I don't know where to start with this one, so I will start from the beginning...

My boyfriend got me Abernathy, an Eastern Box Turtle back in December (a Christmas present). I have loved turtles since I was a kid so this was a milestone in my life. When we first got her we went the whole nine yards and got everything that she needed and then some! We currently have a tank that can house three turtles (she's spoiled)! Other than normal hatchling stuff that we could easily research and correct, she was perfectly healthy.

About a month or two ago, I noticed that her scutes had gaps in between them. A scute is "a thickened bony plate on a turtle's shell", or "the top shell". Contrary to popular belief, turtles never leave their shell. In fact, a turtle's shell is attached to their spine, nervous and respiratory systems. Knowing this, and seeing the gaps, I freaked out and researched for hours upon hours and I couldn't find anything other than that "turtles will tend to shed their scutes," so I figured it was normal.

Fast forward to last night. I was analyzing her shell after she was done eating and I decided to snap a picture and put it on an internet turtle forum (yes they have those). I had a couple people comment (and send me messages privately) that there was something wrong with Abernathy and I should take her to the vet ASAP.

At this point, it's almost midnight and I'm freaking out. I probably called every veterinarian in Ocean County and left a message. I was going to bring her to a 24-hour clinic, but I figured waking her up at that time would freak her out, so I just let her be.

My experience with Fischer Veterinary Hospital started early this morning around 8 a.m when I called their Lakewood branch and set up an appointment for 10:20. I went through the normal information steps over the phone and the receptionist was a total sweetheart. When you're freaking out over an animal it's good to have someone on the other end is taking the interest in your pet and not treating them like a dollar sign and it made me feel a whole lot better.

My scheduled appointment was for 10:20 am, and I probably got there around 9:45ish (I figured there would be normal paperwork for a first-time visit, which there was). After the paperwork, I was sitting with my turtle in a shoebox silently having a nervous breakdown when I asked the receptionist if they get a lot of turtles. She said sweetly not too many but reassured me that the doctor is specialized in exotic animals.

I had to be called in around 10:05 and the nurse asked me questions about Abernathy and weighed her (she is 22 grams if you were wondering). Soon after Dr. Paul Crawford came in and started to his examination.

I was relieved to her that she is a-okay and that what Abernathy was experiencing was just a part of normal growth. I had to ask him close to 50 questions (no joke) because I just wanted to make sure that I am doing everything right. He gave me papers and pamphlets to look over so I could learn more about Eastern Box Turtles.

The doctor did mention that I have to start feeding Ab more greens and vegetables. Listen, I've tried but she is a normal baby and she rejects them ALL the time. So, instead, I have to get her a special vitamin powder from the store and put it on her food.

I can't thank Dr. Crawford and everyone I encountered today enough. This really puts my mind at ease. Having a turtle is just like having a cat or a dog. It's a living being and apart of the family. It's even scarier with something like a turtle because they do not necessarily show signs of sickness like dogs or cats would - so you always have to stay on top of them.

STOP: Are you thinking of adopting a turtle? Yes, I understand THEY ARE VERY CUTE, however, they are more than just a "stick in a bowl pet". You should never take a turtle from the wild UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. The sale of Turtles in the state of New Jersey is illegal, but the possession of one is legal. Abernathy was adopted out of state. Here is everything you're going to need if you want a turtle.

Donate to these wonderful turtle non-profits:

Check out this HUGE Snapping Turtle: