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Some turtles aren't meant to be caged

Another week, another encounter with a reptile.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently received a tiger cub for his birthday. Deputy Copy Desk Chief Corinne Nicholson saw the story on the wire and decided she, too, would like a tiger cub for her birthday. Something to do with cuteness, I believe.

Anyway, I was on the phone with my wife, who works for the Post Office, where I know they have the occasional live animal come through. I jokingly asked her if they ever had anyone ship tiger cubs, and if so, could she grab one. No tiger cubs, she said, but she named off a long list of animals that had been through on their way to wherever people ship live animals.

When she got to turtle, we had a winner. Corinne said that would do in lieu of a tiger cub.

The whole thing was just a big joke, of course, and I thought no more about it - until my wife and I spotted a turtle walking across the road near my house on Sunday.

Yeah, we turned around and got it. (All you animal rights nuts, please at least finish reading the column before you start sending hate mail.)

We figured we would give it to Corinne. Then, after a good laugh, I was going to put it right back where I found it.

That was my plan anyway.

Now this turtle looked like it'd had a hard life. It's shell was cracked in a couple of places and it was blind in one eye, which made me think about that old joke about the dog named Lucky. But because it had orange stripes on its back, we named it Tiger, which was a little more appropriate anyway given the situation.

I made him a little home and gave him food and water. Already I'd spent more effort on it than the laugh from giving it to Corinne could have ever been worth. Plus, the turtle looked kind of sad. Every time I'd check on it, it would be up on its hind legs straining to peak out of the plastic thing I'd put it in.

It didn't take long to realize it was a pretty dumb thing we'd done. So I made the first mention of just taking it back and letting it go.

I had not counted on the speed with which my 7-year-old was capable of falling in love with a turtle. Let's just say she really, really, really wanted to keep him.

I was able to resist at first, and the next day I told her again that the turtle had to go back to where it came from. She responded by balling her little eyes out, which is like kryptonite to me, so I started to cave in. Then she asked if we could get a dog if we let it go. (Just how young do women learn the art of tearful negotiation anyway?) I told her absolutely not, but if she really wanted the turtle she would have to take care of it, knowing I'd be the one to do that.

That night, she wrote the turtle a letter telling it how much she loved it and left it on the kitchen counter.

So now I've gone from letting it go to figuring out how to build it an appropriate turtle house, looking up proper care (did you know you can take a turtle to the vet?) but most of all just really wishing I'd left the turtle alone in the first place.

I made Tiger a fairly comfortable temporary home and planned to build him a permanent one this weekend.

But Tiger had other plans.

I called home Wednesday night at dinner like I always do.

"Where's the turtle?" my wife asked.

"How should I know? He was burrowed down in the little hidey-hole I made for him the last time I saw him."

"Well, he's gone now."

"You're joking."

"Madyson thinks you let him go."

"He was in there when I left today. Remember? I told you to tell her to feed it when she got home."

That went on for a while until we determined that Madyson had checked on the turtle after she got home from school, which was after I left, thus giving me an alibi.

But it also left the question of how, exactly, a turtle could get out of a big, deep plastic tub? And if we assume he somehow climbed out, how in the world did he get down off the patio table?

Did he leap off the edge and tuck himself in his shell? Did he use his shell as a parachute? Teleportation? Was he a Ninja Turtle? I have no idea. All I know is he escaped like Harry Houdini and apparently without injury because he is long gone, probably "to go see his mommy" as Madyson said.

And the turtle and I couldn't be happier.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.