Spoiled and overweight, Skippy needs a new home Turtle: In 1959, the Spielmans bought a tiny pet for their 3-year-old daughter. Today, the family wants to give the animal away -- but not to just anyone.

August 25, 1996|By S. Mitra Kalita | S. Mitra Kalita,SUN STAFF

A turtle crept its way into Henry Spielman's heart 37 years ago. Now, the Brooklyn Park man fears nobody will be able to take care of his faithful pet if it outlives him and his wife.

"We're not going to be around forever," said Spielman, 70. "And these things can probably live to be 80 or 90 years old."

The Spielman family bought the 25-cent turtle in 1959 at a local five-and-dime for their daughter, then 3 years old.

"Back then, it was the size of a half-dollar piece," said Henry Spielman's wife, Romaine. "We'd had several before him, but they all died within a year."

That's why the Spielmans never named their turtle -- until recently, when Henry Spielman began calling it Skippy. The bright green turtle, about 8 inches in diameter, lives in a windowsill aquarium in the Spielmans' house in the 4300 block of Belle Grove Road.

Henry Spielman said he has tried to get the Baltimore Zoo and the Maryland Science Center to take it but that neither will accept pet turtles because they are at higher risk for diseases such as salmonella.

And Spielman won't give it to just anybody. This is a finicky turtle. Or spoiled, as both Spielmans acknowledged.

Skippy goes through at least a half-pound of shrimp a week, must be near a window and has to have a rock on which to sunbathe. He also eats pieces of fish, raw beef and freshly dug worms right out of his owner's hand.

The turtle is too fat and needs more exercise, said Spielman's co-worker Jerry Dorsch, who owns Dorsch Auto Parts on Ritchie Highway.

"He has rolls of fat coming off of him," said Dorsch, who has several turtles himself. "Henry's is a sitting turtle."

The Spielmans have nursed their pet through many sicknesses over the years. When in doubt, they call the Baltimore Zoo's reptile specialists. Once, Henry Spielman said, he gave Skippy doses of vitamin A through a syringe.

"I just don't think he'd get that kind of treatment anywhere else," he said. "He's so well cared for, he might make it to 100."

Henry Spielman refuses to acknowledge that he has a certain affinity for the turtle, saying, "I don't know if I'm attached or just tolerant."

His wife tells a different tale. "He'll come and talk to it every morning," she said. "The turtle is just like one of the kids. It sort of took over when our daughter grew up."

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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