Creature Feature: Pearl
“She was my friend.” Young SALI volunteer Baden Klein says so much about Pearl’s extraordinary life with this one simple sentence. For the very idea of a turkey giving and receiving true friendship is not generally a widespread idea or understanding. Pearl, a Broad Breasted White Turkey was originally destined for a much more grim purpose as a factory bird. And while she may have left us all sooner than we were ready for, she undoubtedly outlived many of her peers while surrounded by the love and care other turkeys are tragically never granted.
Pearl and her ‘sister’ Ruby joined the ranks of Louise, Henrietta and Emmy-Lou in the SALI aviary in July 12th, 2018. Just one evening before, they mysteriously appeared in a local neighbours chicken coup. Both turkeys appeared to have had their beaks and toes amputated, indicating that they originated from a factory farm rafter. While the neighbours were unable to take on the care of the new birds, they knew just who to call. Those of us who have spent time at SALI have grown accustomed to the announcement of new farm residents, and Pearl and Ruby were welcomed with open arms.
Just under ten pounds when she arrived, Pearl was timid but vocal. Her young turkey calls were soft, sweet and almost relentless. Her food focus was easily identified and while she was motivated to eat, she remained nervous of many of her visitors in the beginning. She was also skeptical of her new roommates in the aviary. Picking up on this, the SALI team rallied around an alternate plan and quickly moved Pearl and Ruby into new living quarters inside the barn. A move that motivated a shift in Pearl’s level of comfort and confidence, as noted by Animal Care Volunteer, Laura Klein and her family. Engaging in frequent gentle chats with Pearl about how safe and loved she was during their weekly AM shift, the growing turkey responded to the Klein family’s attention. One morning Pearl began following Laura’s young son, Baden. The pursuing soon escalated into petting, to the point where Pearl felt comfortable enough closing her eyes and resting at the feet of her new little friend.
As she settled into her surroundings, Pearl became the feathered friend who didn’t want to miss out on anything. Poking her bobbing head around every corner to see who she would meet, or what she could eat! It became second nature to have a turkey on your heels as you crossed the farm yard. There were numerous times Pearl did much of the work spreading the fresh sawdust and maneuvering the straw as volunteers prepped the cow stall for the evening. If you had buttons or laces or patterns on your clothing, you can bet Pearl had a go at pecking them all. Her curiosity was insatiable and you could almost tell by the tilt of her head that she was learning and contemplating at all times.
Further to the love she accepted and encouraged, Pearl had a purpose in life that was so much greater than what she was bred for. While her time on earth was little, her personality and reach were large. Pearl is the reason our family’s thanksgiving dinner has forever detoured from what it once was. Pearl taught us that character comes in all shapes and sizes. Her hilarious flight attempts while trying to fit in with the duck crowd will forever remind us to be courageous. Her countless leaps onto forbidden surfaces well beyond her reach may no longer frighten us during our shifts, but they will motivate us to push the envelope. Not a soul among us who knew Pearl would deny her positive impact.
With very little warning, Pearl became ill and had to be euthanized in January 18th, 2019. While we’re always ready for new resident announcements, the passing of one of our dear charges is never an announcement we are ready for. Six months was not enough time with her. The humour, humility and education that Pearl brought to the farm was undeniable and while we crave more, we take solace in knowing her short life was well lived.
“When we talked to Pearl we would tell her that she was lucky but upon reflection we were lucky to have known her.” The Klein family again summing up what all of us think about our rare gem, Pearl the turkey. You are missed, Pearl. You are missed.
Animal Care Volunteer