The Lost Turkey

Thanksgiving 2016

Sooner or later a turkey is bound to fall off the truck. I don’t know how it happens nor why it seems to occur only at this time of year (turkey production is no longer seasonal), but there you have it. A large white domestic turkey (not to be mistaken for its brown-feathered wild brethren) falls off the transport truck between farm house and processing plant. And a Good Samaritan sees it by the side of the road, pulls over, and struggles to fit the somewhat ungainly bird into their back seat. Never mind the stray feathers and turkey, um, effluvium.

I am ultimately presented, as my patient, with a live, knobby legged Thanksgiving turkey who may have suffered some scrapes and cuts (once, a broken leg) but is often surprisingly unscathed by its ordeal and very much looking forward to its next life in the lap of luxury as a pet.

This is where two worlds collide – not so much Magical Beasts and schools called “Hogwarts” – but the pragmatic eye of the farmer versus the starry-eyed vision of the Good Samaritan.

Our farmers work hard. They put in long hours and worry over everything that can affect their crops or the livestock they raise, from rainfall to heat exhaustion. Will they get a water allotment this year to grow enough hay and feed for their animals? Once the hay is baled and the feed stored they wonder how many mice or squirrels will try to make off with it? Or what sort of unseen bacteria might introduce a disease to threaten their herd – and the farmer’s livelihood? It can be a dicey business and YOUR dinner’s success depends upon it.

Ah, therein lies the rub. The farmer is trying to feed you. The Good Samaritan is rescuing an animal in distress – worse, one that was on its way to certain death. And now they’re in front of me, asking to heal their injured turkey. More, often the G.S. is railing against a system where they abruptly come face-to-face with where dinner comes from.

I do my best. I come from farming stock, though I was raised in the city. My training has been thorough and I accept the farm-to-table process. I am personally unable to name an animal and eat it (we’re talking chickens and turkeys here, stay on track) but am capable of a guilty, wicked sense of humor when confronted with a situation like this, where I want to whip out my recipe cards and start murmuring, “wait, I have the perfect orange sauce right here.” May I hasten to add, No! I have never said this. I remain professional.

I have helped these turkeys. I patch up their scrapes, administer medicine, pinned that broken leg. And although never has one become a returning client, it always puts a smile on my face when my annual Thanksgiving bird arrives in our office as secretly I, too, root for the one that got away!

Post Script : For those who may have read a recent column : All three large-breed dogs who came in on harnesses this week tried to bite me. One wore a red harness, another brown with a pink leash! It’s true!


Christine B. McFadden, DVM

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