Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I am sad to report that my turtle Fmung passed away on November 30th. Some of you might remember that he picked the winner of our second Campbell's Soup giveaway contest.
Yes, I know, he was just a freaking turtle, for crying out loud. A cold blooded animal with a tiny, primitive brain about the size of a mustard seed. As such, he was no more capable of feeling affection for me than he was of composing a sonata. Believe me, I am well aware of that. But, as any pet owner knows, none of that matters. Fmung is gone. There's an empty silent corner in the room where he used to dwell, and there's a fresh hole in my heart that won't be patched over in an instant.
My pets are my kids (largely because I am both unwilling and unable to have actual flesh monkeys...and I am perfectly happy with furry and/or reptilian kids, thank you very much), and like any pet parent, I had become attached to him. I admit turtles aren't much fun as far as pets go. They pass through a "cute" phase that lasts for a few months, and then they grow up to become...well, not quite so cute anymore. And I won't lie: Fmung's "cute" days were well behind him. His youthful playfulness and inquisitiveness (yes, baby turtles are both playful and inquisitive, believe it or not) fell by the wayside as he grew up, to be replaced with...well, with what one would expect of a reptile. In fact there's no nice way to put it -- as an adult he was just plain mean as hell. And no matter how clean you kept his tank, he always managed to smell bad. Nonetheless, he will be missed.
We got Fmung -- pronounced like the word "among," with an "f" sound in place of the "a" -- in Los Angeles's Chinatown many years ago. An old woman was selling baby turtles out of a tank on the sidewalk for a couple dollars apiece (no doubt illegally, but hey, that's Los Angeles), and he was both the smallest and the most hyper one in the tank. He was so young he still had his egg tooth, and so tiny that he was only the diameter of a U.S. half dollar coin. He was just too cute not to get. Yes, it was an impulse buy -- and not until we got to Petco a little later did we realize how much upkeep is involved in keeping the little guys healthy and happy. (A word to parents: if you are thinking of a low maintenance first pet for your kids, don't go turtle!)
He quickly became the most spoiled red eared slider in the San Fernando Valley. By the end of his first night he had the turtle version of a penthouse, complete with a large glass tank, plenty of water to swim in and a filter pump to keep the water sparkling clean, gravel and rocks to climb on, a lamp that mimicked sunlight, you name it. During his baby period -- before he became aggressive and developed a fierce bite, that is -- he was quite cute and loved to walk along your hand (and yes, because of the salmonella risk, you must wash up well immediately after). It was also fun watching him get bigger and keep outgrowing his tanks. He always loved to swim and climb on his rocks.
For a turtle he was quite the traveler. He made the cross country road trip from Los Angeles to Atlanta, and then back again years later. That is probably some kind of record for a turtle! He eventually grew to be as large as a salad plate. In his later years on a nice warm day he liked to go out on the balcony with us and run (well, maybe not quite run, but turtles can move faster on land than they get credit for) back and forth on the warm concrete (not to worry -- it's completely enclosed, and unless he could have learned to jump close to four feet straight up, he was in no danger of falling off) or just sit and bask in the sun.
Fmung, I hope you are in Turtle Heaven munching on all of your favorite foods. (He loved those little dried shrimps and worms -- specifically, live earthworms.) I hope that you have a nice big rock to bask in the sun on and lots of water to swim in, and that you now have more time to brush up on your ninja skills. Yes, you may have combined the warmth and charm of Rosie O'Donnell with the look of a green, reptilian Abe Vigoda. But that's OK. You were always loved and you are greatly missed.