It is winter now. Oogway is sitting on my lap, snug and comfy, looking around while I work.
Our daily routine starts with a greeting around 8am or so, after I’ve come back from my morning workout. I call out to Oogway as I approach his terrarium. Most days, he is already waiting, face plastered against the transparent wall, looking out for me.
We engage in a bit of conversation (me speaking in a gurgly baby voice; Oogway thinking, “What is wrong with this person?”).
After I clean up and grab a bite to eat, Oogway gets breakfast. Then it’s over to his play area, which—during the cold season—is made turtle-friendly with the help of a space heater.
It’s been a little over 2.5 years now since Oogway came to stay with us. Among other things, I’ve learned that there are three seasons as far as this little Mauremys reevesii pond turtle is concerned.
Space heater season, which is now.
Pocket season—spring and autumn in human terms—during which Oogway prefers to spend as much time as possible inside one of my pockets, particularly the front pocket of a sweatshirt. He pokes his head out to assess our surroundings, then ducks back inside for warmth. In short, I serve as a turtle taxi.
And finally, the Cretaceous, which is when it’s warm and sunny outside, ideal conditions for an active young turtle with seemingly boundless energy to romp and roam. Oogway charges down paths, clambers up rocks and forges through greenery like a mini-velociraptor on a mission.
To give you an idea for how active this little turtle can be, here is a video of Oogway doing a flyby:
This is, believe it or not, not that fast. Oogway can crank out say 20% or so greater speed when the mood strikes. He can also execute even more rapid short-distance sprints which defy belief. Turtles = slow. This one, not so much.
Oogway has manifested new, interesting behaviour in recent months. This might be due to increasing comfort with humans (mainly me). It could also be a part of growing up. I’m not sure.
One is that he speaks. Or rather, he makes a sound that is somewhere between a squeek, a squawk and an ack. I have been trying to figure out why Oogway does this, but to date, there seems to be no obvious correlation between situation and sound.
During the transition between the Cretaceous and pocket season, I put Oogway out on a balcony area in the afternoons. There is plenty of sunlight, also some spots for him to hide if he wants.
My habit was to sit with him for 30 minutes or so before sunset, then pick him up to bring him inside.
One day, on a whim, I did not pick him up. I held out my hand. This is what happened:
I did not have my phone with me at the time. To be certain that this behaviour was not a fluke, I put Oogway down at the far end of the balcony, grabbed my phone, and placed my hand on the floor again. Sure enough, he ambled over and climbed aboard. This became a regular thing between us.
Some time later, I was so absorbed in work that it grew dark before I realised it. Even with the flashlight on my iPhone, I couldn’t see Oogway. I searched every nook and cranny that he likes. No turtle.
When I eventually found him, Oogway was in the one place that I did not look—directly under the sliding door ledge, the place where I access the balcony. He was waiting for me. Thereafter, well into pocket season, each time that I wasn’t able to get to him before dark, Oogway would walk to the same place to wait for his ride.
Here is a photo from an overcast day during pocket season, when it was yucky and grey outside. Oogway had re-purposed an old slipper as a recreational zone. Ambient illumination was horrible, so I played with lighting. We both had fun. Oogway was kind enough to pose just as I dialed-in the correct settings.
One unexpected consequence of caring for a turtle is the increased need for laundry detergent. Oogway likes to poop on me. I think it’s because my body heat stimulates his metabolism, but Oogway seems to poop on me more than on anyone else. Of course, it could just be that I spend the most time with him.
Which reminds me of a funny story. There was a day when I walked over to say something to my wife, Oogway perched on my hand. The instant that she said, “Don’t bring the turtle here!” Oogway let loose a torrential stream of pee that slammed into my body, ricocheted and splatter-soaked my wife. We stared in disbelief. Speechless. To say that the liquid-to-turtle ratio was disproportionate would be quite the understatement.
That stunt got us banished from the room for a considerable interval of time, probably because we both giggled (OK, maybe it was just me), but it was so totally worth it. I occasionally bring up the Pee Pee Incident of 2020 during conversation, which gets us both banished from the room once more (yup, still worth it).
At just over 10cm shell length now, Oogway is getting big, in heft more than length necessarily.
Earlier in the year, it seemed to us that Oogway was maturing into a female turtle. Looking now though, we’re not so sure.
Oogway will be three in May next year. By then, Oogway’s gender should be clear. For the time being, I am still referring to Oogway as a he, but that’s more for convenience than anything else. Male or female—this little turtle is a terrific companion, full of personality and surprises.
To wrap-up, I’d like to share part of an email that I received from my friend Sophie:
“I was with my dad working on a clay dinosaur when I asked him about how his day was at work. He said he had a good day because he was working with a photographer he liked, Tony Wu…then he went on to mention that Tony had a pet turtle, Oogway, which I thought was awesome!
As our reptilian dinosaur was coming to life we were thinking of a name, and Oogway came to mind as the perfect one for this blue and purple stegosaurus!! Once we had finished sculpting Oogway we had some leftover clay, so I decided, in honour of Oogway the turtle, I would make a funny little turtle out of clay. (He had both a dinosaur named after him and a sculpture inspired by him!! Lucky Oogway)
Once I had finished the funny turtle, my dad pointed out how funny/ ironic it would be to call him Tony, so the positions are switched over, even though your Oogway is not a stegosaurus, but the tables are still turned!! And that’s the story of Oogway the stegosaurus and his pet turtle Tony.”
I present to you—together for the first time ever in public—Oogway the stegosaurus and his pet turtle Tony, created and photographed by Sophie:
Thank you so much Sophie, from the both of us! (Oogway has re-positioned himself and is now looking at the computer with me.)
Until 2021, wishing everyone happy holidays and a better year ahead.
Previous Posts about Oogway (in reverse chronological order)