People often equate at least part of their identity to a being not born of their gene pool nor a contributor to that pool. These beings do not actually share the same genes at all and in fact are not even human. This does not, however, prevent us from loving them anyway. We dedicate a large part of our lives to their upkeep and well being, we fawn over them, mourn their loss and celebrate their accomplishments. Some people even prefer their company to that of other human beings. Pets are that significant to society, family and individual health. I have had several pets of different species through the years, and have several now.
Some people consider themselves Dog people and others Cat people. I have a dog. His name is Baron. He’s great and I love him, but he is not the only pet I have. I have always been a fish person. I have maintained aquariums since I was 16 and—aside from a period of about five years or so—I have always had at least one tank stocked and running in the house. At one time, I had like 7 or so, but let’s not delve into my psyche just yet. I also have one other pet that lives in a new tank.
When I was in the Army during my first tour in Germany, I had a tank of tropical fish while I lived in the barracks. At one point in my assignment there, I spent about four months TDY in the states and my roommates had to care for the tank. When I got back, the whole battalion was in the throes of an IG inspection, everything was scrubbed and shined and the individual areas were dress-right-dress with little index cards identifying each soldiers living area. They made one for my bunk and my wall locker that said “Medical Platoon” and had my name and they even made one for the fish tank that said “Medical Platoon Swim Team”
While I chuckled at the sign, I noticed that my fish had been replaced and that there was a new occupant in the tank. A small red-eared slider turtle was swimming alongside the platys and gouramis. I would find out that my roommates had allowed my fish to perish and replaced them, and they had also bought themselves a couple of turtles and a bowl. The bowl broke and one of the turtles escaped so they put the remaining turtle into my tank. I adopted this newcomer and took care of him and grew so attached to him that I couldn’t leave him behind. He came back to the states with me when I PCS’d and lived with me for three more years while I was stationed in Georgia.
When I got orders to go back to Germany, I fully intended to bring him back with me, but in the rush to the airport, he was left behind. My sister then adopted him and took care of him for me. She refused to give him back when I moved back to Texas. He lived with her until his death three years ago. By my reckoning, he was about 20 years old.
Before he died, though, I already had another one. Turtle II was also a red-eared slider that a co-worker and I found in a utility easement near a customer’s back yard about 6 years ago. He was a small one and he rode in a Styrofoam cup in my truck for the rest of the day. I found a small plastic tote to make his home and he lived there for a couple of years as he grew. I had to get him a larger home once he got too big. I figured he needed an aquarium, but I didn’t have one at the time.
Turtle stayed in a plastic box with some stones to bask upon for a while, but in the back of my mind I knew I needed a new home for him. When my sister passed away, she left me her fish tank. I brought it home last year and it sat waiting for me to set it up for Turtle and this weekend, I finally did it. I found a filter and a bridge for him to bask upon and got some nice gravel and decorations for the tank. And if you don’t know, setting up fish tanks (or turtle tanks for that matter) is not a cheap prospect.
Turtle loves his new home. He spent the better part of the morning cleaning his shell on the rocks and climbing across the bridge. He would climb up, walk across the bridge, turn around and walk back. He would pause and stretch for a while here and there. He swam under the bridge, took some leisurely sips of water and just generally enjoyed his new home. His activity level has gone off the scale. I don’t think I have ever seen a pet take to his new home like Turtle.