I was inspired by Daria’s post on taking back “Turkey Lovers’ Month” from the National Turkey Federation to write in honor of turkeys I’ve met at sanctuaries who mean a lot to me. Turkeys are unique. Each individual turkey has a personality, a unique perception of the world around them. Personally meeting a turkey at a sanctuary can make all the difference, as it did for me. In an instant, the word “turkey” changed from an object, a thing, into “turkeys,” an animal, an individual.
Such was the case when I met Emma at Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary, located in Poughquag, New York and run by husband and wife team Bill and Ellen Crain. I had never been to an animal sanctuary before making the journey out to Safe Haven, and I was strangely nervous. As Bill gave me a tour, he explained to me that the turkeys living there were originally bred to be eaten, which was why their bodies were so large, and colored bleach-white. Despite this, the four turkeys present were brimming with life and energy. Emma, not at all shy, came right up to me. She was curious to see the new visitors. Looking at her wide eyes, I felt overwhelmed because while I was nervous to be by her, she was not nervous to be by me, and had no problem getting really close.
Bill asked if I wanted to feed her, and gave me feed. I held my hand out – a bad idea in retrospect, as Emma reached right out and forcefully plucked a mouthful. It was sudden, quick, and made me laugh. She just does what she wants, and owns it. She is a turkey of wild personality traits, from sweet, to timid, to brave. And I admired that a lot. Emma taught me that regardless of how we view animals and their behaviors, their personalities and actions are uniquely their own. Much like a dear friend or family member, she is who she is.
Last year, I started sponsoring Beatrice at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary before I had ever even visited. Beatrice was brought up on a commercial turkey farm and purchased live as a gift for Thanksgiving, but eventually, and luckily, ended up at WFAS. Beatrice is a people person, always looking to be stroked or to be lavished with attention. When I finally met her, I knew who she was right away, just from her proud strut. She was more beautiful in person than in photos. At ThanksLiving 2012, it was a joy to watch as she got sweet potatoes all over her face from eating without hesitation. I know a few people like that.
Consider sponsoring a turkey at a local sanctuary (find one at sanctuaries.org), and become acquainted with their many unique, interesting personalities.
Photo credit: Allyson Dwyer