Opinion: A shell of my pet-loving self

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Several evenings a week, the neighbors on our cul-de-sac gather with their dogs in the driveway across the street from us. There is Max, Pace, Gus, Louie, Ella, Dain and Lucy. These are the dogs’ names. I’m very bad with human names, but I know which dog belongs to whom. Occasionally, the group includes children and visiting grandchildren. Mary Ellen and I have no grandchildren and we no longer have a dog, but we do have a cat (Mary Ellen’s, really) who would not do well in these otherwise-civilized gatherings.

I needed a pet of my own. I called my friends Marty and John in New Palestine. Marty is a turtle whisperer who has been rehabbing turtles and enjoying them as pets for 20 years. Because she often relocates rescued turtles, Marty happily provided me with three red-eared sliders who would soon reside in the pond a few hundred yards from our house. I named them Stan, Ollie and Baby Huey. I carefully loaded them into the car and headed home. The neighbor kids met me at the water’s edge, giggling with delight (you can see a short video on my Facebook page).

Once a day (sometimes twice) … OK, occasionally three times, I visit my turtles and spread joy (or whatever is in that can of food Marty gave me) across the pond. Red-eared sliders don’t need to surface for air very often, which means that I sometimes have to stand on the shore for 90 minutes scanning the water to confirm that all three of my adoptees are OK. I eagerly wait for each head to pop up, then toss more food in that direction. I whistle when I feed them, hoping they will connect my signal with their nourishment. The neighbors can probably see me from their deck, and I’m sure it appears to them like I am looking at my reflection in the water and then whistling at the image. Not true. I am retired from TV and am no longer that narcissistic.

I’m excited about another new addition to my family. While driving home the other day, I saw in the road a turtle about the size of a dinner plate, and he was clearly in danger of being squashed by the next oncoming vehicle. I swerved onto a side street, dashed from my car, scooped him up and deposited him on my front seat. I named him Buster, after my favorite silent star, Buster Keaton. I don’t think he’ll ever say much.

Now, I have four new pets. Of course, turtles cannot join us for our evening puppy parties, but I know they are happy swimming in the pond behind our neighbors’ house. I forget our neighbors’ names, but their dog’s name is Chewy.


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