Thursday, June 09, 2011

Back seat conversations

In which attempts are made to articulate the degree of awfulness of the smell of turtle urine

It was just after supper on a beautiful early summer evening and we were on our way to Dunrobin for a soccer game. We were coming around one of the curves on Carp Road, past farms and silos and the Carp Ridge up to our right. Something round and dark was sitting on the centre line ahead of us. “Mum, it’s a turtle,” yelled Rachel, “Don’t hit it!” I slowed down and pulled over on the side of the road.

It was a big old snapping turtle. His shell was about a foot across, and he seemed to be pretty happy sitting on the warm roadway. We decided that I needed to pick him up and take him across the road so he’d be safe in the ditch and long grass.

Now I’m not a novice turtle saver, and I know that turtles will pee when threatened. I found this out first-hand last summer when I stopped to help a painted turtle across another section of Carp Road, and got wet feet for my pains. (I’m not sure if it’s because you’re scaring the piss out of them, or whether it’s because they’re trying to make things unpleasant for a predator.) So this time I was careful to grip the turtle by the edges of his shell and hold him far out in front of me so that I wouldn't be in the spray radius.

He was not amused. He was whipping his dinosaur-like tail from side to side, hissing at me, and trying to dislodge my hands by swiping at them with his back feet. He was also trying to bite me, which was impossible due to where I was holding him. "Hah, turtle," I thought, "you can't do anything, so just relax and enjoy the ride." Suddenly, I could feel something warm and wet on my fingers. Damn. He was peeing.

I walked as quickly as I could across the road and put him down on the edge of the ditch. He hissed at me one last time and headed down into the ditch. I was left standing there with brownish fluid dripping from my fingertips. It smelled very bad. I wiped my hands on the grass beside the road and hopped in the car.

Of course, there were no tissues in the car. I dug around in my purse with the non-pee-covered fingers and found a wet nap and did my best. The smell was still apparent. Even with all the car windows open. The girls were both delighted and horrified. Horrified at the stench, but delighted that their mother had been peed on by a turtle.

Rae [through the car window at me as I approached the car]: Mum! Did he pee on you?

Me [wiggling my just-wiped-on-the-grass fingers in her face]: Yeah. Wanna sniff?

Rae [recoiling, horrified]: Eeeww! That smells awful. It’s like…like...[words fail her for a moment] like...asparagus mixed with burning rubber.

Leah [joining in, as we pull back onto the road]: No, it’s worse than that.

Rae: It’s like asparagus and burning rubber mixed with cherry cough syrup. [The cough syrup smells and tastes fine, but Rae hates it.]

Leah: If Rebecca Black was a smell, she’d be turtle pee.

Me: [explodes in laughter]

Rachel: [trying to outdo her sister]: No, no, no, wait, if Justin Bieber was a smell, he’d be turtle pee.

Leah: If Rebecca Black and Justin Bieber had a baby…

Rae [interrupting]: …and the baby fell in a portapotty…

Me: OK, now you’re just getting carried away.

Rae: But it does really stink, Mum. And I meant the part about the asparagus and burning rubber.

Me: I know.

Rae: At least we know he’s OK.

Leah: Yep, he’ll live to pee another day.

Vaya con Dios, Mr. Turtle.


  1. "Yep, he'll live to pee another day."

    Good one, Leah.

  2. How bizarre. I've never once in my life seen a turtle anywhere other than in a pet shop or in a pond, and here you are getting peed on by them regularly.

    C'mon, Admit it, you do it so you can have something to blog about!

  3. You have been Blessed By The Turtle.

    (Or something.)

  4. I guess it's slightly better than a baptism by fire... ?

  5. Jen - I agree.

    Jazz - I just did it because I didn't want him to get hit by a car. The blog fodder was just the silver lining. :) Next time I'll hold a turtle vertically instead of horizontally. That should fix the problem.

    Jess - I could have done without the blessing.

    Allison - Slightly.

  6. Didn`t you once find another one and had to hold it out the side window of the car, because the smell was soooo bad, until you found a place to let him go?

  7. Mum - yes, it was in Sudbury, we were on our way to Tom and Michelle's and found a baby snapper. We let it go in the stream behind T & M's yard. I don't think that one peed, it just generally smelled bad.

  8. I will never approach a turtle in the same way! I can attest that fox pee is AWFUL. I bought some to put around my garden to ward off rabbits and it smelled so bad I decided to just let the rabbits have the garden.

  9. Mrs. G. - Fox pee? You can buy that? I'm just mindboggled trying to imagine how they collect it. I'd have let the rabbits have the garden too.

  10. Mrs G - thanks for the warning. We are trying to discourage ravenous bunnies from eating all our veggies and I knew you could buy fox pee. I won't bother now. I will go back to trying to persuade my boys to .....ermm..... provide their own deterent in the garden. (Current response: "Mum!!!!!!! Stop it!!!!)

  11. It was probably a Mrs. Turtle. Or maybe a Ms. But good for you! When I saved a snapping turtle two summers ago (at great risk to my fingers), I realized much too late that I'd put her back on the side that she'd started from. Duh! I didn't see her remains on the road any time after that though, so either she gave up the egg laying thing or made it across the road at another time.
    But she didn't pee on me, thank goodness!

  12. I really like turtles and had no idea about this pee thing - both that it was foul and that you were likely to get some on you while saving a turtle's life. I feel like taking out a public service announcement on this. EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW.

    Also, you are my heroine :).