The boys found a baby turtle one day. Wild Animal Rule #1 in our house: If you catch it today, you have to release it tomorrow. Wild Animal Rule #2: Rule # 1 doesn’t include snakes.
They made a nest in a critter box, looked up what to feed the 1-2 inch little fella, and watched him. The next day, they bravely took the turtle outside for release. You’d thought they’d given birth to the little guy, but, as they say, “they sucked it up and were tough.”
Until they came screaming and crying through the house 5 minutes later, two boys 4 and 7, inconsolable, crying, “He killed it. He killed it. He bit his head off.”
You can’t imagine the relief I felt when I sorted out the situation and discovered the most important factor: Neither boy bit the head off the turtle. The dog did.
You know when someone says you were the calm in the storm? Well, that was me. I looked over the turtle. Yes, I had to touch it, pick it up, study it. I looked in the hole where the head should have been, and dog gone, I didn’t see anything. I couldn’t tell if something had be nipped off. . . or if it had just pulled it head back in real tight when the dog picked it up to . . . eat it? Play with it? Like a game of ball except with a turtle?
They were still sobbing, sniffling, moaning. I stood their, thinking about how to bring order out of the chaos of turtle murder. The mommy in me so wanted to fix this. I really didn’t want to explain death then.
I sent the boys upstairs to play. I kept the poor turtle, put him in his box, hoping that the dog didn’t really bite its head off, hoping beyond hope that the turtle only had the heebeegeebees scared out of it, and once quiet reigned, calm restored, it would pop its head out.
After 30 minutes of kitchen work, I checked the turtle. Relief oozed. An imaginary neon sign blinked over my head, “Totally Brilliant Mom: Smarter than a Second Grader.”
The boys cheered. They had literally pulled the tiny turtle from the jaws of death—Copper’s drooling jaws. Death had been cheated; I didn’t’ have to explain that today. The turtle now had a head.
A new tactic for release was tried. The seven year old distracted Copper in the front yard, while the 4 year old successfully released our little turtle with a full head in the woods out back.
I don’t think I’ve felt so brilliant since!