Remembering Turpentine

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Too many people have misconceptions about turkeys. They assume these animals are unintelligent, unsociable, and undifferentiated. Some visitors come to the shelter not expecting to connect with the turkeys. Again and again, Turpentine walked up to those visitors and calmly demolished all of their assumptions.

That was the power of Turpentine’s personality. In fact, his gregariousness once saved his life. Before coming to Farm Sanctuary, Turpentine lived on a farm, where he was being raised for Thanksgiving dinner. As luck would have it, a Farm Sanctuary supporter lived next door. The turkey and his neighbor became friends, and every day when she called out Turpentine’s name, he would gobble back to her. The farmer, won over by this amazing boy himself, could not go through with his original plan to kill Turpentine. He decided to give him to another farmer to slaughter, but thankfully his neighbor convinced him to give Turpentine to her instead. She reached out to us, and we gladly welcomed the friendly turkey to our New York Shelter.

Turpentine may have thought we’d given him the shelter. He had soon familiarized himself with the grounds and begun keeping tabs on all the most interesting action. He followed caregivers. He followed interns. He followed visitors. And he chose his friends. He picked out people, many he had never met before, and clearly made a connection with them. He spent most of one Celebration for the Turkeys event in the lap of a man named Carlos, visiting from Canada.


Nearly anyone who spent time at the shelter had the experience of looking back and seeing Turpentine behind them. He trailed caregivers and guests everywhere, even one time ducking under a gate and following a tour group up the hill to the main cattle herd. We constantly had to walk him back to his barn to keep him from wearing himself out.
Turpentine clearly loved attention, and we soon realized he loved the camera even more. If there was a person or a lens nearby, he would be sure to show up. He was always trying to get in front of whatever he though was receiving attention, from people posing for a photo to a baby goat nursing. He photo-bombed. A lot.


The camera loved him right back, and so did we. He was a part of daily life at the shelter, and his presence was felt everywhere. Today, his absence is felt, deeply.

A short while ago, we noticed a small abscess lump on Turpentine’s chest. When it started getting bigger, we took our boy to the vet. An ultrasound revealed the extent of the mass, and we scheduled a surgery to have it removed. The decision was not made lightly; we weighed the pros and cons carefully.

The surgery thankfully went well, but a second surgery was needed. While waking up from the anesthesia after the second operation, Turpentine suffered a heart attack. Heart problems are a common blight of domestic turkeys, who have been bred to grow rapidly to an excessive weight. Even with expert care in a sanctuary setting, these birds remain vulnerable to cardiovascular ailments. Often large industrial breed male turkeys in a basic squabble over territory suffer from heart attacks, so sadly this is not uncommon.

We brought Turpentine back to the shelter to recover. Caregivers provided daily cleaning and wrapping for his operation site — and of course all the love and attention he could want. He seemed to be doing well, spending time outside each day, enjoying life. But on Sunday night something went wrong, and Turpentine suddenly died. He passed quickly and without suffering. The cause was most likely his heart.


Back in 2013, we shared some very important facts about Turpentine on the Farm Sanctuary Facebook page: 1) he’ll follow you around until he is sure you have seen how beautiful and awesome he is, 2) he likes his reflection in the window at the Melrose Small Animal Hospital, and 3) he chooses a select few people who can pet him. Turpentine had his own Facebook page, too, with more than 800 fans. It was plastered with photos featuring our special guy, typically in front of, next to, or right in the middle of a group of humans delighted that he had made himself the star of their shot.

That was thing about Turpentine. No matter who you were, he made himself a part of your story. But of course, really, you were a part of his. Everything about him expressed his sense of self. You could see his pride, his joy in his own life and home, his fascination with people. He gave such an impression of a mind at work, a fellow intelligence.


At Farm Sanctuary, we work to help invisible animals, the billions who die every year unnamed and unknown. The only difference between Turpentine and those billions was that he had the chance to show people who he was. Turpentine insisted on being known.

