills in our driveway, he caught a glimpse of movement in our yard. He ran into the house, as excited as I have ever seen him, and I was certain that he had finally created fire from friction. In his mind it was even better–he had finally found a turtle on our property. He had been trying to lure one all summer with watermelon rind (a nature center employee told him it was a good strategy).
He was a stunning creature despite the fact that he was missing part of his right front leg and what remained was an open, horribly infected wound. I’ll spare you the details of how gruesome it was but suffice to say it needed more medical attention than I was qualified to give it (reptile medicine is not something I know much about, unfortunately).
While we contemplated and researched what could be done for our new friend, we were amazed at how well he could get around our yard on three legs. He would always head straight towards our newly built water feature and bask in the lowest pool, his head usually under the waterfall. Now those of you who aren’t animal lovers may not understand our affections towards this little guy, but we became quite attached and felt extremely responsible for his well being going forward. It became our mission to find him qualified care.
After a chain of phone calls to veterinarians who specialized in this sort of thing, I discovered the closest place to take him was the Asheboro Zoo, about a 3-1/2 hour drive from our home. Sunday morning, Buddy, Lou, and I drove out of the neighborhood with a stinky turtle in tow, headed towards the zoo’s veterinary center. The kids didn’t flinch when I told them it would be a 7-hour round trip drive in one day (Jones was never too interested in him and would not enjoy the adventure as much so we left him at home to have a fun day with L). They knew we’d get to visit the zoo for a few hours but they had been to three zoos this summer while we traversed the Midwest and weren’t nearly as excited about that as they were about Boxy finally receiving treatment and relief. Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time, even if you’re a box turtle.
|I had to chuckle when I saw that this center was probably largely funded by an M.D.–veterinarians don’t typically make enough money to do these sorts of things!|
We left him in the capable hands of the veterinary center and hoped for the best. I knew his injury was advanced enough that amputation was probably the only option for his survival and the staff told us they would want us to return for him and release him back on our property. We loved the thought of bringing him back home and sending him back out to do his turtle thing nearby. Boxy had developed quite a reputation by this point amongst some friends and family and I smile to think of how many people emailed or called to get updates after we left him.
Fast forward to today. Our story, sadly, does not have the happy ending I was hoping to share. When Boxy was anesthetized for surgery, the veterinarian discovered that his body wall had been compromised by the fly larvae (maggots) that had taken up residence. They had extensively invaded his lungs and other body tissues. They knew his prognosis for survival was very grim with these new findings and decided to euthanize him.
The kids (and if I’m being honest, myself) were heartbroken. While we knew we had saved him from a slow and painful death had we not found him, it still stung. I am so proud of my littles for their compassion and dedication to Boxy’s well being. Some of my most vivid memories of childhood are my parents always reaching out to a stray or wounded animal, and I am very grateful to see the DNA for that kind of compassion passed on to my babies.
Last week, my brother’s family’s young dog died tragically and suddenly with many questions as to what took her life. She was a beloved member of their family and from a distance I have grieved for them and their children.
I was reminded on two counts of how much of an impact animals, whether wild or domesticated, have on us and how their very existence can bring out the very best in us. My mother once wrote, “….we cannot hold fast to anything or anyone: It is all a gift. Life contains inevitable partings and inescapable pain. Leave takings, even the good ones, are hard when you love, whether a parent, mate, friend, animal, even a place or possession. We are alive in proportion to our response to love, and our pain in parting is in response to that love.” So true, so absolutely true.