Turkey’s Transformation from Victim to Treasured Companion

February 26, 2020

Turkey and Esi

Esi A. had just joined the ASPCA’s Volunteer Foster Program when she received an email requesting foster homes for a number of ASPCA animals. Though Esi had originally signed up to foster kittens, a dog named Turkey caught her eye. 

The six-year-old male Shih Tzu-mix had been rescued by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in November 2017 after suffering head trauma; the 11 lb. dog was reportedly thrown down a flight of stairs in a Brooklyn apartment building. 

Esi responded to the email, but Turkey had already been assigned to another foster caregiver. Instead, she fostered a different dog for several weeks until they were ready to go back to the ASPCA Adoption Center. After that, Esi received another foster email: Turkey needed a new foster.

“It was fate,” Esi explains. “I saw him the first time, didn’t get him; then I had another chance. We’ve been together ever since.” 

Turkey’s Tragic Past

When NYPD officers brought Turkey to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH), he was neurologically abnormal and minimally responsive. He was transferred to Animal Medical Center, an ASPCA partner veterinary center, where he was seen by specialists and diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. Examination and advanced imaging revealed he had broken teeth, broken toes of the left front paw, a fractured skull and bruising to his brain and lungs. 

Turkey under medical care

Receiving concentrated support and treatment at the AAH’s intensive care unit, Turkey slowly improved. He regained his ability to walk and was moved to the ASPCA’s Animal Recovery Center (ARC) and then on to the ASPCA’s Canine Annex for Rehabilitation and Enrichment (CARE). He was neutered, underwent dental surgery to remove his fractured teeth and eventually  was well enough to be taken off medications related to his brain injury.

Turkey under medical care

A Temporary Home

Turkey was placed in his initial foster home in March 2018 and then with Esi in August, where he remained for more than a year as his case made its way through the courts.

Turkey at his foster home

“When Turkey came to live with me, the ASPCA suggested I try not to get too attached given the uncertainty around his case,” recalls Esi. But as the case dragged on, Esi and Turkey bonded immensely. “I let the ASPCA know that I was very attached,” she says. “And I hoped his case would end soon.”

The case did eventually end with Turkey’s former owner pleading guilty to animal cruelty charges and relinquishing him to the ASPCA. (Another dog from the same household, a pit bull named Cassie, had already been relinquished and also found a loving home.) 

“It was heartbreaking to learn what Turkey had been through, but knowing he had Esi to give him all the love he deserved was a relief,” says Dora Garcia, Administrator at CARE who managed Turkey’s foster care schedule. “As soon as he saw Esi, he’d go insanely happy. It was clear they loved each other.” 

Moving In For Good

On December 9, 2019, Esi officially adopted Turkey.

Turkey and Esi

“Everyone who meets him loves him,” she says. “He’s so friendly and well adjusted, which I find impressive given what he went through. He will approach anyone for petting.”

Esi, a Manhattan attorney who lives in Brooklyn, says it’s been nice to see Turkey interact with other dogs from her building.

“He’s not protective of his space; I think he enjoys getting all the attention,” she explains, adding that she may foster another animal so long as it’s a dog Turkey gets along with.

Turkey at home

When she’s at the office, Esi monitors Turkey with a doggie camera, watching him entertain himself with toys and taking long afternoon naps. He also has a dog walker.

For now, the only residual signs of Turkey’s injuries are a slight head tilt and a broken toe that healed in a crooked fashion. But neither of these issues seem to cause Turkey any discomfort. 

Turkey’s successful recovery was made possible by the collaboration of many partners inside and outside the ASPCA including: the NYPD; the Kings County District Attorney’s Office; the ASPCA’s Veterinary Forensics team, medical and rehabilitation staff and facilities; Foster and Adoptions teams; and the Animal Medical Center. 

“It really does take a village,” says a grateful Esi. “He’s just the perfect dog.”

Turkey playing outside