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Tofu the Turkey
Tofu the turkey, in all his glory. Photo by Jenny McCoy
Culture

Meet Tofu, the Denver Turkey Lifting Spirits During the Pandemic

The 56-pound people-loving bird has been an unexpected source of joy during these turbulent times.

In a year of unprecedented darkness, one Denver resident has been a beacon of light.

His name is Tofu, he loves head pats and attention, and he’s a 56-pound Bronze turkey.

Described by his owner Steve Grieg as sociable and curious, Tofu frequently hangs out in his front yard in the San Rafael Historic District where he’s become a well-known and well-loved fixture.

Though Tofu was adored before the pandemic, Grieg says he’s received more messages recently about how glad people are to see the iridescent bird while they’re out walking in the neighborhood. At least two dozen people currently visit Tofu every day, and when they stop by—pausing to admire Tofu’s sky-blue face, cardinal red wattle, and calm demeanor—the two-and-a-half-year-old turkey typically fluffs up his feathers and sidles up to the fence to greet them. “He’s such a personable pet,” says Grieg, who also cares for eight senior dogs, three chickens, two ducks, two rabbits, and a pig named Bikini. (Yes, really. Check them all out on Instagram.)

Tofu the Turkey
Tofu and his senior dog friends. Photo by Steve Grieg

Before adopting Tofu from a friend last year, Grieg had never before owned a turkey and thus had no idea what to expect. So Tofu’s interactive personality and penchant for people “was such a pleasant surprise.”

Every morning, when Grieg lets Tofu into the front yard, the bird wanders up the front gate, waiting for his throngs of fans to arrive. And when they do, Tofu simply basks in the attention. “He loves it,” says Grieg, 56. “He just loves it.” In the afternoons, Tofu snacks on mealworms, and in the evenings, he comes inside the house and “sings” (i.e. gobbles) along to music. Tofu enjoys all types of pop, particularly Madonna, Cher, and Mariah Carey. “The higher the voices, the more he sings along,” explains Grieg. When it gets dark, Grieg herds Tofu into the backyard, where he sleeps in a heated chicken coop.

Among Tofu’s biggest fans include health care workers at nearby Saint Joseph Hospital, who take daily walks to see him and have even deemed Tofu the mascot of the hospital’s physical medicine and rehabilitation department.

“He’s been such a big part of our lives, especially during COVID,” explains Sarah Rickel, a physical therapist at Saint Joseph. Recently, hospital staffers partook in a scavenger hunt, and whichever teams made it to Tofu’s house received the most points. Employees are also currently competing in a Tofu-themed step count challenge.

“I feel like we all need to take lessons from Tofu,” says Kathleen Mettel, a speech language pathologist at the hospital who recently hand wrote the turkey a note on behalf of the Saint Joseph staff, thanking him for “being such a source of happiness” during the pandemic. Tofu is a “live-in-the-moment kind of guy,” explains Mettel, “and his life is just simpler.”

Tofu the Turkey
Medical staff from St. Joseph Hospital snap a selfie with Tofu. Photo by Kathleen Mettel

Terri Cusick, another speech language pathologist at Saint Joseph, describes Tofu as “calm and beautiful.” She visits him nearly every day and often takes pictures that she sends to her husband.

If this all sounds like a bit too much hoopla for a bird, well, you haven’t met Tofu. During our interview earlier this month, Tofu literally climbed on top of my boot and nuzzled my thigh. Yes, I was snuggled by a turkey, and yes, it was amazing.

In what is perhaps the ultimate sign of Tofu’s influence, Grieg says he’s received at least 100 Instagram messages from people saying they aren’t going to eat turkey this year on Thanksgiving because of him. Just to be safe though, Grieg has been locking his front gate this month and plans to keep this bird in his backyard throughout the holiday week. Tofu will resume usual post after the holiday, ready—and eager—to spread more good cheer.

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