Dime store turtles, cheap, expendable & easily replaceable.
Your parents said a firm no to the irresistible bouncing puppies. The kittens barely received a glance as your parents guided you through the store, gently of course. The mere look from your elders when you glanced their way, snatched that growing request for a hamster/gerbil/guinea pig/rat/mouse or other small furry critter, right out of your head and off your tongue. Undaunted you move onwards pausing at the brightly coloured birds, as you start the speech for why they are the new perfect pet, said perfect pet starts to squawk, flap his wings spreading dusty feathers and rattling the cage. Moving on ... past the placid fish swimming lazily in quiet waters, they do not so much as hold an iota of your attention, much to your parents dismay.
But wait ... !
There! There it is. Your face literally glows with glee, sensing the elders impeding doom, they can't say no ... it is the perfect pet this time .. you stand grandly hand on hip and point "That" you simply state. A quiet, low maintenance, live in its own self cleaning environment, requires minimal amounts of time and effort. And if that doesn't sell your parents on the qualities of the turtle as a pet .. point out it is dirt cheap now and forever more.
In the 1970s and the early 1980s the red earred slider turtle or RES were literally a dime a dozen, pet stores had tubs full of them. When you peeked in the tub, packed stacks of brightly coloured greens with the wide curious eyes of miniature turtles looking utterly adorable and based on their deplorable living conditions infested with salmonella, no doubt. It is genuinely no wonder that the red earred slider or pet store turtle became known as the dimestore turtle - cheap, expendable and easily replaceable.
I find a fair amount of people's present day attitudes about pet turtles stems from this time period of the non informed acting informed. When I look around for pet turtle related information, its mostly rehashed, cardboard cut out, years old information. This needs to change and its time to show the world, what pet turtles can be and are really like.
Cheap you say? Dirt Cheap!
I have owned turtles since I was knee-high, well hip high. I was seven years old when I got my first turtle. Benedict is his name (See picture), he has been living with me since mid teens. Yes he is alive and quite frankly looks like he stopped aging at eight years. I also have Dipstick, coming up on ten years of age now. Sam and Ella, say it fast ... did you catch it?, Sam and Ella are a pair of siblings that were in their early twenties when they came to me, they were the largest RES I ever encountered. I rehabilitated a common snapping turtle, that was fun, BamBam was his name and he is a story all unto himself.
When I first brought Ben with me to my new home just before college, I had everything worked out. The cost of food and energy, time considerations, space requirements, cost of equipment and accessories and the list goes on. Being in college I tried many ways to lower the costs associated with his keeping and in my excitement, succeeded many times. As we are filling the 'cost savings success' tank with water, my 12 year old turtle traipsing back and forth with the bucket carriers looking rather excited for a turtle. I heard one bucket carrier blame another bucket carrier for spilling water, I cheerfully and optimistically yelled out "it happens, its fine, lets get back to fillin'".
As the last droplets of water hit the freshly filled tank, the oddest noise was heard, then everything happened in slow motion. A frost white crack made an appearance across the front of the tank, one bucket carrier stopped patting the back of the other even as his face registered something horrible about to happen, the other was mid turn on his heel yelling 'save the electronics' and I the saviour with arms outstretched as if I could hold back what was about to happen, the glass bulged and sunk in then bulged one last time before exploding outwards. The wave and force of water was surprising, it pushed me back, but this was a six foot long tank.
Not so cheap
Do I need to recap the damage such a disaster contained to a room or two of the house could cause. The cost of the clean up, repairs and replacements was astronomical, I apparently failed to include insurance costs for the also failed to plan for emergencies and mishaps. Even without this incident, the cost of a turtle is and can be quite high in comparison to other pets, overall.
Most people will buy a four or five inch turtle, a twenty or thirty gallon tank with some pebbles, plastic plants and an insufficient filter. Within a year, you are going to have to upgrade. Unfortunately that not-so-cute-almost-abusive wives tale about turtles growing to the size of their environment, is not true and you will need at minimum, ten gallons of water for one inch of turtle. If your only taking into account the turtle and not the decorations or other inhabitants, aka food ... then make that twenty to twenty five gallons per inch of turtle. When you upgrade a tank, you are going to have to upgrade the filter as well. The lights, heater, bubbler and possibly even the basking spot all need either upgrading or changing. You could help offset some of the cost of constantly upgrading, by going big the first time ... trust me, your new little turtle will love you if you give him a large tank. He won't drown, he's an aquatic turtle, remember.
All upgraded? Good, now the cost of food and we can't forget the cost of the little upkeep type things like light bulb and filter insert replacements. Unless your like me and live utility cost free, for the most part, energy costs need to be taken into consideration also. Your turtle can live a very very long time, I know of some pet turtles in their sixties now. You may have to buy a new tank after 10-15-20-30 years and with inflation ... yeah.
The turtle itself may be cheap, but the rest of it, is anything but cheap.
What do you mean .."he flashed me"
I have had Ben for a long time, longer than most family ... stop it, behave ... so when he started to have this brown organ like thing falling out from his tail, I was mightily alarmed and we rushed my boy off to the vet. He listened quite patiently, not a hint of a smile was present on his face, while I tearfully recounted the horrific details of this piece of his body that keeps 'falling out'. He plopped the turtle in water and told me to go see him or play with him, interact with him, and sure enough it happened. I pointed excitedly and looked at my vet "see, see .. there there".
I am quite positive I never heard him laugh that hard before. Doubled over, arms bracing his belly as if his organs were about to pop out, he laughed like a man possessed. On one side I have a turtle with his organ-like-falling-out-condition .. in and out, in and out the browny coloured bag or organ went, while I pointed at it and stared at the vet with the most confused expression ever written on my face.
The veterinarian straightened up took a deep shakey breath and rushed out the words "He is flashing you ..." before he broke into peals of laughter again "He likes you .. he is ..." its here he made the open and close gesture of a human flasher and his coat and it hit me what he was saying. "He's wiggling his weeney in joy for you".
Oh my ... best $50.00 the vet probably ever earned and the most embarrassing moment of my life and I had to pay for it too.
Have your say ...
Do you think turtles have personalities and characters unique to themselves?
Turtles as pets
Turtles and their habitats/tanks not only can make great additions to your house, they are great additions to your family as a childs pet or even better a household pet. Just be aware and informed, supervise young kids around the turtles and a tip ... RES are not slow movers, they can really shake a shell and hide entirely to well. Turtles have vibrant and unique personalities, they are full of surprises when given the chance, they are a little hard to resist and are quite good at worming themselves under your skin, they are also equally okay with being sat off to the side for a bit, they are independent like that.
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