It's National Pet Day!
For today - a Short Chapter from "Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption (Outskirts Press 2015).
Chapter 22 - Free Willy
My family always seemed to have a dog around the house. Some were rescue dogs, and one was purebred, obtained from a reputable breeder. After I moved out, Dad got a little rescue mutt of unknown origin that resembled a mop but was the sweetest, smartest little thing.
After I got married and had moved far away from home I had a dog or two, though being on the road so much they were less mine and more my large extended family’s. These dogs migrated between our farmhouse and my husband's
One of the dogs was a Lab, a hunting dog who lived for ducks and ponds. I’d have preferred he not do that: there were gators further to the south, and large snapping turtles lurking in the water could do some serious
damage to an animal. The one dog that had no desire to get anywhere near the water was Sammy, our rescued Husky.
Sammy wasn't a hunting dog, he was a shedding dog. I once got so much hair off him in one brushing that I filled up a large trash bag with it. I later found it taped it to the steering wheel of our old Buick with the
note “driver’s side hair bag
But one thing Sammy would retrieve, and constantly: turtles. Box turtles, to be precise. I wasn’t sure where he got them, but figured probably from around the pond in the back. At least once or twice a month he'd
be at the back door with a box turtle in his mouth, unharmed, waiting for a treat because of this great gift he had brought me. Box turtles have a movable hinge on their lower shell that allows them to retract inside their armor and then completely close up leaving no flesh exposed; but I was afraid Sammy’s sharp teeth might still do some damage. So I'd gently take the turtle from him and go out to the back field to let it go.
But one day he kept going back and back and bringing me the same turtle. I was afraid he'd hurt it, so the last time, I decided to just take the turtle back to his home, where the dog couldn't get him. I walked out back, the turtle cradled motionless in my hands as if he were made of glass. The sun was high and hot, contemplating us sleepily like a large somnolent yellow cat, and I could smell the water. As I
got to the water’s edge, I lobbed him out into the center of the pond.
Time almost stopped as he hung there for a moment, motionless and without physical weight, then finally giving over to time and gravity and descending in a perfect arc into the center of the deep pond.
His shell closed up, he sank to the bottom like a stone, and with a few air bubbles he was free.
I got home that night and my brother-in-law came over on a tractor, and I told him what I had done. He started laughing so hard he cried.
Apparently box turtles are land turtles, and though they might gently paddle a bit in a shallow warm snippet of water, swimming up from a dive to the depths was not in their repertoire.
I sent Mr. Turtle to his doom.
I felt terrible but hoped he at least enjoyed the brief flight.
I couldn’t fault Sammy. He was just trying to please his human mom. Adopting him had been a good thing to do when I found him at a shelter as he helped take away some of the quietness of the house. I’d been
unable to conceive again, and the quiet in the house was sometimes unbearable until broken by a joyous bark. Sammy didn’t make up for the quiet, but he was still a balm to my spirit, one of those souls we bring into our lives for a reason that is often not obvious at the time.