Sunday, August 12, 2007


Do You Stop For Turtles?

I know I've met a kindred spirit if I ask someone if they stop for turtles and they know exactly what I'm talking about.

June in Wisconsin is turtle season. For a two to three week period, you'll find them slowly ambling across country roads. Over the past decade I have become a turtle stopper. I'll pull over, gently pick them up and move them (in the direction they are going) to the other side of the road. I figure it helps even their odds a bit against vehicles moving 55-65 miles an hour. If they're hurt I make a call to the local wildlife rehabilitation center. While wildlife must be treated with respect, turtles are one of the few wild animals a person is easily able to help along (they very rarely scratch and hiss at you).

One time when I approached one, it shoved out its legs to get moving and piddled right there on the road. That memory is just too sweet … turtle panic! Last year my mother good-naturedly complained that now I have her stopping for turtles too. Is compassion a contagious thing?

Kindred Spirit. While there are many words or phrases that connect those of us who give of ourselves … Humane-Minded, Dedicated, Generous, Optimistic, Selfless … the one that so often comes to my mind, yet I hardly ever hear spoken aloud is "Kindred Spirit". There are several text book definitions: "a persons relatives", or "related by birth", but the one I'm referring to is "having the same belief, attitude or feeling".

One day many years ago I was dropping off supplies at the Chippewa County Shelter. While talking with the manager, I met one of the board members and we all chatted for a few minutes. Two weeks later, I was going to work at 6:30 am on Highway 53 and came up to an intersection where a German Shepherd was pacing back and forth across the four lanes of traffic. I pulled onto the service road, grabbed my brown bag lunch (bologna) and got out. I have a rule that I will stop for all pets. It's rooted in the belief that if my dog or cat were lost I'd want someone to stop and help them.

As I started talking to this dog, out of the corner of my eye I see another car has stopped and a man is getting out. I recognize him; he is the board member I met a few weeks earlier. Coincidence? No, a Kindred Spirit!

In animal welfare organizations, you will come across all kinds of Kindred Spirits. Many times they'll open your eyes to a different way to look at things. Several years ago I worked the shelter thrift sale with a fellow volunteer and she caught a fly in her hand - don't ask me how, I have no idea! There was newspaper handy so I said, "Why didn't you just whack it?" Her reply was "Well, it's not hurting anything". It was a fly, for Pete's sake! But I still think of those words to this day. And yes, now I am one of those people that will put an old butter container over a bee bumbling along my living room window, slide paper between, then go and release it into the outside world.

Am I consistent in this humane outlook? I have to confess; no I am not. I have schmucked spiders going across my floor (yuck, big ol' groady ones, yuck again!). Other inconsistencies? I absolutely refuse to buy anything with real fur on it, but I wear leather shoes. I refuse to try veal (baby calves!) and lobster (boiling them!), but I love a good bacon cheeseburger. So we pick and choose our humane standards as we plod along through life.

While we may not always be consistent or agree with each other on our humane opinions, I think having the awareness of the issue is literally half the battle. We do things and hope that maybe we have left the world a little better than it was, and hope this offsets everything that leaves it a little worse.

Am I always this positive in my outlook? … no again.

The pessimistic side of me thinks the general public is pretty much a bunch of idiots, the world is a mess and how pathetic is it that we need laws based on common sense? We think it's stupid and cruel that bear fights were popular in the Middle Ages, but today we still have people organizing dog fights … give me a break, people!

Then the positive side of me thinks the "Pay It Forward" mentality really works and we can all make a difference if we try.

But the realistic side of me knows we will never win the battle to live in a utopian world where everyone is kind, all creatures are treated humanely and there's no pollution, war or problems. But if the alternative is to do nothing … well … that doesn't work very well either, does it?

Kindred Spirits. Gotta love them; they give us hope.

Several years ago, I saw a small turtle along a road, just two feet from the edge … almost there! As I pulled over, I saw another car from the opposite direction stop too. Our eyes met through the open car windows, I raised my eyebrows and said one word. "Turtle?" He gave a slow grin and started nodding. I made a waving motion with my hand that said … "Don't worry, I've got this one."


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