I’ve posted about Shelvin, my pet Eastern Painted Turtle and friend for 34 years (yes, I’ve had him since I was 6), but I don’t think that I’ve ever gotten into our disturbing dynamic. I thought that I was training him, but no, he was training me.
34 is a venerable age in captivity for his species (they usually live to 25), but except for a short bout of shell rot 5 years ago, he’s been in great health. He’s also spoiled rotten. I feed him, but I wait until he sees me and gets excited. He swims to the edge of his tank and pecks on the glass. I have friends do this as well, so now he gives the impression that he likes people.
He does not like people. He doesn’t like being touched or held. It’s a miracle that he even tolerates this from me (when I clean his tank). It’s all a lie, an act to make me believe that he loves me. He doesn’t love me, he loves food.
A few years ago, he got smart. Now whenever I pass by, he gets all excited and pecks on the tank. I have memory problems (probably from a combination of my medicine and the half dozen concussions I’ve had at my job, teaching special ed is not for the spineless), so I don’t always remember if I fed him. Either way, I want to reinforce the fake love of people, so I feed him again.
I am manipulated. I am bamboozled. The reptile with a brain smaller than a marble has outwitted me. Oh what a fool am I!
Who cares? I still love him. If he wants to lead, I’ll follow.
ALL HAIL SHELVIN! I for one welcome our turtle overlords.
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