Camper’s let­ter home

Pet tur­tle ben­e­fits from Googling, gift

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST/TELEVISION - GWEN ROCKWOOD Gwen Rockwood is a syn­di­cated free­lance colum­nist. Archives of The Rockwood Files can be found on­line at nwaMother­ Email Rockwood at rock­wood­

Igot a post­card in the mail to­day. It was from our 10-yearold daugh­ter, Kate. Oddly enough, it was Kate who checked the mail­box on the day the post­card ar­rived. She’d writ­ten and mailed it from sum­mer camp two weeks ear­lier.

When we picked her up from camp, she asked me if I’d re­ceived the post­card she’d sent, and I told her we hadn’t. I asked if she re­mem­bered the ad­dress cor­rectly, and she du­ti­fully re­cited it back to me with no mis­takes.

“And did you re­mem­ber to put the zip code on it?” I asked. “Oh,” she said. “Maybe not.” I told her the post­card might still make it to us even­tu­ally and that I was glad she’d tried to send it. For her gen­er­a­tion, old-fash­ioned mail — with its en­velopes, stamps and pesky zip codes — seems far more com­pli­cated than the text mes­sages and emo­jis she and her friends send off with lightning speed. But the sum­mer camp she at­tends be­lieves in an “old school” ap­proach to sum­mer fun — no elec­tron­ics al­lowed — which is one of the rea­sons we like it.

On the back­side of the post­card, Kate had writ­ten this mes­sage: “Dear Mom, I’m hav­ing a great time here, but I still miss you. Can you send me a pic­ture of Todd in his tank? Love, Kate. P.S. I have a sur­prise for Todd.”

The “Todd” she asked about in the post­card is the new­est mem­ber of the Rockwood fam­ily. He is a 2-inch tur­tle we found cling­ing to life while swirling around in our pool’s skim­mer fil­ter. The kids fished him out and put him in a shoe­box, so he could rest. Then they Googled “What do tur­tles eat” and put some chopped up ap­ples into the box. But Todd wasn’t in­ter­ested in eat­ing, prob­a­bly due to the shock of be­ing stuck in a fil­ter as well as the dra­matic rescue op­er­a­tion per­formed by three kids.

So, one thing led to an­other and a cou­ple of hours later, Todd the Tur­tle was in a new aquar­ium set up in Kate’s room, com­plete with fresh wa­ter, smooth rocks and a tur­tle bridge. Then the kids in­tro­duced him to fancy tur­tle food they bought at the pet store — tiny freeze-dried shrimp — which smells as bad as it sounds.

The next day, Kate had to leave for sum­mer camp, so she made her dad and broth­ers prom­ise they’d take care of Todd while she was gone. The boys did some on­line re­search and de­ter­mined Todd is a red-eared slider tur­tle, which means he can grow to be a foot long and can live up to 70 years. (We’ll need to have a tur­tle lib­er­a­tion cer­e­mony be­fore that hap­pens.) They also de­ter­mined, based on a few tips from Google, that Todd is most likely a girl.

So by the time Kate came home from camp, Todd had un­der­gone a name change and now goes by the name of Zippy (as much as a tur­tle goes by any name. Rest as­sured Zippy does not come crawl­ing when called.)

For the record, I wasn’t on board with the de­ci­sion to make Zippy a pet. If you ask me, rep­tiles are the an­i­mals that night­mares are made of. But even I have to ad­mit that a baby tur­tle isn’t scary. And we do en­joy watch­ing her swim around the tank, eat the tiny freeze-dried shrimp and stare at her own re­flec­tion in the glass. No­body knows how to “chill” quite like Zippy.

That “sur­prise” that Kate men­tioned in her camp post­card? It turned out to be a minia­ture stuffed an­i­mal — a green tur­tle — wear­ing a tiny T-shirt with the camp logo on it. Kate proudly held it over Zippy’s tank, so the tur­tle could get a good look. I asked her if she thought Zippy liked it, and she said the tur­tle blinked slowly when she saw it, which we can only as­sume is a sign of deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

So, wel­come to the fam­ily, Zippy. Stay in your tank, and we’ll get along just fine.

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