His charisma made him an outstanding ambassador for turkeys and a great friend too, and he left a trail of grinning humans wherever he went. Turpentine made sure you couldn’t ignore him. And looking back through the pictures now, I can almost imagine that, with every photo-bomb strut into the frame of someone’s captured moment, he was making sure none of us could ever forget him.

45 thoughts on “Remembering Turpentine

  1. You are all so beautiful. God bless you for knowing him so well and caring for him south. And having the strength to write about it all with so much love and respect for him.

  2. Tears in my eyes! I didn’t realize that turkeys are so special. You are the most wonderful beings I’ve seen. I will do the same if I’ll have a chance. Hope we will meet in another incarnation, in the world full of good, vegan people.

  3. Turpentine, a Prince, a Great Teacher, an Ambassador for all farm animals. RIP, Sweet Boy.

  4. what a magnificent turkey!!!!!! I met him when I went to a hoe down.i’m sure you taught many people about the plight of were a great teacher.your legacy will live in. you will never be forgotten turpentine. RIP my friend.

  5. “When he shall die,
    Take him and cut him out in little stars,
    And he will make the face of heaven so fine
    That all the world will be in love with night
    And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

    romeo and juliet

  6. He was truly the embodiment of all that Farm Sanctuary stands for, and I am better for having the opportunity to meet him. My thoughts are with his caregivers who will feel his loss so fully.

  7. I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like he had a great life thanks to Farm Sanctuary. Thank you for all you do.

  8. We will miss you Turpentine. You made our experiences at Farm Sanctuary so special and were the best tour companion! You are the reason my boyfriend finally gave up eating meat and I definitely thank you for that!

  9. This is a beautiful tribute, to a wonderful and beautiful boy… Thank you to Susie and all the others that looked after him….

  10. With tears in my eyes, I bid a farewell to a most beautiful boy. I AM SORRY i never had the pleasure of meeting Turpentine. In your video, it was clearly seen how special he was to all who knew him. Thank you for giving him such love and respect. He returned it. He knew.

  11. His amazing soul left a mark on so many lives. I feel blessed to have been graced by his presence and will miss him dearly.

  12. I’m so sad to hear this! I “adopted” him last Thanksgiving and have a wonderful picture of that handsome fella when we visited. He had a good life thanks to all of you at Farm Sanctuary!

  13. Thank you for sharing this precious soul with those of us who never had the good fortune to meet him, and for giving him Turpentine the love, space and security required to let his beautiful personality shine.

  14. Looks like Turpentine brought tons of fun and good times to the sanctuary. I love the one where Gene photo- bombs Turpentine! He will be truly missed. RIP dear one.

  15. His Spirit Soars.
    A pure sentient being full of love, receiving love and giving love by showing the essence of his soul. His personality made him the perfect ambassador for all turkeys.

  16. R. I. P. Gorgeous boy. I didn’t have the honor of meeting you but I can see how many lives you touched.

  17. “At Farm Sanctuary, we work to help invisible animals, the billions who die every year unnamed and unknown. The only difference between Turpentine and those billions was that he had the chance to show people who he was. Turpentine insisted on being known.”
    This part of your tribute to Turpentine resonates the most in my opinion. What a tragedy that so many animals die without experiencing the joys that life has to offer. It saddens me that you can only care for a small fraction of these poor souls, but you set such a tremendous example of compassion for the world. Thank you Farm Sanctuary.

  18. I just love what you are doing – the kindness you show theese fantastic living beeings.
    Turpentine had clearly a great personality and he must have been in heaven already on earth.I wish there were places like this in Sweden – we surely need them.

    RIP beautiful Turpentine !

  19. He was one of a kind and unforgettable. My sincere condolences to everyone at the farm. RIP, beautiful boy. The place won’t be the same without you.

  20. I feel blessed that I was able to spend time with this amazing being. I am in tears at his loss and will miss him each time I’m at the sanctuary.

  21. RIP sweet Turpentine – it’s a blessing that you were able to know love and compassion in your short life. God Bless Farm Sanctuary for giving you that chance.

  22. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful guy! Thank you Farm Sanctuary for giving all these wonderful beings a chance for life and love.

