“You better leave that snapping turtle alone!”
Levi LOVED to pester turtles. He never hurt them, but whenever he found a box turtle, he would grab it up in his mouth and carry it around like a hard-won prize. Box turtles are typically the size of a small book and could easily fit in Levi’s mouth.
Box turtles are pretty harmless. They prefer to hide inside their shell rather than fight. Levi liked to pick them up, carry them around like a hard-earned prize, and gnaw on their shell hoping to “meet” the resident inside. He never was able to harm a turtle. But he never had met a snapping turtle.
After carrying the turtle around for a spell, eventually, he would plop down in the shade and begin gnawing on the shell, hoping to get through the tough outer exterior and become “friends” with the resident inside.
Only this time it wasn’t a box turtle. It was a full blown, basketball-sized, spiked-back, prehistoric-looking snapping turtle.
This wasn’t just a little old box turtle that Levi typically played with. This was a full-sized, prehistoric-looking snapping turtle! Levi had no idea who he was about to mess with.
Now if you are not familiar with snapping turtles, you have to understand they have a TOTALLY different attitude than box turtles. You see, box turtles are timid and prefer to hide in the safety of their shell rather than confront danger or even meet strangers. A snapping turtle was gifted with much tighter living quarters than a box turtle, and hence it is difficult to squeeze its body into the tight confines of his shell. To compensate, snapping turtles have evolved with a mean, nasty attitude and the skills to make predators leave them alone. Such as snapping. With giant jaws that can crush a finger, bite a fish in half, break a fairly large stick, or pinch off a dog’s lower lip.
Oh wait, I am getting ahead of myself.
While I see box turtles around our yard on a regular basis, this is the first time I had seen a full-blown snapping turtle in our yard. Apparently, it was the first time Levi had seen a snapping turtle. And he had not gotten the dog memo to leave snapping turtles alone. And he decided to just ignore my warning.
After admonishing him, I called him to my side and started walking back to the house. Levi sneaked away and went back to pester Mr. Turtle again. Wrong move.
I was about 30 feet away and I heard a painful “AARRR OHHH ARRR” yelp from my 4-legged friend. I immediately knew what had happened. Turning around, I saw Levi running backward as fast as he could, dragging a 40 lb prehistoric-looking snapping turtle with him. And it wasn’t Levi who had hold of the turtle. No, that turtle had bit Levi’s lip and was holding on with a death grip. And Mr. Turtle was probably waiting on a thunderclap to let go of Levi.
Native American stories say that snapping turtles won’t let go until they hear a thunderclap. Seeing as how it was a clear blue sky day, that could mean a long time for poor old Levi to have an angry turtle attached to his lip.
I ran to his side and saw that the turtle had a death grip on Levi’s upper lip. Levi looked at my as if saying “Please please PLEASE help me get rid of this nightmare dinosaur!”
I started to grab the turtle and pry him loose from my poor yelping dog, but seeing the massive size of Mr. Turtle’s jaws, I decided I needed a better plan else I could lose my OWN finger! So I ran to the house and grabbed a screwdriver. My plan was to use the screwdriver to pry the jaws of the turtle apart and free poor Levi from his captor.
As I ran towards the garage I heard Levi yelp again and soon he raced past me with no turtle attached. It seemed Mr. Turtle felt he had taught Levi a lesson – LEAVE SNAPPING TURTLES ALONE – and had released Levi to go home and lick his wounds. Meantime old Mr. Turtle just continued lumbering away, no doubt with a self-satisfied grin on that ugly old face.
Levi was hiding in the house, a big rip in his upper lip, licking his wounds and I am sure wondering what in the world had gotten into that turtle!
Levi was an awesome duck-hunting dog. But he didn’t understand turtles all that well—especially big, mean snapping turtles.