Satya has ceased publication. This website is maintained for informational purposes only.
All contents are copyrighted.
Click here to learn about reprinting text or images that appear on this site.

back issues


November 2006
By Christine Morrissey


Her name is Lady Dee, a top-heavy turkey hen with gnarled lower extremities and a body on the verge of physical collapse. Her declining health, however, does not mitigate her role as the Golden Girls’ “Dorothy Zbornak” of the aging female flock of rescued hens.

A surefire way to distinguish Dee from other flock members is to examine her toes and beak. If the bird’s toes are intact and beak partially severed, you have found the right gal.

Moments away from an unexpected visit, Dee stands in the doorway of the small poultry barn. She is in earshot of gravel-crunching footsteps. She looks toward the nearby dirt road to see a young woman approaching at an exigent speed. The freckled and sunburned woman—known as Shutterbug—stops abruptly to catch her breath. Short in stature, Shutterbug rehearses the identification protocol in her head: Remember the toe-beak combination.

Back in motion, she inspects several feathered pedestrians and advances forward. Arriving at the barn, Shutterbug makes a positive identification and smiles. She kneels down to whisper: “Dee Dee.” That affirmation was the beginning and end of the pair’s verbal communication.

One year had past since Dee and Shutterbug went their separate ways. While the memories of last year were painfully present, the peaks and valleys of their shared experiences seemed distantly unreal. Each exchanged thoughtful, protracted stares to facilitate their reflections.

One Year Ago
At three months of age, Dee, a “Heidi Hen,” was halfway to her death when she met her human counterpart on a warm July night. Dee was being raised for her so-called “organic” flesh at Diestel Turkey Ranch in California. Slick company advertisements mask the cruel reality behind farm operations like Diestel, but the life and death of “Heidi Hens” are virtually indistinguishable from conventionally-raised birds.

Dee’s soon-to-be friend, Shutterbug, was obsessed with Diestel’s evasiveness. Opening the door of the “organic” grow-out shed, Shutterbug started to gather documentation. Before she retreated, she noticed Dee standing prominently near the shed door. Dee’s boldness was unusual and impressive. Of the 2,000-member organic flock Dee was the only bird not terrified of human contact. Exiting the shed together, Dee’s organic label was metaphorically peeled off.

From the beginning, both ladies shared a great sense of respect for each other. Arriving at Dee’s new temporary living quarters early the next morning, they were greeted by the audacious turkey poult named Adam, another ex-post facto meat bird rescued by Shutterbug. Immediately, Dee assumed the role of mother to Adam. Over the next several weeks, Shutterbug found joy in watching the duo develop an unbreakable bond.

By the beginning of August, Dee and Adam were settled into a pleasant regimen of dust bathing, perching and foraging. But then, Adam’s life came to an abrupt, unjust end. His premature passing had a dizzying effect on both Dee and Shutterbug. There was only one thing that would bring them resolution-—returning to the farm.

Saving Joaquin
The ladies soon found solace and a sense of normalcy with the rescue of Joaquin, a coy two-week-old poult. Dee was delighted to return to the daily routine of care for her newly adopted offspring. More often than not, Joaquin would find comfort beneath Dee’s wings. Her role as protector was intrinsic.

Joaquin grew rapidly, but he always found comfort in his mother’s feathers despite his increasing body size. At ten weeks-of-age, the seemingly healthy juvenile turkey was developing a leg-buckling condition. He had trouble standing and perching. More and more, he was limited to resting on the ground hay. This was a fatal sign.

On a foggy morning in mid-November, Shutterbug attended to her responsibility of providing food and water for Dee and Joaquin. Placing a bowl of feed on the ground, she watched the turkeys eat breakfast.

Dee always insisted that Joaquin eat first. This morning, he struggled to stand up and approach the food bowl. He took two steps forward and pecked up a beak full of Layena. Suddenly, however, his body was overwhelmed by violent tremors. Within seconds, Joaquin’s body hit the dirt. He was gone.

Dee stood motionless above his body while Shutterbug blanked out. The blunt-force of Joaquin’s death was as unforgiving as of the heavy fog bank lingering above. Within a minute, Shutterbug picked up Joaquin’s still-warm body and moved away.

For the next day, Dee and Shutterbug were muted by unspeakable tragedy once again—no rhyme or reason to examine. In the end, turkeys may leave the factory farm, but they never escape its unduly reign.

In the coming weeks, Dee reached her long-awaited permanent home a few hundred miles away. Though, Shutterbug journeyed up to Dee’s new home with her, it was an unresolved departure for both.

A gentle autumn breeze transported Dee and Shutterbug back to the future. Outside the barn, the experiences of the previous year were fully recounted. There was absolute resolution in this fact. Nobody could take the memories they shared.

The brief gathering ended with a smile by Shutterbug. She retreated to the road while Lady Dee stood still in the entryway. They were sisters and survivors.

Christine Morrissey is director of East Bay Animal Advocates. Learn more at To read Adam’s story visit