KATONAH, N.Y. – Twenty-six years ago, a turtle approximately the size of a quarter was left in a shoebox on the doorstep of the Katonah Village Library. It was love at first sight, as the cold-blooded reptile warmed the hearts of her new loving library family who immediately gave her a new home.
Since then, things have gone pretty swimmingly for Tina, who earned her name decades ago in a contest. She became the library’s official mascot and is adored by thousands of library patrons who continue to visit her on a regular basis.
Last year, however, Tina became sick and developed an infection on her shell.
After a trip to the veterinarian, the librarians learned that Tina needed a larger tank with an area to “dry dock.” Ideally, Tina would also have more time in the sun.
Thanks to some tender, love and care from the librarians, Tina has since returned to full health. Children’s librarian Stephanie Mandella, for example, treated Tina with iodine baths and injections.
Teatown Lake Reservation, a non-profit nature preserve based in Yorktown, has also assisted in Tina’s recovery efforts and confirmed that she is in good health.
But, Tina is growing and still needs a new home.
“We’re looking for a 150-gallon turtle tank that has a place for her to dry dock,” Mandella said.
The large turtle tank, recommended by Teatown, would be placed in the children’s room at the library and would provide Tina with her ideal indoor living environment. The library is also looking to purchase a new base for the tank, a new filtration system, a new lamp and lamp attachment, and potentially a new ultraviolet light.
The library has organized an online fundraiser to cover the cost of the new tank and its “accoutrements,” Mandella said. The library has ballparked the costs at $5,000. As of now, the library has raised just shy of $1,500 at givegab.com/campaigns/tina-needs-a-new-tank.
Ideally, said library director Mary Kane, the library would raise enough money to also purchase an outside enclosure for Tina, who would benefit from extra sunlight.
“If we make enough money, we can make a little enclosure in our serenity garden,” Kane said.
Tina is a river cooter originally from Texas, Mandella said. Like many others in her species, Tina likes being a loner.
“They’re not aggressive, but they like to be left alone,” Mandella said.
River cooters often live into their 40s.
“After we learned that Tina is only middle-aged, we are focused on making her comfortable and happy,” Kane said.
Tina is colorblind and can only see yellow, Mandella said. But, Tina always knows when she has company.
“She knows when we’re in there and she knows me and she knows the kids and she will come up and look right at you,” Mandella said. “She’s a sweet, sweet girl. She loves being outside. She’s great.”
Tina has been a fixture at the library for almost three decades, serving as a friend to several generations of young readers.
“I have people in almost every day to visit Tina,” Mandella said.
Tina is used to being the center of attention. Six years ago, a 20th birthday party for her brought out proclamation-bearing politicians and hundreds of residents, Mandella said.
The library will continue its collaboration with Teatown sometime in the fall, Mandella said. The organization will likely return to talk about Tina and will also bring some other turtle friends for kids to meet.