I can still remember the first time I saw a dog kennel in a shopping center. I didn’t know cats and dogs were purchased from breeders and bargainers unto the choice of buyers. In those days of my childhood, you did not buy a dog, they came to your doorstep and after searching the neighborhood for the rightful owner, the doorstep dog became a family member.
The same principle applied to cats who came with winning wails to your back door and promptly had kittens in the box of coat hangers you had in the garage. So, as a child, I had a dog, cats, a parakeet, goldfish and one armadillo who never knew where he was, but diligently dug up my mother’s rose bushes.
One day I was given a turtle with my name on his or her shell (it is peculiar to the nature of turtles and armadillos that their gender is seldom known except by the said turtle or armadillo). This turtle, with my name on the shell, was accepted and added to my collection! I delighted in the turtle with my name on its shell and gave it my full attention as it claimed the freedom of my back yard with its slow process from back steps to my mother’s carefully tended flower bed.
On one such leisurely exercise, my Little Dog spotted the turtle for the first time and nosed its process to the flower bed until, in one eager gulp, Little Dog swallowed my turtle – with my name on its shell! I screamed at the Little Dog, yelled for my mother and expressed the full range of tragic drama appropriate to the horror of seeing the turtle with my name on its shell gulped down by my dog’s limitless appetite.
My mother came to the back door, my neighbor squinted at me from her azalea bushes and lifted the watering hose as if it might be useful to the need for heroics. Turtle was gulped down without a trace. The worse that could happen to a small, slow-traveling creature had happened while the Little Dog-villain licked from his lips what may have been the stain of my name written on the disappearing shell.
We thought it was over for the turtle – when suddenly the dog expressed a reaction never before experienced by man or beast. His whole body spasmed with the severity of the occasion, the look on his face conveyed more horror than the scariest movie ever filmed, his mouth became a cylinder of convulsions beyond adequate expression and then – in the midst of the horrific scene played out before my tearful eyes – out came turtle from the mouth of the dog – and turtle, unaffected by the experience, strolled from the dog’s quivering lips and resumed his morning walk without changing pace or perspective.
My mother, with a broom in hand, my neighbor with the watering hose and I watched with stunned amazement while puppy’s face echoed the convulsions that had just lurched through his body. Turtle was unconcerned, undeterred and unchanged. To turtle, the experience had been just one of life’s small adventures; an unexpected sojourn through a small, unlighted tunnel had been nothing but a hiccup in the dialogue of life.
It was needless to spank the dog. The circumstance had been sufficient punishment. My mother and my neighbor went back to their interrupted duties and, as for me, I learned two things; one, it is hard to hug a turtle, but the gesture is an appropriate compliment to any creature’s amiable processing through crises. The other learning was about the durability of a turtle – or perhaps one even so vulnerable as a human being wearing the signature of the Owner on his or her shell.
Life will certainly have its suddenesses, but can offer a way out from under if we stay undeterred, on course and assured. If, perhaps the world has you, this day, in a dark tunnel of evil’s contortions, hold to your faith and to its step and the significance of the Signature on your shell; there is a possibility that evil under the circumstances may be just as glad to get you out as your are.