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13 July 2009

constant companions / Scarlett-Charlotte's bestest pal at the vet

I'm pretty sure this is the right kind of tortoise. Polyphemus was the name of the cyclops who trapped Odysseus and his pals in his cave, and munched on a sailor when he got hungry. My guess is a taxonomist stuck this one with the cyclops' name because they're big, ugly, slow and not very bright.

As Odysseus cooked up an escape plan, he chatted with Polyphemus, and told him his name was Oosey -- which sort of sounds like a diminutive of Oodysey.

After the Greeks stuck a big sharp stick in Polyphemus' eye and blinded him, Polyphemus screamed for help from the other big, ugly, dumb Cyclopses on the island. "Who blinded you?" they asked, and Polyphemus cried: "Oosey has done this to me!"

In Greek, "oosey" means "nobody," so Polyphemus was screaming "Nobody did this to me!" and his dumb neighbors just ignored him, and the sailors managed to sneak out of the cave clinging upside-down to the bellies of Polyphemus' sheep.

About two years ago, as old Charlotte-Scarlett's health began to fail, she had to spend a week at our regular vet. Amazingly, she recovered and came home again.

The vet staff liked her a lot. She wasn't terrified of the weird smells and the dogs barking; she seems to have regarded her stay at the vet more as a very curious adventure, a week at an exotic animal resort.

She had no claws (a previous owner had done that, certainly not us) and only had two teeth left, so she couldn't have harmed anyone if she tried. But in all the time we knew her, she never tried to hurt or scratch or bite anyone.

She wandered up and down the halls day and night, never got into trouble, and when someone had to move her or do something to her, she was very docile, you'd just scoop her up under her tummy and carry her around like a furry purse, and put her down anywhere, and the most she'd complain would be a startled little "mek!" noise.

South of here 20 miles there's a big city -- Springfield, where Homer Simpson lives, yes, that's the Springfield -- and it has a zoo, small, but with a good reputation.

The zoo had a tortoise, Francine, and, like Scarlett-Charlotte the Siamese, Francine didn't like the cold and certainly couldn't make it through a New England winter. So she wintered over at the vet's clinic in Amherst, slowly wandering around the hallways.

When Scarlett-Charlotte began to recover and wander around, she turned a corner and ran into Francine. She'd certainly never seen anything like that before. She was startled, amazed, fascinated.

She poked around its head with her paw, but Francine just did what tortoises do when anything tries to molest them, and pulled her head into her shell and sealed herself up until the cat lost interest.

For the rest of the week, S-C followed Francine all over the place. Then she climbed on top of Francine and let Francine carry her around the clinic like a big slow taxi. The vet staff said they were inseparable, constant companions, the friendly toothless de-clawed old Siamese and the ancient tortoise. S-C had a great time at the amazing vet clinic. She was sorry to leave -- but glad finally to come home.

Not long after, we heard that Francine had passed away. They live for a long time (documented record: 188 years), but not forever. As the lawyers say, old Francine predeceased old Charlotte-Scarlett.

We didn't want to tell Charlotte-Scarlett the sad news. S-C was so crazy about Francine the tortoise that she may have been the only cat on Earth who looked forward to going to the vet so she could poke and ride around on Francine.


SteveHeath said...

Since coming to Florida in 1997 I've had about once a year need to pull my car to side of road and run back to pick up turtles of various sizes (usually average about a foot in diameter) and carry them off the road.

I'm thinking I would have a bit more trouble moving one of them thar Cyclops models. But then again, it's less likely another vehicle would not see them.

Paul P said...

Tortoises are cool. Nice post :)

Send flowers online said...

it is really nice... thanks for sharing it...