They say if you love something, you should let it go, if it comes back it was meant to be…… Well this is a story three years in the making and it ends with letting go of something we loved, but happily, it didn’t come back………….
I promise this is a tale with a happy ending…………
It was near the end of July back in 2010 and we woke to an odd smell on the breeze. We were soon to find out there had been a massive oil spill on the Kalamazoo River just south of us. A million or more gallons of oil (no one can say for sure the exact amount) flowed into the river, destroying the river, contaminating animals and forcing people from their homes. The oldest country kid was just four at the time but he took it very hard. He has always been a very sensitive child and animals being effected broke his heart. He begged to help the animals, but he was only four, how could he help?!?!
In the early days of the spill, the company responsible, Enbridge, did nothing for the animals effected, so we quickly got in touch with a near by wildlife rescue group that was going out to collect oil covered animals and clean them. I was thrilled when they said our son could help too!!! He manned the donation table as supplies started coming in. He lifted, carried and stacked supplies as oil covered geese were slowly starting to trickle in. That is until the DNR shut the rescue down stating Enbridge, the company responsible for the oil spill said that they would NOT be responsible for the wildlife clean up if the independent rescue groups didn’t cease their efforts. Ummm WTH!?!?! Yeah, you all know what that means. My son stood by and watched as the DNR officer removed the oil covered Canadian Goose they were about to start cleaning.
We went to a “town meeting,” where my son “protested.” He was taking the whole thing very hard. He wanted so badly to help the animals effected by the spill. And then On August 14, 2010 he got his chance to make a difference, even if it was just for one animal. We were at a friend’s home near the river and a nest of snapping turtles hatched in their yard. By the time we found “Snappy” as he/she was named, all the other hatchlings had already made it to the river. Snappy was the last one to hatch out and was heading away from the river….. We decided that we would take care of Snappy till we could return him to the wild. Little did we know it would be almost three years before that day would come.
Snappy was about the size of a quarter the day we brought him home. All the reptile experts I contacted said if we could take care of him till he was big enough not to be prey, he would have a chance at survival. From day one we told our son that Snappy was NOT a pet…. But tell that to a four year old! Snappy watched cartoons, and ate turtle food, but he did not grow much. Then a neighbor brought us a turtle they had found crossing a road. (You should always move the turtle to the opposite side it was heading to.) We kept that turtle for about a week before putting it back where the neighbor reported they had found it. During that week, we started the “turtle mentoring” program. We bought feeder fish and sure as shoot, that visiting turtle taught snappy how to hunt and eat fish!!!!
Now you never really notice how people and animals that you see day in and day out change over time. It wasn’t till Snappy was two years old that we noticed he was finally getting bigger. But was he big enough? The “cuddly” cartoon watching snapping turtle was beginning to get, well, snappy! One more year we said….. We will give him one more year to grow…. The whole time we kept telling our son, Snappy is NOT a pet. But how can you not love something that has been in your life for so long…..
Our son turned seven this year and Snappy continued to grow, eating fish by the dozens. By the end of July 2013 Snappy was finally big enough to fend for him self and not be prey. We went back to our friend’s house, where Snappy was born…. Now the river will take a very long time to recover, but the clean up efforts three years later had made a marked difference. There was a small stream that runs to the river near our friends home and that is where we said goodbye. At first our son was happy that Snappy would get to live wild and free (and make babies LOL) but once we let Snappy go, he asked for one last photo with Snappy…. And you can see by the look on his face, he was taking it hard.
Three years, hundreds of fish, and the heart of a boy. A boy who just wanted to help…. And he may have helped more then he even knows. The turtles that were covered in the oil, that did eventually get help, and were released…. will have fertility issues. No mater if Snappy is a boy or a girl…. His DNA and ability to breed will be so important for the future generations of his species and their continued presence on that stretch of the Kalamazoo River… and that my friends is thanks to one little boy who cared.