Myrtle: She Finally Gets Her Say

Myrtle: She Finally Gets Her Say

Anne was visiting her local pet supply shop and got to talking to the staff person about her turtle, Speedy, who is a stink pot turtle. When the staff person realized how much Anne knew about the care of turtles and how much Anne loved Speedy, she told Anne about a turtle they had for sale in the store. The turtle was large and was living in a very small tank. The turtle seemed unhappy to Anne. The staff person said that she was afraid that the turtle would end up being sold to someone who wouldn’t take proper care of her and, in Anne’s words, “basically begged me to buy the turtle.” Anne felt sorry for the turtle and agreed to take her home.

That was how Anne met Myrtle. Myrtle is an African sideneck turtle. At approximately 3 years old, Myrtle is a pretty big girl. She weighs 5 pounds and her shell measures about 9 inches long — 11 inches total with her neck stretched out. The species is called “sideneck” because they can’t tuck their heads into their shells when threatened — they turn their heads/necks to the side instead.

Anne knew from the beginning that having a turtle as big as Myrtle meant having a big tank for her to live in — so she got a 100 gallon tank for Myrtle to call home. All water turtles like swimming and basking (think sunbathing,) so Anne made sure that Myrtle had two dry area, covered by sand for basking and water for swimming in her tank. From her experience with Speedy, Anne knew a lot about creating a positive environment for turtles. She did everything she could think of to help make Myrtle happy . . . but somehow Anne felt that Myrtle wasn’t as happy as she hoped she’d be.

Anne contacted me about scheduling an animal communication session for Myrtle soon after that. While I’ve talked to turtles before, African sidekick turtles were new to me and I’d never talked to a turtle who was as big as Myrtle. I was looking forward to talking to her.

When I initially connected to Myrtle, she seemed a bit standoffish. She gave me permission to talk to her, but Myrtle wasn’t very open or talkative. It wasn’t that she was afraid — on the contrary she seemed quite confident — but she just didn’t seem to think much of humans. When I told Anne this, she said it made sense to her because Myrtle didn’t interact with her much. Speedy, on the other hand, was all about interacting with Anne and the “outside” world. In fact, he was a media star and had a fan club due to all the photos and videos of him that Anne posted on social media.

Myrtle, on the other hand, was just the opposite. My initial feeling was that Myrtle was used to being ignored and that she just accepted what she was given, in terms of her food and environment, and made the best of it. After all, what choice did she have? But now that she was with Anne, things were going to change!

I encouraged Myrtle to share and told her we’d listen to everything she had to say. I told her that if anything in her life needed changing, Anne would do her best to make it happen because Anne wanted her to be happy. Myrtle gave that some thought and she decided that if we would listen, she would have her say.

Myrtle made it clear to me that she wasn’t too happy about her habitat in the tank. When I asked her what she’d like changed . . . well, there was a lot! Myrtle would tell me/show me images of things, share her physical/emotional feelings about whatever she was telling me and I also “heard” what she had to say and I shared it all with Anne.

Myrtle felt that the environment of her tank was boring and sterile. She wanted a more natural environment. She showed me water plants and nibbling on the water plants. Anne said that there were no plants in Myrtle’s tank, but said she’d get some. Since Myrtle had showed me nibbling the water plants, I asked Anne if African sideneck turtles ate plants. Anne said they were omnivores — so they eat anything they can catch, plants included. Myrtle also felt the water was “too clean.” She liked it a little more mirky. Anne was meticulous about cleaning the turtles’ tanks, but she said she’d try to take out less of the “old” water when she cleaned the tank and added clean water.

Next Myrtle told/showed me that she did not like the sand on the dry parts of her tank because it was difficult for her to get traction on it, so it was difficult for her to pull herself on to the dry area. Anne said she would see what she could figure out.

Food was the next item for discussion. Myrtle showed me she would prefer live food to hunt. Although this made sense to Anne, since turtles are omnivores, it also made Anne uncomfortable. In Anne’s words, “I’m a sap and have not gotten my mind around this yet because I have feelings for all creatures.” She said she would try to find something that might work for Myrtle — maybe live meal worms — but she wasn’t sure she’d be able to find them.

