Last week I gleefully reported on the release of two turtles back into ocean waters.
I say gleefully for two reasons.
Any opportunity to get out from behind a desk and staring at a computer monitor is welcome, that it arrived first thing in the morning on the beach; well, pinch me.
The second factor for me was the turtles.
They are mysterious creatures, those hardbacks.
Even though I have expended numerous hours and effort on education about turtles, I am constantly amazed, with each event and opportunity to talk to researchers, how little remains unknown.
I guess those waters provide the perfect curtain.
In any case, a turtle release is always a joyful occasion, wildlife returned to the wild, but it turned out, as there so often is, I must spend some time borrowing a bit from the late Paul Harvey.
For here, is the rest of the story.
We begin with the release, with a turtle named Paddy but Gulf World Marine Institute due to the March 19 date it was found, close to St. Patrick’s Day, and rescued from St. Joe Beach.
The information provided was that the St. Joe Beach/East Bay Turtle Patrol had rescued the turtle for transport to Gulf World.
This, as far it went, represented the overview.
The, as I stated, rest of the story came this week.
Kathleen Jones of St. Joe Beach called and acknowledged she was a bit taken aback while reading the story.
Where in the world did “Paddy” come from?
Not from her group which actually found the turtle, though turtle patrol volunteers provided the big assist getting the little one from beach to rehabilitation.
She called the newspaper just to fill in some details, to, shall we say, peel the story back another layer or two.
Jones said her son and a friend were out on the beach.
As an aside, let us note that Jones and her family are among so many who found this part of paradise somewhat by happenstance.
Originally from Flagstaff, AZ, Jones has an aunt and uncle with a house in Mexico Beach.
She and her family had visited a half-dozen times or so.
And when her husband retired, after serving in the Air Force, this was the spot they wanted to which they wished to settle.
Fast forward to March 19.
Her son had a friend visiting.
Not just a friend, but a man with whom a friendship had been forged in combat; hard to forge a stronger bond.
Both, has it were, are named Mike.
So, to separate the two in the course of any visit, Mike the friend goes by his nickname, “Mad Dog.”
And it would come to be on March 19 that “Mad Dog” was out on the beach with a metal detector, not an uncommon sight.
“He just came up and said, ‘There’s a turtle down there,’” Jones said.
Sure, enough, struggling in the surf was a juvenile green sea turtle and it was in trouble.
“He just could not go in either direction,” Kathleen said. “He also had a gash on his head and was bleeding.
“It almost looked like he was trying to get onshore.”
Kathleen and her son reached out, through friends, to the local turtle patrol, and Bill Faust arrived and took some photos.
A woman they could not identify took information about their find.
The next thing she knew, Kathleen was reading about the turtle’s release and the turtle had been named “Paddy.”
Kathleen noted that was not the name they had chosen.
To explain, let’s return to “Mad Dog.”
As with her son, “Mad Dog” had been in combat during multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The two men emerged from the crucible of war, the “scars” remaining even after a decade, Jones said.
But there was also the fighting spirit, the commitment to survival, which Kathleen knew “Mad Dog” had demonstrated in his young life.
A spirit she saw in that turtle, which it turned out suffered a compression fracture.
“He had been out there fighting (for country) and working hard to survive,” Kathleen said of “Mad Dog.”
“That’s what this turtle was doing, that’s what his name should be.”
Today, “Mad Dog” the terrapin is likely feasting along the sea grasses of St. Joseph Bay (again, researchers do not know) oblivious to any discussion of his name.
But, possessed of a life provided by the care of a “Mad Dog” and his friends who did the right thing.