It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Nature is not a delicate flower

The snapping turtles are coming up from the river, looking for places to nest. They do this every year. They lay eggs on the verge of roads, in the playground sandbox, beside a busy footpath, in the middle of the bicycle path. How even a few eggs survive to continue the species is beyond me. But they’re here every year. Every morning when I walk the dogs, there are a few, here and there.

Indie finally noticed one this morning.

You can see the curiosity, caution, and confusion.

What IS that thing?
What is it doing?
Can I eat it?
Can it eat me?
Do I need to be afraid of it?
What’s it for?

And the obvious solution to a dilemma like this, is to BARK AT IT!!!

bark-bark-bark-bark WHAT ARE YOU?
bark-bark-bark-barkWHERE ARE YOU GOING?
bark-bark-bark-barkWHAT ARE YOU?
bark-bark-bark-barkARE YOU DANGEROUS?
bark-bark-bark-barkWHAT ARE YOU?
bark-bark-bark-barkARE YOU EDIBLE?
bark-bark-bark-barkWHAT, WHAT, WHAT ARE YOU????

This from a dog who barks maybe twice a week. Maybe.

Still, she was keeping a cautious distance from the turtle. The puppy I kept with me, as I continued my walk around the park. Indie would bark a bit, charge around the park, and then go back to THAT WEIRD THING to bark some more, from a suitably safe distance. The turtle’s not being harmed, the dogs are safe, we’re a long distance from any homes which might be annoyed by the ruckus. No harm done, I figure.

Some might differ.

A woman approaches, frowning.

“That’s got to be stressing the turtle out.”

A snapping turtle… stressed? Okay, so stress is a physiological thing and perhaps it is having a physiological response to the dog. I don’t know. It’s certainly not giving any indication of even being aware of the dog.

But stress? As in psychological distress? She’s anthropomorphizing an amphibian. Not quite reptilian, but close. Have you ever looked at a snapping turtle? Those things are primordial. It doesn’t have a psyche to distress.

Only a city girl would look at a snapping turtle and see “poor delicate expectant momma, all stressed ooooout”. Okay, then, city girl. If it’s stressed, pick it up and cuddle it, soothe it back to an unstressed state. I dare you.

“I dunno,” I say. “Do snapping turtles feel stress?”

“Well, she’s looking for a place to lay her eggs!” Harrumph. Guess that puts me in my place.

She proceeds without giving me opportunity to respond. Not that I intended to. I’m amused, not irked, and I grin at her receding back. A fellow dog-walker pulls alongside me, also grinning. Evidently we’re sympatico.

I shrug. “Seems to me that even if she is stressed, it’ll teach her this is a bad place to lay eggs.”

At that he laughs outright. “I don’t think those things can learn. Where our cottage is, you get dozens of those things. One morning we hit one with our car. Really big one.” He gestures a good metre across. “We didn’t run over it, but we dinged it with the bumper and just drove it into the dirt. Ground her right down. We got out to make sure she wasn’t injured. She took another five steps, stopped right there in the road, a foot from where she’d just been hit by a car, and started laying her eggs.”

Well. Exactly.

An animal that can be unfazed by a hit-and-not-run is not going to be “stressed” by a bit of noise.

Nature. Red in tooth and claw, people, red in tooth and claw.

June 17, 2011 - Posted by | random and odd | , ,


  1. I love all of the blog posts Mary! It’s like something to look forward to every morning 🙂 Obviously the turtle didn’t find Indie threatening because it didn’t go in its shell. For all we know it’s mocking him! “Yeah, yeah , yeah buddy! You’re all bark and no bite! Come a little closer and I’lll show ya bite!” Who knows….

    I wondered about that, but recalled having read somewhere that they can’t retract into their shells, so I did a little research. Turns out that vague memory was correct. Most other turtles can pull into their shells, but not snappers. You know what I also found out? They make up for this by being really aggressive. I think you’re right. That turtle, if she noticed Indie at all, was indeed mocking her. “You want a piece of me, stupid dog? Just try me!” 🙂

    Comment by jess | June 17, 2011 | Reply

  2. Apropos of nothing, but your description of Indie’s reaction reminded me of one of the funniest dog stories I’ve ever come across. Here it is, just in case you haven’t seen it —

    Ha! I love her dog posts. I’d seen that one, but it’s been a while. Thanks for the reminder.

    Comment by argo0 | June 17, 2011 | Reply

  3. LOL! I’m sitting here imagining a turtle grabbing some Prozac… made my day!

    Reaching for the Prozac with a shaking hand… er… flipper, the other one held to its fevered brow. Poor delicate thing.

    Comment by Gillian | June 17, 2011 | Reply

  4. Yeah, you know, if I was walking around with armour on, and I was famous for my ability to bite you, I wouldn’t stress over much.

    Well, exactly. I suspect porcupines have the same attitude. I got the distinct impression the turtle didn’t even register the dog’s presence (that’s how ‘stressed’ she was) but even if she did notice my dopey dog, I’m thinking the only thing that would be stressing her was Indie’s refusal to get close enough to bite, dammit!

    Comment by IfByYes | June 17, 2011 | Reply

  5. Ha my dog would have done the same thing, bark but not get close enough for it to snap at her.

    Comment by Melissa V | June 18, 2011 | Reply

  6. Turtles actually aren’t amphibians — they are indeed reptiles.

    They’re like rocks with flippers.

    Comment by L. | June 28, 2011 | Reply

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