Anne wanted to know if the small flies that were in her tank bothered Myrtle. They were very annoying, Myrtle told me — because she couldn’t catch them and eat them.

Since Anne interacted a lot with her other turtle, Speedy, Anne wanted to know if Myrtle had any preferences about how Anne interacted with her. Myrtle showed me that she didn’t like when Anne looked at her from above the tank. She preferred that Anne look at her from the side of the tank . . . and tapping on the glass was never OK. Anne said she never, ever tapped on the glass of the tank. Myrtle confirmed that this was true — but showed me that people in the pet store did it a LOT, which Myrtle found to be very rude.

As we finished up the session, Myrtle seemed quite pleased to find that Anne was really listening to her and wanted to make things better for her. The idea that someone would care about her was clearly a new concept for her. Myrtle clearly enjoyed the session. Anne found the experience fascinating and scheduled a follow up session a month later, so we could check on the changes she planned to make in Myrtle’s environment.

The next time we talked to Myrtle, she was clearly more relaxed and happy.

Anne had gotten live plants for Myrtle’s tank, but hadn’t observed Myrtle nibbling them. Myrtle said she liked the plants, but “they weren’t the right plants for nibbling.” Anne said she would try to see what she could figure out for new plants.

Anne hadn’t figured out a good way to give Myrtle better traction to help her up on the dry parts of her tank, but she’d put flat rocks in the dry areas and hoped that would help. Myrtle showed me that the sand was still a problem for her — but she loved the flat rocks in the dry areas, which gave her a place to bask. Anne said she would keep working on this and would add more flat rocks too.

There was a underwater stone tunnel in Myrtle’s tank and Anne said Myrtle spent a lot of time in there. Anne was concerned that Myrtle did this because she was depressed. When I asked Myrtle about it, she said she liked to be in the tunnel. It was a hiding place — but not because she was fearful or upset. The “hiding” felt like a natural part of her life as a turtle and wasn’t an indicator of a problem or issue. Anne was really relieved to hear that!

Anne said she would continue to work on making the changes Myrtle requested and we scheduled another appointment for the following month.

When we talked again, Anne said they’d had a real challenge with Myrtle’s and Speedy’s tanks. The live plants apparently had a snail eggs on them that were invisible to the eye and the result was a snail infestation in both tanks. Needless to say, the live plants had to go. Anne put in a lot of plastic plants instead. She was still working on getting rid of the snails, though. Anne was concerned about how Myrtle felt about the plastic plants and the snail infestation.

Myrtle said she did NOT like the snails. I explained that the snails came in on the live plants, which is why Anne got the plastic plants and that Anne was doing her best to get rid of the snails. I asked Myrtle how she felt about the plastic plants. She showed me “hiding” in them —not out of fear — it was more for fun. The feeling from her was that the plastic plants were good camouflage and that they were a better place to hide than the tunnel. She showed me the tunnel being empty and spending more time in the plastic plants. Anne confirmed that Myrtle spent very little time in the tunnel since the plastic plants were put in.

We talked about the dry areas of Myrtle’s tank next. Anne said that she had raised the water level in Myrtle’s tank because it occurred to her that raising the water level of the tank might help Myrtle have an easier time getting out of the water. Myrtle showed me that raising the water level has made all the difference to her! She no longer has to struggle and can just slide on to the dry areas and doesn’t have to rely on her “grip” to pull herself out. Anne told me that she’d also added more flat rocks to the dry areas and that Myrtle spent a long time rearranging the rocks until she had them where she wanted them — “She’s quite the architect!” Myrtle said “the dry areas are perfect now” and showed me that she spends a lot of time “basking” on the rocks. Anne confirmed that Myrtle is basking a lot more, now that she can get up on the rocks more easily.

