Tutor was put out to the public with just a little fanfare and was instantly loved by everyone. People wanted to hold him all of the time, but I wasn’t down for that and kept telling people “someday” he would be ready for that kind of turtle/library customer relationship. I stressed over the tank, and the fact that I couldn’t quite get the filter to work correctly. A once pristine tank was now cloudy and dirty and I was having to change the filter every other day. That wasn’t supposed to happen. It soon became apparent that I was going to have to clean the tank really well and think about getting another filter.
The first time I had to clean the tank was a freaking nightmare. I didn’t expect to feel the same about cleaning this little creature’s tank that I would about cleaning up my son after having an Exorcist moment in his bed. It was smelly and so disgusting that I don’t think I’ll be getting into any details about it right now. I just don’t want to relive that shit. Literally. Our precious little library turtle was a dirty, dirty boy. I had no freaking idea. It took me over an hour to get through the process of cleaning him and I’m pretty sure I left a nasty trail of poopy turtle water from the tank to the sink. I had to take out all of the gravel and re-wash it and then scrub down his plants and the little mountain he used to get close to the heat lamp and it was just all so much more than I had anticipated.
But for all of the work and craziness of having a pet turtle, it was obvious that he was beginning to grow and feel comfortable in his surroundings. I bought an even bigger filter and his home seemed to stay cleaner longer. I felt like I had finally found a sweet spot. Of course, we immediately had to run out and experiment with new things and we ruined the well-oiled machine that we had created. Let’s try live plants! Let’s give him fresh veggies! Let’s see if we can give him more land to stand on! I admit it, I was totally on board with all of the changes. I just didn’t know it was going to knock us down quite so much. The real plants floated into the filter and clogged it up and he never ate any of the fresh veggies and they just floated around like trash in the ocean. He did like his new platform, but it started to acquire some serious turtle filth and always looked super dirty. It was about this time that people started to come into the library fearing for the turtle’s health. His water was too cloudy, he was lethargic and didn’t look good, the tank wasn’t nearly big enough for him. Maybe he needed something bigger and maybe he needed a friend to be in there with him so he wouldn’t be so lonely…
It was seriously frustrating to hear all of the worries when I knew that I was working really hard to keep that little guy up and running. I had used up a large portion of my programming budget on the little dude and I was dedicating several hours a week to his upkeep. Now, I don’t know if you know this but I have an awful lot of hats to fill at the library and I wasn’t able to keep giving all of that time to the turtle. By this time, I figured that he was my responsibility and I didn’t really go out of my way to ask other staff members to clean the tank once in a while. Some would flat out refuse and others would help to a certain extent. As they began to have feelings for Tutor they began to help and give suggestions on how to take care of him, but the tank cleaning was all mine.
I finally finagled one of the maintenance crew to help me out a couple of times a month and he was invaluable. He was a machine when it came to cleaning that tank and I was more than a little happy to see him show up at the library. Around this time I had gotten really, really tired of having to change the filter in the tank so often, so I decided to spend a little more money than usual to buy a super deluxe filter that should help me keep the tank clean for at least three weeks at a time and a nice cabinet to hide the hoses in. We got it hooked up and…nothing. I was afraid that I had spent too much money on something that wasn’t going to work. I ended up getting rid of the gravel in the tank (because it just ended up being a convenient place for poop to gather) and downgraded to just a couple of plastic plants and his sunning platform. Removing the gravel helped a lot but the water was still getting a little cloudy.
More complaints started to come in and I was really beginning to not have very nice feelings for Tutor. It wasn’t his fault that he was in the situation he was and I’m convinced that he was a very content turtle. The problem was that I couldn’t take the complaints anymore. I couldn’t take the bi-weekly cleanings anymore. I couldn’t take smelly, dirty Tutor anymore—even though he was super adorable. I felt like I had bonded with him and I knew that we were doing everything we could to make him comfortable. But the complaints. Then the suggestions that I should buy this, get that, try this, try that—it was enough to make my head spin and make me more than a little angry. There was only so much time and money that I could dedicate to his cause and it obviously wasn’t enough anymore.
I was still reeling from the debacle we had with the chicks earlier in the year and I felt like an utter fool for not being able to get a victory in the Great Turtle Experiment either. I knew that it was time to let Tutor go to someone who was more than willing to put the time and money into his care. The guy who was helping me with the tank had a family member who was more than willing to take care of Tutor and give him a good home. I named the date, gathered all of his belongings and waited for Tutor to go out on his new adventure. It was a super easy process, too—I went home on Friday after saying goodnight to Tutor and came in on Monday to a library that looked a bit emptier but much cleaner. I mourned my little friend for about one second and then was filled with so much relief and happiness that it was almost too much to take. It had been a failed experiment that I was glad to have over.
I’ve seen pictures of Tutor and he’s in a bigger tank with several filters. His humans feed him live fish every day and give him time out of the tank to walk around on land. He’s grown even bigger since I saw him last and I’m convinced that sending him off to his new home was the absolute best thing we could have done for him. I wish that level of care could have been achieved at the library, but it never would have gotten to that point. I still can’t believe how much money I spent on that little guy. It might have been cheaper to get a library puppy.
So, I write this story to tell you of my spectacular failures with animals at the library. I guess that I believed that it wouldn’t be difficult to take care of them since I have somehow managed to keep a nine year old boy alive at home, but they ended up taking more out of me than I thought. Just the basic mechanics is hard enough, but to try to do these things in such a public fashion? Definitely not something that I’m good at. We don’t have any plans to get another library pet any time soon and I refrained from trying the egg hatching experiment this year. Maybe I’ll feel more competent next year, but I wouldn’t put any money on it.
© DRB 2016