Daryl is a turkey who thinks he is a dog.
Daryl’s owner, Jenny Goodman, enjoys her unusual pet and provides him a life of leisure in the Leon community of Carter County. His Thanksgiving dinner, however, nearly killed him.
“He just never forgot he grew up in the house,” Goodman said with a chuckle, explaining Daryl cam into her life along with another turkey amongst a batch of baby birds.
“I went to Rural King and got six guineas and they accidentally mixed some turkeys in there,” she said, explaining the immature birds look almost exactly alike. As the began to grow, the guineas rejected the turkeys and Goodman had to separate them.
“I raised them in a cage in the house and named them Merle and Daryl,” she said, confirming the names were inspired by characters on The Walking Dead series.
“Merle didn’t make it,” she added.
Daryl, who is a “Globe Turkey,” soon began to exhibit traits unlike any turkey Goodman had ever seen, and she’s owned a few in the past.
“I’ve had four or five in the past. They act like chickens – They don’t act like Daryl. He is someone stuck in a turkey body. That’s the best way to put it,” she said.
“He’s pretty spoiled. He wants attention. He always wants to be next to me. He’s very protective of me. He’ll come when I call him. He loves being petted. He loves people touching him.”
The big bird immediately made friends with Goodman’s five dogs, and soon began chasing cars along with the pack (a pig named Daisy was part of the chasing crew for a while, but that’s another story).
During the open house reception for Bluegrass Animal Clinic, Goodman suited Daryl up in cowboy attire. Laughing she said he also has “a pimp hat” and a Santa hat, although he doesn’t like the Christmas look and tends to shed it quickly.
While he typically sleeps in the chicken house or on the front porch, Daryl sometimes prefers to spend time inside the Goodman home. And, while Daryl may think he is a dog, he has not been housebroken.
“I duct tape a diaper on him and he sleeps in the house when it is cold,” she said, adding Daryl sometimes simply wants to be inside.
That was the case during Thanksgiving, when Goodman was working in Ohio and Daryl was being cared for by her house sitter.
“I came home and found him with his head in a corner of the porch, stomping his feet. He was in a lot of pain and I was like ‘This is bad.’ So, I called Doc Whitley,” she said.
The sitter said nothing unusual had happened during her absence, and mentioned that Daryl had come inside and eaten an entire bowl of Kibbles & Bits dog food. While he is sometimes given a few chunks of dog food as a treat, Goodman explained his diet is normally made up entirely of chicken feed – laying mash and cracked corn.
Once inside the bird, the dog food expanded and caused impaction from his throat to his intestines. Immediate surgery would be required to save Daryl’s life, although his chances of surviving the anesthetic alone were extremely slim.
“They gave him a really low chance of even pulling out of anesthesia,” she said, explaining Daryl had to have his throat opened so the veterinarian and his team could physically remove the blockage, with a similar procedure and another incision to clear his intestines.
“They had to squeeze his intestines to get it out,” she said. “There was no expectation of if he would live.”
Goodman had to again leave the state for work while Daryl remained in the care of Bluegrass Animal Clinic’s staff for the next four days. She laughs as she describes her anxiety and daily telephone calls until she was able to come home and bring her boy home.
“When I got there, Daryl was walking around the lobby and Doc Whitley was playing the fiddle for him! He did not want to go home – I had to force him into the car!”
Goodman, who is a vegetarian, notes that she and friends who have dubbed themselves “The Church of Daryl” enjoyed a tofu-turkey entrée for their holiday feast.
Story by TIM PRESTON & Photos by JENNY GOODMAN