The Crazy Story of Our Turtle

I’d like you to meet Tyler, our old Red-eared slider turtle. He (or might be a she) has been quite a character in the many years he has lived with us. These days you won’t see many turtles as pets, so come see mine & his shenanigans!

Baby Red-Eared Slider from Pet Store

My Turtle Little History

A few decades ago, when my son was 4 we were playing with the idea of getting a pet. When I was young I was fortunate to get a tiny turtle with one of those plastic bowls with a little island. It seemed like the perfect pet; no noise, no hair, able to be taken out and ‘played with’. I was young but responsible and did take good of mine and he/she grew quickly – to the point of not fitting between the island and the wall.

I needed to upsize to a larger glass bowl. It becomes a problem since their feeding habits do make for some very messy water. My parents were not going to set up a huge filtration system, so just regular water cleaning took place.

I should have realized why my parents made me give mine up to the local Interpretive Centre at the Royal Botanical Gardens. It seemed like a good idea since I could visit it whenever we would go there for our usual sunday hikes. The centre had a huge tank and my turle also had some friends now.

Here We Go Again

I gave in to my sons pleading and took on a baby turtle round #2. I also had intentions of having an outdoor pond so it seemed like a plan. Again, plastic bowl was outgrown, then the aquarium became too much to repeatedly empty. He/she eventually transitioned to a laundry tub that could be kept clean and also had a light and sunning rock, easy cleaning.

Fast-forward 32 years and Tyler is still with us. Tyler gets to live outdoors in the pond during the warmer months. Since I live in Canada they are not indigenous here and he has not ever hibernated either so we really did not have an option but to keep him. I’ll be frank, turtles (mine at least ) are quite resilient & pretty easy going.

Tyler grew many times larger than the cute 1 inch size he was at first.

Red Eared Sliders are bred in captivity, they have never been in the wild. They can be fed pellets made for turtles or other vegetables and meat. Mine preferred meat like fish or even some live ones. He would spit up the carrots; and where would a turtle get carrots in the wild?! The summer was his favourite season spending much time basking in the sun on his rock island.

Do not worry, there is a wire cage that makes sure that he does not decide to wonder or be prey to any thing like raccoons or coyotes.

Whenever I would venture near the pond he would be rushing over in hopes of some feeding. I do think I see a smile on that face! Maybe it was more of a snicker of what he was planning…

The Great Escape

Turtles breathe air, they need to come up once in a while. I was near the pond and awaiting to see him come up from under his hiding rock… and waiting… and waiting…. Well he did not come up! So I took out my net and checked – NO TURTLE! Oh no! He has managed to squeeze under the metal cage somehow! I still do not know how he managed that with such a large shell.

Now what? I posted ‘Lost’ posters in the neighbourhood and warned the neighbour in case he decided that their fully stocked fish pond would be his next stop. I researched and it stated that they will instinctively travel ‘downhill’. Well, that could work for him but the downhill journey was going to be very treacherous! It is about a 1/2km of dense brush and trees, many old fallen trees and a host of predators! Oh no! I was so worried…

Barb goes on the Hunt

Well after no sighting in the civilized world I decided to go hunt the ‘jungle’, something I was reluctant since I have a fear of the coyotes i hear often. I worked my way through the dense underbrush and to a creek at the bottom. Our city has many waterfalls due to change elevation towards Lake Ontario. This section of creek was quite shallow, barely enough to cover a turtle shell so I wasn’t hopeful. Nope, no sign…

I headed the other direction of the creek, barely able to walk through the deep weeds. This is mostly untravelled land locked between subdivisions. I became hopeful since there was now a section of deeper water. It was murky and lacking of any fish that I could see.

I had to walk through the deep brush since it was too deep for my boots, and as I looked down at the side – there he was! He saw me and came close to the shore! I stepped in, way too deep over my boots (yuck) and he disappeared into the murky water! But fellow, I now know where you are hiding out!

Knowing where he is made me happy, but I needed to go back with a capture plan. He probably felt like he was on vacation; but I could not leave him there permanently, what would he eat? ‘No one was feeding him and not a fish in sight. To be environmentally responsible there turtles should not mix with the indigenous species of the area.

Going Home!

A few days later I took a fishing net back with me and he came up to shore when he saw me; a few tossed pieces of fish and I had him in the net.

‘Oh, this place again!’ he probably thought! There was no question this is our

A new extra secure cover was made for the pond; no chance of squeezing the shell through a gap.

I have always thought that they are so beautiful, such amazing patterns and stripes – perfect for some art inspiration.

Perhaps one day I may write and illustrate a children’s book based on this special pet. I hear these turtes can love into their 50’s.

Remember ‘Rockie’s Turtles’? ‘Cuff & Link’ are now 44 years old as Sylvester Stallone first featured them 1975! They have now also had cameos in all of the follow-up Rocky movies! They can live to 50! So, before you adopt a pet make sure you can handle the commitment! I do hope they take turtles in the retirement homes!

