Oogway Visits the Doctor

Oogway visited the doctor a few weeks ago. It was her first time.

Before I elaborate, let me jump to the conclusion and let you know that she is fine. There was no major problem. Just me being a worrywart, though not without reason…to say in my own defence.

The story I am about to relate is to explain this x-ray:

Mauremys reevesii turtle x ray
Oogway's first x-ray

My week of worry started a few days before I was to depart for the ocean again.

It was morning. The sun had just come up. The weather was good. The room was bright and warm. I had my gear strewn across the entire room, ideal for a turtle-romp.

I set Oogway down amongst my junk. She did as she always does. Extended her neck, surveyed her domain, soaked in the sun. She’ll often look at me while she cogitates. She did on this morning, then set about on her walk.

There was something odd about her gait. 

It didn’t really register in my conscious mind. Perhaps I had too much to think about, too much to do at the time. Rather, I felt it. I got the sense of being unbalanced or ill at ease, the feeling that burdens me when there is something wrong or unpleasant, like when a difficult decision needs to be made, or distressing news needs to be conveyed.

It wasn’t until an hour or two later that it hit me. 

Oogway’s front flippers were turned the wrong-way around.

It is difficult to describe in words, but think of it like this. When turtles walk normally, the palms (so to speak) of their hands and feet (so to speak) face downward, just like ours do when when get down and walk on all fours. (Take a look at my previous post about Oogway to see photos and video of what’s normal.)

But the palms of her front feet were turned upward, while the normally upturned backside of her flippers faced down. Sort of like how a female sea turtle looks when she drags herself up on the beach to lay eggs.

When I figured this out, let’s just say I freaked.

Oogway seemed ok. She continued to explore, to interact. There was no obvious sign of pain. Her front limbs seemed strong when I tested them. But still, this wasn’t normal.

I remembered that I had met one of Japan’s foremost turtle veterinarians a couple of years earlier. Turns out, he’s a diver. We chatted about turtles in between dives. When I showed him photos of Oogway, his immediate reaction was to smile and say, “There is no stress in this turtle’s life.”

A mutual friend sent him a message. He was busy, but asked me to call him at home that night. I did. I described the situation. He asked me to visit the next day.

And thus it was that Oogway experienced her first train outing. I lined a camera bag with her favourite sweatshirt (that once belonged to me), and off we went. She kept peeking out from the area where I had left the zipper open for air, so I had to nudge her back in every now and then, as nonchalantly as possible. She hadn’t paid for a ticket, after all.

We were the first at the doctor’s office. We beat the nurses there in fact. 

Once inside the examination room, I greeted the doctor, thanked him for taking my panicked call, explained the situation, and answered his questions. 

Oogway, in the meantime, had decided that she needed to explore. She climbed up and out of the bag, onto me, up my arm, onto my body, over to my other arm…you get the picture. I picked her up, stroked her shell and neck to calm her, placed her back into the bag. She climbed onto me again. I told her to stay still. She looked at me, continued to explore. The nurses giggled. Actually giggled.

I apologised to the doctor (who by this point was smirking) and asked if this normal. He said, and I quote, “No, entirely not normal,” while suppressing a laugh. Apparently, this species usually isn’t enthusiastic about being touched. I guess no one ever told Oogway.

At this point, I should make clear that I had more than one legitimate reason for being concerned.

Oogway is female. Females develop and lay eggs even if there are no boy turtles around. It’s just what they do. Sometimes things can go wrong. The eggs get stuck and cause problems.

This was my concern.

Oogway has just turned five. She is just about at the size and age when she could develop eggs. I thought that discomfort from eggs might be behind her flip-flopped flippers.

Sometimes you can feel eggs in the soft area just above the lower limbs if eggs are there, but it’s not a sure thing. I checked. The doctor checked. Nada. The only way to be sure—both about potential eggs and any possible problems—was to take an x-ray. 

Once the x-ray came out, the doctor was able to say without any doubt that Oogway is perfectly healthy. No eggs (that’s a drama for another day), and no problems with the limbs.

So what was the issue?

Though there was no way to be certain at the time, the doctor’s guess (after witnessing the climbing-all-over-Tony show), was that Oogway needed to spend more time in the water (vs on top of Tony). 

She’s getting bigger and heavier, so gravity is affecting her more than when she was tiny. In the wild, this species spend much of its time in the water, which supports body weight. Oogway dislikes being aquatic. She prefers being on land—on top of me or in my pocket if at all possible.

On doctor’s advice, Oogway has been spending more time in the water. Her front limbs are back to normal. We still manage to sneak-in turtle-Tony time.

Previous Posts about Oogway (in reverse chronological order)