Jodie Smalley, 37, says her pet turkey Easter has supported her through some of the most difficult times in her life.
Whenever Jodie Smalley is upset, anxious or feeling down, she turns to her companion for support, knowing she will end up smiling.
As housemates, the pair regularly go for drives together, share food, attend music events, and even hold manicure and massage sessions.
They post photos of their adventures online, showing them soaring over mountains in planes, going whale watching and simply relaxing at home.
But compared to other friendships, their situation is rather more unusual – because Jodie’s companion is actually a TURKEY called Easter.
According to the 37-year-old, the cute bird offers her “emotional support”, helping her through some of the most difficult times in her life.
In return, she lavishes Easter – who wears a nappy – with love, giving her “facials”, feeding her tasty food and taking her on her travels.
“Easter probably has more miles under her wing than any turkey alive,” Jodie told Mirror Online. “She’s traveled by car, plane and boat.
“She’s been to six different US states, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Oregon and California. People react with amazement.
“Easter blows the norm out of a person’s day when they see her. We get double takes at stop lights and on the freeway.”
She added: “Easter is my companion. I try to take her wherever I can.
“Besides going for walks with her and my two cats, we share food, run errands, go through drive-throughs, go to public events such as music in the park and visit friends. We have quiet moments together, too.
“She accompanies me to counselling appointments, hangs out in the kitchen while I cook or we just sit together while I preen her feathers or read.
“Most importantly, she’s been there during some of the most emotional times in my life. She’s let me hold her and cry while grieving.”
Jodie, who lost her husband in recent years, said that Easter has the ability to make her smile – no matter how bad her day has been.
“Her mannerisms are dorky and charming,” she said. “She can be like Curious George. She gets in to things but never maliciously.
“Even when she pulls everything out of my purse looking for a treat, I just have to laugh at how mischievous and clever she is.”
She added that the turkey is “like a toddler” in many ways. She has “bratty moments” when she’s tired and even wears a nappy.
“She’ll turn red in the face and peck at me in frustration, though her beak is too blunt to do much,” said Jodie, from Corvallis, Oregon.
“She responds to kindness with calmness and to anger with anger. She teaches me to be patient and calm.
“Also like a toddler, she’s sweet, innocent and heartwarming. She makes a variety of adorable chirps, peeps and warbles.
“She comes to me to give turkey kisses (little pecks to my fingertips) and to be preened and massaged. She sits in my lap or sleeps next to my bed.
“When I’m out of sight, she’ll wander around calling until she finds me. She can be silly and play tug-of-war with gloves or help me dig in the garden.
“She trusts me and just goes along with whatever we’re doing typically.”
Jodie’s unique relationship with Easter began after her friends found the feathered creature in her hometown, standing in the middle of the road.
At that time, the widow was struggling emotionally.
“When I saw Easter as this calm little fluff that liked to be held and pet, I pictured having her as a companion to raise and love in a barren home life,” she said.
Jodie decided to take Easter home, preventing her from being knocked over by a car or possibly ending up on someone’s dinner plate.
She quickly realised that the bird – who is nearly three years old and could live for up to 10 years – was a huge comfort to her.
“Easter provides emotional support on multiple levels,” she said. “She’s calming. She was raised around people and is socialized.
“When in public, at home or in the car, she has a present and calm demeanor. She just settles down in most any environment, crazy or not, and hangs out.
“The wonder and amazement she brings others is heartwarming.
“To watch a small child stand in awe seeing a real turkey for the first time, to hear people the next aisle over talking excitedly about a turkey in a car out in the parking lot, to see double takes of surprise, it’s a gift.
“Easter connects me with people. It’s easy to feel isolated, even in public, when struggling with sad emotions. It’s easy to withdraw.
“Easter keeps me out of that mire. She’s a conversation starter to say the least.”
Jodie, who recently moved to Oregon from Seattle, Washington state, said the most common word she hears to describe her turkey is “adorable”.
“She answers to her name, loads up in the car, follows simple commands, calls out when a stranger is near and senses people’s personalities,” she said.
“She’ll be calm around kind mannered folks and defensive towards rougher types.”
She added that she wants to raise awareness of ’emotional support’ animals (ESAs) so that more people across the world will accept them.
“Awareness is acceptance,” she said, explaining how people connect with different animals – not just dogs and cats.
“Birds can be highly social and intelligent. We as a society just have to be open to the fact that different people connect with different animals.”
“It doesn’t matter what species of animal it is, just more how that animal helps.
“The biggest thing I’d say is that if my ESA is quiet, well behaved, clean and contained, then what is the problem, besides that type of animal not fitting in your box labeled as ‘normal’?”
But she added: “My only concern is the abuse of the ESA program that can come from it’s wider spread in popularity. At the moment, you just need a letter from a licensed therapist for an animal to be an ESA.”
About a year ago, Easter hit the headlines after being spotted flying to Salt Lake City, Utah, by stunned passengers and cabin crew members.
The turkey was allowed to travel on the flight under the Air Carrier Access Act 1968, which legally permits customers to fly with emotional support animals.
Jodie previously revealed how she had no luggage cart to transport Easter through the airport, so a wheelchair was provided by staff.
“It was intimidating having a wall of people waiting to board the plane watching us as I situated our gear and loaded her,” she said.