I know’s not a project to make, but he does enjoy the waterfall that has upgraded his pond to a 5-star turtle oasis – hopefully he will stay put!

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    1. If only I could see into his mind… It must have taken so long to get to that stream as there are so many fallen trees and vegetation to get through. I am also amazed he did not get wedged under something or attacked by the raccoons. I can see his little head poking up from my kitchen table!

  1. What a great story! You should think of writing the book. Thank goodness you found him and could restore him to safety.
    I remember seeing turtles in real life when in Italy. They were in a tank on the shelf behind me in the restaurant, fascinated me while we waited for our food. Due to the nature of my DH work we never went back there.

  2. From just the few photos that I have seen, I believe Tyler may be a female. The males have VERY long fingernails that they “flutter” in the females face when courting. The amazing part is that the male must swim backwards while performing this ritual and resemble a Spanish fan dancer. I do hope you get to see this courtship dance; it truly is so very graceful.

    1. Yes, we once saw a pair and the one with the long nails fluttering over the female. It was amazing and then realized Tyler may be a female. ‘How wonderful nature can be!

  3. Cute story! I live in Florida and have always loved turtles. I see Red Eared Sliders every day on my walks in a preserve near my home. They are very common here. This time of year I come across them laying eggs in the dirt!

    1. I had always thought if I ever go to Florida I would take him, but there may be a lot of paperwork for that! He wouldn’t even know it since he was bred in captivity. I bet they get really big there! We see the snappers laying eggs in the sand here!

  4. Sunday morning memory lane! I48 was given a turtle – Tommy (the rock opera) – by a boy in college. He (the turtle) was a dryland species … helpful since the dorm had no pond … but I could feed him easily from the cafeteria and when he made an escape he liked to walk the hall and peak in rooms or down the stairs After college and during my nomad years Tommy lived at my parents house where he really liked the laundry/mud room. He was finally given away … I was not being a responsible pet owner. My bad. Tommy is now 48+ years old!

    1. Oh, that’s a great story! I would have been so into that! And I’d taken it to class for the ‘animal drawing’! I am so happy to hear that he is 48 now! That reminded me, how could I have forgotten; I had a tortoise when living in germany! ‘But I was under 5 so I only had some faint memories of it under furniture! I guess I was destined…

  5. I too had a Musk turtle, Tilly was her name-o!!! Sorry I heard that in my head and just hit repeat on these here keys!! Anyway…my story is not so happy, but thought I’d hit you with it as it might help other turtle lovers out there. I found Tilly swirling around in the current of our pool one Sunday morning about 11 years ago, i pulled her out and her lil nails just grabbed for dear life. She being a water turtle mainly had to be kept either in an aquarium or a pond. She grew from U.S. quarter size, to right around 6″. She was always friendly to me but still skittish whenever it came turtle water cleaning time. During the pandemics 1st year, and it was time to clean the aquarium, I go out there to find Tilly belly up not moving to my horror…she was perfectly fine the night before…and there was this white porcelain like object in the tank with her…come to find out turtles lay eggs and most suffer terribly in doing so, apparently Tilly was one of those unfortunate ones. She had never laid an egg before ever…and died in her 1st attempt. Broke my heart and still does to this very day. I kept her egg and then painted a series of rocks to recreate an art installation of sorts of Tilly, an actual carapace and a bottom, Plastron, exactly like hers, to immortalize her and give her a proper headstone of sorts. They should live for many many years, I felt like a failure for a very long time, but knew in the back of my mind I was probably given a pass on life long care of this beautiful lil girl. ❤️

    1. Wow! Now that I’m thinking mine is a female I wonder about the egg laying! What would spur that on? Maybe she’s past menopause (lol) so I don’t need to worry. That’s the first I’ve read on that. ‘Or maybe she has no interest since she’s never seen a male… Poor Tilly! Thanks for sharing!

  6. What a great story and adventure for both you and Tyler. Hahaha! The great escape….he needed a break from his routine, and a taste of the big world out there–sort of like Scuffy the Tugboat.

  7. I had a Turtle when I was a child , I dont know how old he was when we got him but I remember still having him when I was in High School, my Son brought home a Turtle from his Classroom at the end of the School year in 1997, he got out of the house one day and was gone for a long time but one day I saw my black cat Spider following something in the back yard and ran out to look and it was our Turtle ! He was heading to eat in the bird feeder that was on the ground , We brought him in he would make a b line for the front or back door when it was open so one day I opended the back door and got the Video camera and filmed him hauling his butt across the house to get to the back door , he was goi g fast as nd went over the threshold and off the step. It was so funny . I guess Turtles are pretty smart , Oh , and it loved those shortcake cups you use for strawberry shortcake .

    1. Wow, they seem to be smarter than they let on! They are so quiet and observant, must be taking it all in – until there’s a chance to escape! Great story!

  8. I love turtles and tortoises! We had a box turtle that disappeared-not sure how. And, we have had a desert tortoise for over 25 years. Thank you for this story!