TITUSVILLE, Fla. – The Private, a restless Port St. John turkey, abruptly flew the coop and vanished from home, prompting his worried owner to post “I lost my turkey” online emergency alerts on Nextdoor, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
The runaway bird returned two days later, safe and sound.
Now — like a cat with nine lives — The Private will evade the proverbial cooking pot by receiving a Thanksgiving pardon Saturday from Titusville Mayor Walt Johnson.
The royal palm turkey will star in VFW Post 4228's first fowl-pardoning ceremony, which starts at noon Saturday at 4411 Capron Road in Titusville.
“I was going to initially cook him for Thanksgiving. But I had a change of heart,” said Brian K. Taylor, the post’s junior vice commander and The Private’s owner.
Afterward, The Private will retire to Fallin' Pines Critter Rescue, a Christmas animal farm. "Christmas" refers to the Orange County town, not the yuletide holiday.
Taylor bought the bird and five Rhode Island Red chickens in February at Brevard Feed & Seed in Titusville. Then he let the poultry roam his backyard, which abuts a large wooded area flanking the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.
But an unidentified predator picked off the free-grazing chickens, one at a time — "you get all kinds of critters running down the railroad tracks," Taylor remarked.
So he moved The Private into his screened porch for safekeeping a few weeks ago. A straw-lined cage provides a spot for rest, and he typically eats chicken feed and cracked corn. In his spare time, he hangs out with Sarah, a 2-year-old Miami blue pit bull.
"At first he was scared of the dog. But when I had chickens, the dog would be chasing the chickens — and the turkey would be chasing the dog, all in a circle. It was pretty funny," Taylor said.
The turkey also enjoys pecking at his feathery reflection in Taylor’s bedroom window, which faces the porch.
“I wake up in the morning, and he’s usually looking at me,” Taylor said.
Johnson said he will read a commemorative resolution during Saturday's ceremony.
"This is certainly the first time I have pardoned a turkey. I've known a couple turkeys in my life, but I never had to pardon them," Johnson said.
Back in 2013, Fallin' Pines Critter Rescue took in Roy the rooster, who mysteriously appeared near the Indialantic Boardwalk.
Roy startled customers at Starbucks and Stone Cold Creamery for months at the beach end of Fifth Avenue. But concerned Indialantic residents captured him after he tangled with an animal — suffering a bloody leg gash and missing tail feathers. Roy was shipped to the animal farm to ensure his safety.
Taylor served in the Marines from 1986-90 as an infantry corporal, inspiring his turkey's military-themed name The Private.
VFW Post 4228 will serve a public breakfast before Saturday’s pardoning ceremony: “We’re not serving turkey that day,” Taylor quipped.