Anne wanted to see how Myrtle felt about the food she was getting: meal worms, frozen brine shrimp and freeze dried shrimp. Myrtle was very clear that she LOVED the meal worms — next best were the frozen brine shrimp and last was the freeze dried shrimp. She showed me that the texture of the frozen shrimp felt more “natural” to her, but she would eat the freeze dried shrimp too. Anne confirmed that Myrtle was enthusiastic about the food options in the order Myrtle had indicated.

From the beginning Myrtle had been living next to Anne’s other turtle, Speedy. They could see each other through the glass of their aquariums where they were on the dry areas — so Anne wanted to know how Myrtle felt about Speedy. Myrtle said that Speedy talked a LOT (animals talk telepathically)— but she said she liked listening to Speedy. It was like having a happy friend who talks a lot and is fun to listen to. Myrtle showed me that they hung out together and keep each other company, “We’re friends. I never had a friend before.”

Anne told me that she had been gradually putting less and less “old” water and more clean water into Myrtle’s tank when she cleaned it and at this point, each water change Myrtle got all clean water. She was concerned about this, since Myrtle had initially said she likes her water more “mirky.” But when I asked Myrtle about this, she said she loved the clean water now! She was just used to the mirky water at the pet store — they never cleaned her tank properly. She said, “Now I think the clean water is really good!”

The next month when we talked, the first topic we discussed was the snails. Myrtle showed me that they were “everywhere” — on her skin, her shell, in her food and all over the tank. They were very annoying and unpleasant — really interfering with her life/happiness.

Anne confirmed that the snails were everywhere — and in Speedy’s tank too. She said the only way to get rid of the snails was to transfer the turtles to small temporary tanks for 3-5 days so Anne could do a complete cleaning and drying out of the big tanks. Anne asked me to tell both Myrtle and Speedy about the need to transfer to the small tanks so she could get rid of the snail infestation.

Myrtle did not want to be picked up. She showed me struggling and panicking when she was picked up. Anne confirmed that this was the case, so she didn’t pick Myrtle up any more. Myrtle showed me that her reaction was nothing personal to Anne, just an instinctive reaction to being picked up. I explained to Myrtle that the only way to get rid of the snails was to get picked up and moved to the smaller tank. Myrtle said she definitely wanted the snails gone, so she agreed to try not to panic and remember that the move was temporary to get rid of the snails . . . But she would be happy to be back in her big tank, snail free.

Speedy was equally upset about the snails. He had no problem with being picked up and being transfers to the smaller tank — he just wanted the snails gone, whatever it was going to take.

Speedy was concerned that in the smaller tank they might not be near each other — he was concerned about Myrtle getting lonely without him. Anne said that they would be in the same room, but not next to each other. I told the turtles about this arrangement and I encouraged Speedy to keep talking telepathically to Myrtle and Myrtle would understand. Anne said she would be sure to show/tell each of the turtles where the other one was in the room. I told Myrtle that Speedy would be talking to her over distance and she thought that was a great idea!

I asked Myrtle if she was happy in her new home — except for the snails, of course. Myrtle said she felt like “part of the family now.” She said that she felt that Anne really cared about her and tried to make her life better. This made Myrtle feel really happy — she felt like she was considered and “seen” for the first time in her life.


When the turtles were back in their big tanks, after the intense tank cleaning, Anne let me know that Myrtle was completely calm and relaxed during the transfer to the small tank and back to the big tank — she did not struggle at all! Speedy was calm too. It was clear to Anne that both turtles were thrilled to be back in their tanks and reunited for basking time in their big, snail free tanks!

We’ve continued to talk to Anne’s turtles — and cats — as needed. Anne said, “The whole family and all the pets sure appreciate you!”

“Sky’s talks with Myrtle have greatly improved Myrtle’s attitude and outlook on life. Before Sky started talking to her, Myrtle seemed bored and not interested in much and would only interact with us occasionally. Since we started talking to Myrtle with Sky, Myrtle has been more interactive and even looks happier. Myrtle always has so much to say each time we talk to her! I look forward to our next chat.” — Anne T., CO