Shell Shocked - BodyShop Business

Shell Shocked

Walt McAnallen, owner of Hastings Street Collision, saves 6-pound snapping turtle in need of some body repair.


It was a typical day for Walt McAnallen, owner of Hastings Street Collision in Traverse City, Mich.

But typical soon gave way to strange when the staff from the neighboring veterinary clinic stopped by with a 6-pound snapping turtle in need of some body repair. The turtle had been in a major collision with an automobile. The result: a nasty 1/2-inch gash through the length of her shell.

The doctors already did the prep work by cleansing and stitching the torn muscle beneath the badly damaged shell. But after consulting with a wildlife expert, they learned their mend wouldn’t hold – and the turtle’s life would be in jeopardy – unless the shell was somehow made waterproof.

Enter McAnallen.

Not surprisingly, there’s nothing in the P-Pages about turtle repair, so McAnallen used his own judgment and didn’t concern himself with labor times and materials used.

“I do collision work for one of the gals at the veterinarian’s clinic next door,” says McAnallen. “They were wondering what fiberglass would do. It caught me off guard when they came in, but I just went at it like it was any other little project.”

But this was no small endeavor – especially when you consider the power behind the jaws of a 6-pound snapper. (Because this snapper wasn’t full grown, her bite would only break the skin. An adult snapper, however, can easily take off a finger or two and even snap bone.) To ensure McAnallen remained injury-free, the vet’s staff handled the turtle – who was awake throughout the repair process.

Although the repair went well, it wasn’t until the next day that they knew the repair was a success – the fiberglass patch had hardened and adhered.

Before long, and with a little coaxing, the turtle was coming out her shell – er, was coming around – and moving around quite a bit.

It was time to set her free.

Did she suffer from any diminished value due to having been wrecked and repaired? Hard to say. And since she didn’t seem concerned by the possibility as she slowly made her way back into the woods, we’ll likely never know.

There goes another satisfied customer …

“You get all kinds of things in here [that people want you to repair],” says McAnallen. “I guess we’re a jack of all trades. But this was my first turtle.”

And since the turtle had no insurance – and didn’t seem all that amenable to shelling out the cash – the vet told McAnallen to send her office the bill.

“But,” he says, “I told her I couldn’t do that.”

Which, in my opinion, makes McAnallen one “shell” of a guy.

Writer Cheryl McMullen is managing editor of BodyShop Business.

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