Willie has been spending more unsupervised time in the yard than ever before. With every gap and cranny of the perimeter fencing now secured with chicken wire and zip ties, I feel confident Willie cannot escape. Unlike some other dogs we’ve known, he’s also not a digger or an “escape artist,” and seems perfectly content with the size of his self-contained world. When Richard and I let him outside, he runs through the garden, rolls in the grass, and jumps high into the air, chasing birds and butterflies and squirrels and exploring every inch of his nearly three acre playpen. He often stands beside the water, studying his reflection or the reflection of the sky and clouds in its surface — or barking at the little school of sunfish that swim close to the bank, following Willie as he travels around the pond.
Hearing an occasional bark doesn’t concern me, but yesterday a bout of sustained barking prompted Richard to leave his desk to see what was troubling him. “Hey, Ed,” he called to me from the other end of the house. “Can you come out here, please?”
There, on the patio, was a young, mud-encrusted snapping turtle, looking like a holdover from the Pleistocene era, with its sawtooth shell and ridged tail. Its head was retracted into its shell, but its mouth – its sharp, pointy, beak-like mouth – was parted ever so slightly, revealing a soft pink interior. “Willie was circling and circling it,” Richard said, holding the wriggling dog in his arms.
“That thing could have really hurt him,” I said, now circling the turtle myself and calculating my next move. It was clearly headed toward our pond, and while I’m reluctant to interfere with nature – or with the intention of any wild creature – I didn’t want this snapper taking up residence where it might pose a danger to our curious little dog – and where it would feed on the fish we’d purchased to stock our pond.
Mimicking a move I’d seen down south years ago, I quickly picked up the turtle by its long, sturdy tail and deposited it inside a cardboard box, then drove with it about five miles away and released it beside the Wallkill River. It scampered down the bank to the safety of the water, and Willie and I returned to the (relative) safety of a fenced yard.