My wife used to do a lot of animal rescue. We were well situated, living in a rural area and having a small pasture adjacent to our old house, and we weren’t as remotely located as we are now; so emergency vet assistance was never more than half an hour or so away.

The local animal shelters began to call us when they got the occasional exotic. At one point we had four pot bellied pig rescues, two of which had been found roaming around the city of Charlotte by another rescue organization, one from the local shelter in Oxford, and one who’d been used by a couple of lawyers in Cary as free publicity ( Carpetbagger lawyers frequently do this. They get a free sob story written in the local paper about restrictive covenants depriving them of the company of their beloved pet, challenge the covenants knowing they will fail, get more press and more business from idiots, then dump the pig in a shelter to be gassed).

Then there was Lucie.

In the couple of years prior to our acquiring Lucie the Emu, I’d noticed a lot of local TV news stories about emus turning up in suburbs and small towns near us. Apparently some cash-whore farmer had gone bust with them, thrown up his hands and simply released his flock. If this were a modern industrialized state, such people would be ferried out to a shark encircled island to break rocks in the sun or pick oakum until their twilight years. But it’s North Carolina, so he’s likely in the legislature.

Lucie turned up at the drive through window at a MacDonald’s in Henderson. Most birds have huge olfactory lobes, and she was probably attracted by the scent of frying, or simply curious. The shelter picked her up and called us because they couldn’t squeeze her in the chamber to be gassed.

We made a couple of mistakes when we first got her, being ignorant of the creatures and the response they provoke in lesser beings. First, we put her fenced area near the property line with our knuckle dragging, inbred, fundie neighbors. They’d wait till they thought we weren’t looking, to taunt her, or throw stones or poke her with sticks through the fencing to see how she’d react. I can only assume they thought she’d been put there by the devil to test their shabby medieval faith. The second mistake was trusting the available agricultural literature in regard to raising the animal.

Utter horseshit.

You’d think the extension people must have cribbed their notes from a Dutch slaver’s bestiary of the seventeenth century, but you’d be fucking wrong because none of them can even be bothered to read English, much less Dutch, apparently*. Fortunately we already had a variety of birds on the place, and had learned enough from raising them to figure out what she needed.

When we moved her to our new place, we expected some difficulty getting her out of the truck. The previous time, she’d cowered and was obviously terrified. But no, this time she hopped straight out and immediately started picking at stuff, interested. A few weeks ago we decided to let her out into the open field with the bull and the steer. She seems to enjoy it. When we first got her from the shelter, you couldn’t touch her. Now she’ll actually look for us. To get a pet, a bath with the garden hose, or just to hang out. It’s amazing the things you discover when you don’t have neighbors close by.

* A Babelfish translation, however, must serve as the template for farm labor standards.