  23. What a beautiful boy! How wonderful that he got to live with such love. Truly an inspiration.

  24. I was so fortunate to visit with Turpentine on my last trip to Farm Sanctuary. He was as unforgettable as any human. I sat on a rock near the pig barn and he came up and kept chest bumping me; daring me to ignore him. It was my favorite part of my trip. My heart is so heavy.

  25. My tears fall for all the humans and animals who will miss your wonderful company, you handsome, magnificent, and noble Turpentine. We are so very grateful for those humans who rescued you, cared for you, loved you so deeply. We are so grateful for Farm Sanctuary…for you are the reason we are vegan. Turpentine showed us the light and may you now follow the glorious light dear Turpentine that is yours to enjoy.

  26. I have been planning to visit this summer….can’t believe i won’t get to meet him 🙁

  27. What a beautiful tribute to such a special boy. I sponsored him two Thanksgivings ago. I so wish I had actually gotten to meet him. The video was absolutely beautiful. Rest in peace, Turpentine. You were loved.

  28. I, too, had sponsored Turpentine and given his sponsorship to others as a gift. What a beautiful creature and bold personality. He will be so missed by so many. Good life, Old Boy! I’ll look for you when I cross the Rainbow Bridge.

  29. That was so beautifully written! I wish I had got the chance to visit and meet Turpentine. Thank goodness for Farm Sanctuary and his happy life!

  30. Wonderful animal, wonderful people, wonderful place – and wonderful piano music on the video… All put together – it had me weeping.

    Best wishes, Dave in the UK 🙂

  31. Turpentine’s close encounter was truly one of the most memorable memories of my life. I have not had any previous encounter with a live turkey I can remember. Certainly a few times at the dinner table on my pre-vegan days before I made the connection. Astonishing looking creature, whose behavior and display of affection are no different than those from dogs and cats so many love. You sure be missed, little guy, but you’ve also left an impression on the hearts of those who have had the chance to meet you. Gratitude is a word I love, and I am grateful to have been chosen, I am grateful for my beautiful friend who registered this magical moment, and most grateful to Farm Sanctuary for the so many lives they saved and for being a continuous source of joy and inspiration for all the work they do.

  32. Ok, you guys, I am sitting here crying like a baby over the loss of a turkey. I never actually met Turpentine but have of course seen his beautiful pictures on your postings of him and his antics. He will be missed. Thanks for caring for him and all the animals and giving them lives filled with love and meaning. Thanks for sharing this beautiful boy with us. Actually, now I feel bad that I did not pick him to adopt at Thanksgiving. I chose Martha. Thanks for all you do.

  33. Such a great remembrance. We had Turkey Lurkey who was a very special turkey. We got 3 baby turkeys but she was the only one that lived. She followed us around everywhere we went and would sit under the table in my wife’s pottery studio and sleep while she worked. She loved to be petted and gave us an egg ever other day. Sadly dogs got into the yard and we had to put her down crying the whole time. We can’t wait until spring to get another couple of turkeys to love and enjoy. Thanks for you story.

  34. Rest in peace sweetheart. I wish I could have met you, but you were so loved and bought joy to so many. That is truly a gift.

  35. I sponsored Turpentine for Adopt-A-Turkey in 2013. I have his beautiful picture sitting on my dresser to remind me how special all farm animals really are and why I am vegan. Turpentine is such a stunning turkey with such a big personality. It’s hard to believe he’s gone. Rest in peace, Turpentine!

  36. I had the privilege of meeting Turpentine on a visit to the farm. He was so magnificent in both body and spirit! My heart goes out to all who knew and loved him, especially his caregivers. xxoo

  37. Thank you so much for sharing Turpentine’s story. What an amazing, beautiful sweet animal. Wish I could have met him. ❤️


  39. Beautifully written tribute, Susie. Turpentine was certainly all that and more. I was at Farm Sanctuary the day he became Carlos’s forever friend – it was an unforgettable moment. I feel privileged to have met your darling boy, and while it is so difficult to believe he’s gone, I am comforted by knowing he had a wonderful life. Thank you to everyone at Farm Sanctuary for all that you do – every single day.