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Summer 2003 | Contents

Goodbye to Alice: A Tribute

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to a very special friend, Alice the turkey. Alice was for many years Poplar Spring's unofficial mascot, and her outgoing personality and affection for people made her one of the most beloved animals at the sanctuary.

  Alice and Max.
  Alice and friend Max.
Photo: Debbie Duel
   

Alice came to Poplar Spring in 1998, after she was found strolling down a sidewalk in Frederick, Maryland. She was picked up by the Frederick County animal control in the fall, so we think she was probably being raised for someone's Thanksgiving dinner when she escaped. As we always said, Alice was a very smart turkey. She was initially shy but once she adjusted to life at the farm she began to show an amazing attraction to humans. She was often compared to a dog, as she loved nothing more than to be close to people. At night she slept in the chicken barn but during the day she followed people around, going from barn to barn, resting only when whoever she was following stopped walking. She loved large tour groups most of all, and would yelp anxiously in the barn until we would let her out in the morning. She would then waddle/run to the top of the hill, legs flying out to the side of her large top-heavy body, until she could get a clear look at the parking area. She would scan the view for school buses, her favorite sight. If there was no bus, she would give a disappointed chirp, and walk slowly around, looking for someone to follow. On tour days she eagerly joined the group, tail feathers up in display, amazing young and old alike with her charming character. She would sit down on the ground so that small children could reach her and pet her feathers, and she would close her eyes in happiness when her neck and head were stroked. Her affinity for people often placed her in amusing situations. Once when a group of students on a tour were misbehaving, their teacher ordered them to line up in single file in front of the bus. The children dutifully walked to the bus, with Alice in tow. When the teacher walked over to discuss the children's behavior with them, he was quite surprised to see that Alice had taken her place in the lineup, directly between two of the errant youngsters, waiting patiently for the teacher's lecture. She often even climbed into the school buses with the children, not wanting them to leave.

One of Alice's personality quirks was her great love of anything with wheels. For this reason she was highly attracted to strollers and wheelchairs, much to the delight of some and the distraction of others. Mothers who did not know Alice were initially concerned when she was jogging excitedly next to their baby's stroller, afraid that she was "after" their young child, then were puzzled when we assured them that Alice was only trying to get closer to the stroller's wheels. Elderly and handicapped visitors delighted in the fact that they could reach down and pet this incredible turkey who would lay literally on top of those attractive extra large wheels.

 
Alice and Wheelchairs.

Alice in her element.

 

Alice was always the life of the party. She once danced to the live band at our Open House and Fundraiser, pirouetting, strutting and spinning to the Elvis Presley song which apparently put her in the mood. She was the favorite hostess at our annual "Thanksgiving WITH the turkeys" vegan event, and she and the other turkeys enjoyed celebrating the holiday with their own special table loaded with cranberries, grapes, pumpkin pie, and other goodies. Alice enjoyed being a star, and was featured on several local news stations over the years, most recently even appearing on Animal Planet's Pet Psychic.

In her later years, Alice was stricken with arthritis, and could no longer make the long trips to the various barns on the tours. She still enjoyed interacting with visitors who would come to her barn to visit her, but her dancing days were over. In the end, she never suffered, and after a lively morning of pecking at the scrub brush with which we were cleaning the barn ramp (one of her favorite activities) she died quietly in her sleep. Alice was at least six years old, a geriatric age for a domestic turkey, bred to grow heavy and large for her breast meat, which is preferred by consumers. Normally turkeys are slaughtered at only 16 weeks of age, so Alice the amazing turkey beat the odds, and had a wonderful full life that all turkeys deserve. She is survived by her turkey friends Olivia, Ann Marie, Eliot, Gobbles, and Gertrude, and she will be greatly missed by the many people who came to know and love her. We buried Alice on the highest hill overlooking the sanctuary. Her most lasting achievement was her demonstration to countless visitors that turkeys can be so much more than food -- if given the opportunity, they would love to be our friends.

 

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