kk

Don’t try to teach a turtle tricks

I got Smokey at Woolworths.

Woolworths was an awesome department store downtown, across from Hayhoe’s Plumbing, and it’s where I spent my allowance on the first 45 record (look it up, kids!) I ever bought: Love Me Do by The Beatles.

I can still see that cool orange and yellow Capital Records logo swirling around on my sister’s suitcase record player.

Also, I loved to go to Woolworths on account of they had those tubes that started at the tills and ran up to the ceiling, and all the way across the huge store and into another room.

The cashiers would load a bunch of cash in a small cylinder and shove it in the tube, and whoosh, it would be sucked up into the tube and be blasted next door, where presumably a gang of accountants with green visors would be hunched around a table counting the moola.

So that was a bonus. I always wanted to put something in that tube – you know, a tomato or a small animal, and run to the other end, but for some reason, I never got the chance.

But speaking of small animals, as I may have mentioned, Woolworths was where I got Smokey.

Smokey was a turtle, about the size of a tin of Altoids, and when you turned him over, his underside was a nice blue pattern. I named him after my cousin (Smokey), though to this day, I’m not sure why.

If you don’t count goldfish and my dog Bim, that turtle was my first very-own pet.

Smokey didn’t do much, and he did it very slowly, but I liked him a lot, and we had many good conversations. I even thought (briefly) about trying to train him to do tricks, but I soon gave that idea up when I couldn’t think of any tricks a turtle could do.

And speaking of trained animals, I noticed recently that a rat was awarded a medal. Awkward segue aside, I was fascinated to read that Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, just won Britain’s highest animal honour.

Magawa is a sniffer, and one of the best. He sniffs out explosives in Cambodia, where there are many dangerous land mines.

In fact, in four years, the reliable rat has found 67 items of unexploded ordinance, saving many lives.

Magawa is a big, honking rat, about half the size of a large cat. He and many other rats are trained to scurry along the field and stop and scratch the ground when they smell something explosive.

And I know what you’re thinking: how many rats do they go through in any given week of explosions? But here’s the thing: Magawa and the rest of the rats are not heavy enough to trigger the land mines.

And he works for peanuts. Well, actually, he works for bananas. That’s his special treat.

And now Magawa the Hero Rat proudly wears a shiny little medal on his bomb-sniffing harness.

All of which reminded me of Smokey.

I’m not sure why a bomb-sniffing rat reminded me of my pet turtle, except maybe the dubious notion of training other animals (like turtles, for example) to detect land mines. Or drugs. Or smuggled bananas, for example.

Dogs do it all the time; cats are much too precious to bother doing something honourable. But new research shows that fruit flies, of all things, have the ability to detect bombs and drugs.

And I didn’t even think that fruit flies had noses.

As for Smokey, turtles, at least small ones from department stores, don’t live very long.

I personally buried him out in our backyard in Parkvale; in the perfect place, safe and sound from sniffing animals.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Red Deer jumps to 449 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday

1,516 new cases identified in Alberta

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read