Saturday, May 3, 2008

Let us now praise Minnie

It's coming up to an anniversary and I'm missing Minnie.
That's him, on the left, my Vietnamese tortoise who died last year. He was with my for over twenty years, and though I know it seems strange, I adored him. He was about 8" long and 4" wide and like all males, he had this gorgeous ring of orange around his eyes. He made clicking sounds when he was pissed off, which was about 70 percent of the time. He liked to walk around and his favorite toy was a rubber squid he liked to snap at.

By the way, it's a very bad idea to buy or sell turtles and tortoises, because they really belong in the wild, but I found Minnie in a pet store, jammed in a too small tank, and my then boyfriend and I decided we had to rescue him. (We promptly went on to rescue five more turtles. We used to let them roam around our Upper West Side apartment. One of the turtle's passions was to eat the lint off the small rug. )

Owning a reptile is very, very strange and wonderful. We took him to the Turtle Show in the Village where people showed off their reptiles, and in some really weird cases dressed them up (You can't imagine what it is like to see a turtle dressed as Zorro, complete with a little hat and cape. One person put a pink ballerina outfit on their Leopard tortoise--a reptile that is about two feet long and hardly dainty enough to go en pointe.) We visited one guy who kept 75 turtles in his basement, much to his wife's distress, and he crooned, "Michelle, Ma Belle" to his favorite, a little box turtle he lovingly held in his hand.

The boyfriend and I broke up, and I got custody of Minnie, to my great relief. I took Minnie to the curator of reptiles at the Natural History Museum and he admired him and then admonished me for kissing Minnie's shell. (Salmonella! I didn't know!) There were months when Minnie was the only human life inside my tiny apartment beside me, of course, and it was actually a wonderful comfort to see him every time I came into the apartment. When I began to date again, Minnie was my litmus test--love me, love my turtle. I'd walk Minnie in Central Park and on the street in front of my house, where nine times out of ten, some wiseacre would ask, "Oh, is that dinner?"

I miss him. I know this is an odd post, but the heart is a funny muscle.


Gina Sorell said...

Oh Caroline...I completely understand your love for your pet friend. There really is nothing like the companionship that a pet can offer, especially in times of loneliness. When I first moved to L.A. Mabel my 14 pound bichon frise, saved me from utter despair, time and time again. She still is the best heart medicine I know...and I have learned to write, typing over her furry little body as she sits on my lap, and harumphs when I shift in my chair too much and disturb her slumber.

But how wonderful that Minnie was with you for so long!! Twenty years!! And that he is still with you.

Thanks for sharing Minnie with us.

Clea Simon said...

Love is love is love, and Minnie was a wonderful little person. (By the way, I love how your subconscious works: "at times... Minnie was the only human life in my apartment.") My heart still pinches when Jon calls Musetta, our current wonderful cat, "the best cat in the world, ever," because I still love Cyrus, my longtime companion, too.

They don't ever leave us, do they? Thank you for posting!!

Mary Q said...

Caroline, I totally relate to your love for Minnie! Turk, a desert tortoise, shared my life for over 20 years, and he was able to thrive in such varied climates as southern and northern CA, NM, and CO. I eventually relinquished him to my ex-husband who later (reluctantly) gave him to a woman who sheltered many tortoises. Turk happily entered a new chapter as a "stud tortoise," and now my son and his family have enjoyed several years with Otis, one of Turk's progeny. Tortoises, I guess surprisingly, make wonderful companions, and I KNOW how much you miss your Minnie! Hugs!

Caroline said...

Mary, do you have a photo of your tortoise? I would post it here and I would dearly love to see it. I love the name Otis--so dignified for a reptile!

Clea Simon said...

Mary, it gave me great pleasure to read that Turk retired out to stud! Good for him - and for you. I also love the phrase "pet friend," Gina. That's it: Animal Companion or Pet Friend, four-legged soul mates.

Mary Q said...

I know I don't have an available picture of Turk, as he was retired to stud clear back in the early 1990s, but I may be able to get one of the dignified Otis. I'll check and see, and if I'm successful I'll email it to you. I've enjoyed our little tortoise posts here with all of you. Memories of Turk, and just tortoises in general, make me smile! :)