Springhouse Turtle

brown, yellow box turtle on green grass

My golden retriever was in the front yard one morning when he started barking his yapper off. I love my dog, but his hobby is barking, which my neighbors don’t appreciate, so I hustled outside to yell at him to shush (which never works). I found him standing over a rock in a corner of my garden barking like a crazed puppy. I moved closer and discovered the “rock” was a huge box turtle with gorgeous yellow and brown markings on its domed back. It had squeezed its head and limbs inside its shell and was waiting (anxiously, I’m sure) for my pooch to back off.

My dog weighs 70 pounds and is always hungry. He was nosing and pawing at the turtle while barking, so this was a nervous-making situation for me. I shrieked at my pup to move away, ran into the house, grabbed a sturdy woven plastic shopping bag and some rubber-coated gardening gloves, ran back outside and pushed the dog away while I picked up the turtle in my gloved hands and put it into the bag.

Now what? I ran to my neighbor’s house and banged on his door. Meanwhile, the turtle had poked its head and legs outside its shell and was using its large claws to climb up the inside of the shopping bag. I didn’t think my thin gardening gloves would hold if the turtle’s claws got to them, but I didn’t want to drop the bag for fear the turtle would escape back into my yard and my dog would clamp his formidable jaws around one of the turtle’s extremities.

Fortunately, my frantic banging brought my neighbor, a well-dressed, dapper gentleman, out of his house, barefoot and disheveled (it was early). I showed him the turtle and asked where to find a safe refuge for the creature, away from the threat of canine consumption.

“Take him down to the springhouse!” he cried. Another neighbor had an old springhouse at the bottom of his property next to a pond, and no dogs, an ideal location for a turtle. I held on tight to the bag, which the turtle was desperate to escape, and ran as fast as I could to the springhouse, shaking the bag as I ran to get the turtle to release its claws and drop to the bottom. Stumbling through weeds and branches, the turtle halfway out of the bag, I arrived at the springhouse, lay the bag on its side a few feet from the water and watched as the turtle lumbered to freedom (this took a while). I waved goodbye, picked up the shopping bag and walked back home to my dog, who was waiting for me inside his wireless fence.

I was so impressed by that intrepid turtle, who had walked a long way to end up in my suburban front garden, that I named my blog after him. I’m kind of slow, like a turtle, but I keep going, and I don’t give up. I’m not afraid to stick my neck out either. I love spring, I love old houses, and I love turtles, so the name felt right.

Springhouse Turtle Eats