Oogway is Six

Time flies.

One minute, I stumble across a dehydrated baby turtle on the road, the next thing I know, she's a headstrong six-year old with a penchant for soft, snuggly spaces—especially during pocket season, aka winter.

mauremys reevesii turtle oogway
The first time Oogway accepted her teddy-bear foot warmer

That's a foot warmer. Apparently, you stick your feet into the pocket to keep them warm. I never even knew such cute creature comforts existed. But they do, in Japan at least.

Uninformed as I was, my immediate thought (blurted out at high volume in public) upon seeing said plush pocket in a shopping mall was, "It's a turtle warmer!" much to the embarassment of the person accompanying me (though if you think about, she really should be accustomed/ inured/ immune to my nonsense by now).

Rushing home, I immediately introduced Oogway to her new fuzzy friend. 

One thing about Oogway is that she takes her time to evaluate new things in her life. There is an initial period of benign neglect, when she kinda ignores the existence of whatever the new thing is. This is followed by a period of probing, when she engages in occasional interaction. Finally comes acceptance, when she decides she likes whatever it is and figures out how to fit it into her life. Turtles don't rush into things.

So it came as no surprise to me that she kept her distance in the beginning.

Based on experience, I thought it might take a month or so before she accepted fozzy bear. It took about two weeks. The photo above shows the very first time she made use of the pocket. As you can see though, she hadn't quite yet worked out that it might be better to do a 180 to keep her rear end covered and her head facing outward.

Baby steps.

A few days later, with plenty of coaching and encouragement from me (Yes, I talk with my turtle. I know she appreciates it.), Oogway got the hang of it.

oogway in cute foot warmer
The first time Oogway figured out the optimal configuration

For her first five winters, Oogway spent much of her life in my pocket. Specifically, the front pocket of my hoodies, the kind you can stick both hands into. She'd sleep inside while I read or worked; go on trips with me as I walked around the house; peek her head out from one side or the other to survey her domain. I felt like a momma marsupial, but this worked well when she was small.

This past winter, Oogway still wanted to spend time in her winter-home-with-central-heating, but she was getting just a tad too big. She still fit, but there wasn't much room for her to move around. It was also difficult for me to walk around with such a hefty passenger. She's bulked up a lot.

So Oogway would look at me and make squeaky sounds, using her command of The Force to guilt-trip me into putting her in my pocket. She ended up splitting her time maybe 60/40 between the bear and me, because her Jedi mind tricks often worked.

Speaking of sounds...a year ago I wrote about Oogway's ability to talk, meaning that she makes sounds to communicate. At the time, I had worked out what I thought were the meaning/ context of two sounds: high-pitched squeak for happiness; short staccato burst for frustration.

Since then, my ear for Oogway's sounds has improved. She makes at least three distinct sounds. In addition to the two that I described in my blog post from last year, there is another staccato sound, one that is less harsh that the one I previously described. It seems to be a neutral sound, with no particularly negative or positive connotation, almost like making small talk. She may have made this sound all along. Perhaps my ear was not sufficiently tuned previously. It's obvious to me now.

One day in April, Oogway wandered over to a spot under my desk. She has grown big enough that I can let her be a free-range turtle in the room, because she can't hide in tiny crevices anymore. The only danger is a potential bathroom accident. At that stage, she had not eaten in several days (she has periods like this from time to time), so the risk of an inadvertent hazmat situation was low.*

She started to talk. This was normal. 

The unusual thing is that she didn't stop. She just kept talking and talking and talking, like I've never heard her do before. For about three hours. It was not constant chatter like humans would engage in. She'd make a sound, and maybe 3 to 10 seconds later, make another sound, and so forth.

This is her making the small-talk sound:

And this is me talking to her, followed by her speaking to me.

It wasn't my best pond-turtle imitation. I was reaching down with my phone after it finally occurred to me that I should maybe try to record our discussion. My awkward body position affected my enunciation. But you get the idea. We really do chat.

We carried on like this for at least an hour, likely closer to two. I researched marine life and edited images. Oogway contemplated life.

As winter drew to a close this year, we received a whisper of snow, covering the neighborhood in a thin blanket of white by dawn.

oogway with snow in the background
Oogway with snow in the background

For a moment I considered taking Oogway out into the snow, but I decided against it. I'm sure she would've been ok, but pond turtles aren't really meant for such conditions. Instead, we held her up high enough for her to see outside. You can see how big she is now, getting to be unwieldy for one hand.

The seasons have changed. We are into well into spring, almost summer. Oogway spends many days outside.

She is a big girl now. She laid her first egg on 15 May. Sort of. The egg is not properly shaped. I think that's normal. She is still growing into it. There was a splotch of what appeared to be bird poop on the balcony three days earlier, so that may have been a precursor. Female turtles like Oogway make and lay eggs irrespective of whether they've mated or not. No boys have been around her, so this is just a natural part of her growing up. I was away at the time, photographing other animals producing eggs, so I did not witness Oogway's first egg. We've kept it. If it survives the rest of the year, perhaps I'll have time later to photograph it. We will be constructing a proper egg-laying area for her this weekened, so she has some privacy and appropriate substrate when she needs it next.

I may have mentioned this in the past, but she remembers everything she's ever learned or figured out, like how to open the screen door (which she worked out all by herself).

To mark the sixth anniversary of the day Oogway joined the family, I'll leave you with this short video clip of her coming home after a long day chilling in the sun.

* As an aside, the effluent: body mass ratio of this turtle sometimes seems to exceed 1:1. This can have comical results, such as when she pees like Niagara Falls to express irritation at having to come inside early. It can be a humongous mess if she lets loose when she's indoors.

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