All of the baby turkeys were underweight and partially bald. Several were afflicted with enlarged joints and curled toes — signs of malnourishment. One had suffered a severe eye injury resulting in irreversible nerve damage. Facial paralysis set in, slowly forcing his top beak to cross over the bottom and permanently closing one eye. Unable to prevent the disfigurement, caregivers and vets worked to stave off facial organ damage. The young bird, though disabled, would live. We named him Marino.
Marino was one of 80 poults rescued from an entrepreneur who had hatched them in his home and was trying to sell them on the Internet. In the hands of this inexperienced and ill-prepared caregiver, the animals were in danger even before they emerged from their shells. Fortunately, good Samaritans convinced the man to surrender the malnourished turkeys to us, and we immediately welcomed them to our New York Shelter for rehabilitation. Had the birds not been rescued, those who had survived long enough would have been slaughtered for Thanksgiving dinners that fall. Marino, unable to sustain himself without special care, would have died long before that.
Even safe at our New York Shelter, he always had difficulty eating. But, with the assistance of his caregivers, who prepared special feeds and carefully cleaned his face after meals, Marino thrived. Though his crossed beak was his most noticeable feature, it was his gentle, curious, and amiable personality that left the deepest impression on friends and admirers. Preening and strutting proudly despite his deformity, he knew we adored him.
For many years, Marino also enjoyed the adoration of his best friend, Twiddledeedee, a hen with a crossed beak whom we rescued from a devastated factory farm in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The pair seemed to understand each other. Though they were of different species, they bonded immediately and spent the rest of Twiddledeedee’s days peacefully enjoying each other’s company.
Even after his dear friend passed away, Marino continued to live in contentment among a small flock of chickens. In 2011, however, the venerable turkey was diagnosed with renal failure, and his health began to decline. Though we provided the best treatment and care possible, we found that, this time, he was beyond our help. A few days after a crucial surgery, he passed peacefully in his sleep. As we grieved this loss, we also gave thanks for the time we had with Marino —our friend with the unusual face and beautiful soul.