I'm something of an animal expert in my family. While all five of us have bleeding hearts when it comes to animals, my parents and brothers know that I'm unmatched in the lengths to which I will go to for all varieties of critters. Therefore, whenever they have an animal emergency, which is more often than you'd think, I'm the person to call.
So, I wasn't very surprised when my brother called me at 12:30 AM on Thursday.
He had turtles.
He'd picked up a package from the concierge at midnight. There were turtles in the package, a baby red ear slider and a baby yellow belly. They came in little plastic containers, which prompted me to launch into a conversation with him about the cruelties of the animal commodity market, in which animals are transported like inanimate objects. How the hell would these animal retailers like it if I tied them up, threw them in a box and mailed them out, I asked angrily. Asshole bastards.
But he had turtles. And he wasn't expecting turtles. And although he was relieved that the poor little guys ended up with someone who gave a crap about animal welfare, he was now semi-freaking out and wanted my advice. I asked him to explain to me how he came to receive a delivery of turtles in the first place. This is how it happened: He'd been turtle-sitting for someone over the weekend. While turtle-sitting, he'd mentioned to a friend that he might, someday, want turtles of his own. Believing that pet turtles would be the perfect birthday present (my brother's birthday is tomorrow), his friend decided to order him a surprise pair online.* He explained to me that the turtles appeared traumatized.
What are you going to do? I asked him.
I don't know! he responded.
Oh my GOD! You have turtles! Where are the turtles now? I asked him.
I put them in a plastic bowl of water, he told me.
Oh my GOD! I exclaimed.
What?! he asked, panicked.
I'm just wondering what the HELL you're going to do?
I DON'T know! That's why I'm calling YOU!
Okay, let's calm down, I said, trying to calm down. You're going to buy an aquarium tomorrow. You're also going to buy a filter, a water heater, a heating lamp with a UVA/UVB light bulb, a ramp that they can sit on, a cave that they can hide in, large pebbles for the aquarium. (Note to the reader: I did my research to see if the turtles my brother was watching over the weekend were being properly taken care of by their owners, so I knew a thing or two about caring for turtles at this point). For now, google both species to determine if they can even live together.
Okay. He googled.
If one of the turtles is a girl, you should call her Regina, for Regina Spektor, I advised.
I'm not naming my turtle Regina Spektor. They're my turtles. I'm going to name them, he said. OH MY GOD!
Oh my God! What?
The red ear slider grows to 7-12 inches and the yellow belly can grow to 10-12 inches. These sure aren't the illegal miniature Chinatown turtles I was watching**
OH...MY...GOD. I said. You have giant turtles. They'll surely outgrow their aquariums! WHAT are we going to do? Do you want me to start researching turtle rescue groups?
I'm not calling my turtles Regina Spektor and I'm not going to give them away, especially not after all they've been through, he said. Even if they are ginormous.
You have to think about this very carefully. OH MY GOD! Do you realize what a huge responsibility this is? They live like 50 years. I paused. They're gonna be FAMILY.
I know! But I'm not naming any one of them Regina!
Fine. Just don’t call them Pokey or Sparkles or anything. Give them proper names like Robert and Sandra. I’ve always liked Olivia.
Fine, he said. I have to buy an aquarium first though!
Oh my God! You have ginormous turtles! I hope you know what you're getting yourself into, I said.
Well, that's why I have you, St. Francis.
So now we have turtles.
*Animals are not sweaters or tickets to the Regina Spektor show. They should NEVER be given away as gifts! Animal adoption is a huge responsibility that the adopter needs to consider carefully before undertaking.
**Chinatown is teeming with folks selling miniature baby turtles in conditions that are deadly for the turtles and hazardous to the health of the ill-informed people who end up buying them. Don’t support turtle sellers who are trying to make a quick buck at the expense of helpless creatures!