On Turtles, God and the Intention of All This


It has certainly been an exciting time in the woods lately! Such a great abundance of animals to happen upon — birds, snakes, turtles, frogs! And as I stop to take pictures and consider new writings, I find myself thinking about god.

How much closer can I get to the intention of god than to be walking in the woods and interacting – however so slightly – with these magnificent creatures? It’s like Emily Dickinson observed, “Some keep the Sabbath going to church, I keep it staying at home, with a bobolink for a chorister, and an orchard for a dome.”

Yesterday, I happened upon a Red-eared Slider Turtle that had been hit by a car near the preserve where I walk. Its shell was broken and there was blood. Blood! I felt at once the fear and pain of this small creature and knew it was my responsibility to do something. I would no more leave an injured human on the side of the road.

Why is it, do you think, that we can drive by an animal who has been hit by a car and feel no remorse, but highways are shutdown when humans suffer similar fate?

Why is human murder a crime destined as front-page news, but animal murder is considered sport?

How can we preach, in our churches, on our Sabbaths, about kindness and love and right action, when we leave those hallowed spaces and commit atrocities to our planet and its creatures?

These are the things I wondered about as I placed the injured turtle into a cardboard box and drove it across town to the local vet.

These are the things I wondered about while I stopped traffic to let a black rat snake cross the road just moments later.

These are the things I wondered about as I walked in the woods yesterday, hearing god in the sound of the rain and the song of the birds.


Anyone would be hard pressed to put forth that animals are not perfect creations of God; they are just different types of creations. Humankind has always compared other creations with themselves, thinking always that we are the highest of God’s creations. For this reason many humans don’t think that other living organisms have souls, but how do we supposedly know that? Do we presume to know God so well that we can say that souls don’t exist in other living forms? Just because God supposedly gave us dominion over all living things (according to the Book of Genesis in the Bible), does that mean we can kill and mistreat them? Could not the word “dominion” also mean a responsibility to care for and ensure the survival of all living things?

— Sylvia Browne, All Pets Go to Heaven


TURTLE UPDATE: the folks at the Branford Veterinary Hospital told me that they sutured up some bone fragments on the turtle yesterday and he seems to be doing fine today. They won’t be able to repair his shell until probably next week – they actually glue them back together – and they expect he’ll be a long term patient.

All of this, by the way, is a free service offered by Connecticut vets for rescued wildlife, although donations are always appreciated. I don’t know if other states do the same thing, but it’s great to know that there are resources when we find animals in crisis!

Turns out the Red-eared Slider Turtle is not native to Connecticut. It’s a southern species probably released as a pet into the wild. The vet said he seemed to have figured out how to live through the winters, since he was a rather large and well-developed fellow. Probably 15″ – 18″ long as I recall.

• • •

Essay ©2013, Jen Payne. Photo courtesy of Wikia Travel.

13 thoughts on “On Turtles, God and the Intention of All This

  1. yes, that works (re: posting on facebook) the link shows up in the new post – i’m amazed that they were able to get in there and suture things back together, but mostly, i’m AMAZED that vets help wildlife pro bono (i took an injured crow to a vet once – even injured, he was very difficult to catch – they checked him out and released him later) i knew that they’d probably use glue to put the turtle’s shell back together… i wonder if the crack will mend before the glue gives out? (which would be a while) – truly a team effort! and you avoided a snake in the road, too? a guy my husband works with ran over a big snake yesterday (he thought it was a piece of wood and, when he realized what it was, couldn’t swerve because of oncoming traffic) – he felt terrible about it… i think there’s so much water from all the recent rainfall that these creatures are having to relocate or have been chased off by human activity and other animals… poor things!!!! it’s fortunate there are good people in the world to help!


    1. The pro bono thing is great – I’ve brought a number of animals in over the years: doves, gulls, mice. I think this was my first turtle!

      The snakes are tricky to see! And I think you’re right, it’s all the extra rain that has them a little discombobulated!


  2. You are a hero! So many others would have left the poor thing on the side of the road. Bless you for believing animal life deserve just as much compassion as human life. 🙂


    1. Thanks C.B.! It didn’t occur to me that there was any other option! I think once you know that there are people who can help wildlife in distress, it becomes as second nature as calling 911. I wish more people knew!


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