Three years + a couple of days ago, this little turtle dropped into my life.
Literally from the sky, onto a hot asphalt road, probably airmailed by a crow.
The descriptor “little” is relative of course. Little back then looked a lot different than it does now:
It’s not a precise comparison. The photo angles differ just enough to make alignment imperfect, but it’s close enough.
She’s grown from a truly little turtle into a big little turtle.
Yes, I just referred to Oogway as she, because I can now share that Master Oogway is actually Ms Oogway!
For those of you conversant with the secrets of pond turtles, here is a close-up of the relevant area:
As I have learned from hours of reading forum posts, watching videos online and staring at anatomical diagrams, the position of the cloaca is the distinguishing feature. Closer to/ within the border of the shell = female; closer to the tip of the tail = male.
When these pond turtles are smaller, it is difficult to determine gender with certainty because proportions and positions shift as they grow. Somewhere around the second anniversary of Oogway’s unexpected appearance, it started to look as if she was a she, but given my limited experience with these things (exactly zero), I was never quite sure. So I opted to wait and see.
Oogway is about 11cm in shell length now, not much longer than a year ago, but she’s filled out a lot and has grown substantially in heft. It does not seem that the shape and layout of her body will change much going forward, certainly not to the extent that such things did in the early months.
Making the call now is a safe bet I think.
Trying to figure out Oogway’s gender had been a head-scratcher for some time. Not that it makes any difference to how important she is to us, but because there might be certain implications—the most important being that female Reeve’s turtles (Mauremys reevesii) are prone to lay eggs whether there is a male around or not.
I've read that not having a proper place to do so may affect the turtle’s wellbeing. Knowing that Oogway is female means that I will need to read/ study more about this topic to gain a better understanding, and plan/ prepare as necessary.
Perhaps the most incredible part of our journey together to date is observing her emergent behaviour and intelligence.
You’d expect a puppy or kitten, for instance, to like warm fluffy places, but a turtle?
Early on, Oogway discovered the entrance to one of my front sweatshirt pockets during a play session (i.e., while using me as a jungle gym), and from that point forward, my pockets became her default parking areas, especially in colder months, because my pockets featured central belly heating.
This wasn’t an issue when she was teeny-tiny. But as she's grown, it has become increasingly more cumbersome to walk around with a turtle protruding from my abdomen. (Not a sentence I ever imagined writing.) Necessity being the mother of invention as the folk wisdom goes, we found—through a process of trial-and-error—substitute pockets that she liked, ones not attached to me.
That gave her a happy place and provided me with the freedom to function without worrying about jettisoning a turtle from my mid-section. A classic inter-species win-win if ever there was one.
The picture above shows her happily ensconced in her favourite such pocket this past January, totally chilled.
By chance, I met a prominent veterinarian who specialises in turtles. When I showed him the above iPhone snapshot, his immediate reaction was—I quote—“This turtle has no stress in its life.”
Oogway has also demonstrated a particular fondness for a specific soft blanket. It’s brown on one side, yellow on the other. I’m not sure what we ever used the blanket for, but as it turns out, it ended up being the perfect turtle comforter.
From this big little turtle’s perspective, favorite fluff pocket nuzzled inside absolute bestest blanket = snuggle paradise.
We had an unseasonably warm day in late February. It was sunny. The temperature hit the mid 20ºs Celsius. So naturally, Oogway went out on the balcony to play.
Remember the video from summer 2020 that I shared in my previous post about Oogway? It showed her coming to my hand when she was ready to go back inside after a day of outdoor recreation. Come late afternoon that day in February, I sat at the entrance of the balcony, spoke to Oogway, placed my hand on the floor. She looked at me, thought for a couple of seconds, then walked over to my hand and climbed aboard.
I was blown away. It was surprising enough that she had decided upon this behaviour during the previous summer, but the fact that she remembered after many months of not having been outside seemed incredible.
It’s getting warmer now. And yup, she does this every single time, provided she’s done for the day and wants to go inside. She has a way of looking at me. I know if she’s ready or not. If she still wants to play outdoors, there’s no point waiting. If she’s ready, I sit, put my hand down. She climbs aboard. We go inside together.
After three years, she has me well-trained.
We’ve been able to visit a local park together once so far this spring.
On most days though, Oogway spends her time on the balcony (where she now has a custom-made pool/ sunning area), or I take her for walks on the road outside (uhuh, people still stare, but at least my immediate neighbors now know that I’m talking to a turtle, not to myself, much to their relief).
One of the other great things about this turtle is that she can seemingly entertain herself anywhere, with anything.
Yes, she did that all by herself. I am not always present to see what she gets up to, but in this instance, she donned the slipper in front of me, and kindly stayed still while I rummaged through camera gear to get what I needed to capture the Kodak moment.
This fabulous turtle, who plopped into my life three years ago, is the best unexpected friend ever.
Previous Posts about Oogway (in reverse chronological order)