Adopt-a-Turkey Campaign Gets Boost From Dog Lovers

November 20, 2011 | By Margo Ann Sullivan | Category: Heroes | 1 comment
Tags: heroes, charity, adoption & rescue

Two heroes pledge to save animals as a tribute to their beloved Golden Retriever.

When John Talbot and Dorr Begnal lost their 15-year-old Golden Retriever, Daphne in 2004, they grieved at first but then searched for a meaningful tribute to a friend who had become part of the family.

“We were kind of thinking, ‘How do we memorialize her life?’” Talbot said. “We wanted to do something substantial.”

Talbot, founder of Boston Baked Bonz, maker of baked treats and gifts for dogs, and Begnal, an investment banker, ultimately settled on a $50,000 donation to Farm Sanctuary, the shelter for farm animals in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

Farm Sanctuary has since become their favorite charity, Talbot said.

“We ended up building the Duck and Goose Barn in memory of Daphne and (her brother) Sebastian,” he said. For Farm Sanctuary’s 25th anniversary this summer, they threw a fundraising party for 115 people in their Dedham, Mass. home. And this Thanksgiving, after talking over the options with Farm Sanctuary directors, Talbot and Begnal decided to match every $30 contribution to the annual Adopt-a-Turkey campaign.

Originally, Talbot and Begnal pledged to match up to $50,000, but after that milestone was passed, they decided to offer up to an additional $50,000, Talbot said.

Adopt-a-Turkey started 25 years ago, according to Meredith Turner, Farm Sanctuary spokeswoman, and over the years has raised hundreds of thousands to protect rescued farm animals, including the 1,000 turkeys now at the shelters in New York and California.

Ellen DeGeneres, actress and talk show host, is official spokeswoman and has invited everyone to celebrate a compassionate Thanksgiving by saving a turkey’s life, instead of eating a bird for dinner. The adopted turkeys stay at the shelters; the $30 sponsorship goes toward their care, and donors receive a certificate with a color picture of their turkey and some “fun details about their new friend’s habits and disposition,” Turner said. Sponsors this year can choose one of seven turkeys, including Skip (whose motto is “Skip the turkey”) or Antoinette (whose motto is “Let them eat squash”).

"Many people don't realize that turkeys are not protected under most state anti-cruelty laws, and they are specifically excluded from the federal Humane Slaughter Act," Begnal said. "When you stop and think about what this really means for turkeys - that their beaks and toes are cut off without pain relief, they are crammed by the thousands inside filthy warehouses where they never experience sunlight or fresh air, and they are punched, prodded, kicked, and basically treated like unfeeling machinery - I can't think of a better investment to make than one that contributes to building a more compassionate world."

Compassion’s the reason they settled on Farm Sanctuary for Daphne’s memorial, Talbot said.

“The reason we picked Farm Sanctuary over literally thousands of animal related charitable organizations is because in its core principles Farm Sanctuary has the idea of increasing compassion in world,” Talbot said. “We thought that was the best way to celebrate the life of our dog Daphne, who was completely dedicated and selfless in providing love to us.”

Daphne and her brother Sebastian were born in Michigan, rather “unexpectedly,” Talbot said after a neighborhood dog strayed and mated with a dog that belonged to one of Begnal’s friends.

“Dorr just decided these were great puppies,” Talbot said. “One was black and one golden.” The friend needed help; the puppies needed a home, so Begnal drove to Michigan to pick them up.

“We didn’t look back ever since,” Talbot said, but losing them was painful. “First, Daphne,” he said. “And 18 months later, Sebastian. For us, it was really hard – unexpected and very hard and very traumatic.” Talbot decided not to dwell on the last “24 to 28 hours” when Daphne died.

“I want to think of her whole life,” he said, adding that seeing the other animals being helped in Daphne and Sebastian’s memory has helped.

“That’s really powerful for us,” he said.

Talbot started his dog bakery after mulling the idea about 20 years, he said.

“I took the usual route,” he quipped, by earning degrees at Boston University and Northeastern, and switching careers from Information Technology to law.

“I was fed up with the practice of law,” he said and wanted to test the market for a dog-related business. Boston Baked Bonz sells specialty gifts for dogs, he said. The baked treats are 100 percent vegan and 100 percent organic, he said. The company also sells hand-painted dog collars and cards drawn by local artists on hand-made paper laced with wildflower seeds, so you can plant the card afterwards.

Talbot had heard Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary co-founder and CEO, speak in 2000 and liked his message about making compassionate food choices and not supporting factory farms. He and Begnal had already adopted a vegetarian diet “on the way to becoming vegan.”

“Odd as it may seem, for me the number one thing comes down to money and not wanting any to go to people who torture animal for their business model,” he said.

But although he knew about cruelty to livestock, until he heard Baur speak, he didn’t know about abuses at dairy farms.

“Milk is really horrible,” he said.

Talbot and Begnal followed up with a visit to the Watkins Glen farm. (Begnal hails from New York State, so they often travel in that direction at the holidays.) They found turkeys and pigs and other farm animals that surprisingly acted a lot like dogs.

“I love my dogs,” he said. (After Daphne and her brother Sebastian died, he and Begnal rescued four Labrador retriever mixes.) “But I never would have thought I could sit down and pat a turkey and it would fall asleep,” he said. “It’s just like a dog or a puppy,” he said.

Pictured (from left): John Talbot and Dorr Begnal with their dogs Violet, Charlie, Daisy and Sunflower. (Photo Courtesy of John Talbot)

How to Help: Farm Sanctuary, a non-profit organization with shelters in New York and California cares for rescued farm animals, including 1,000 turkeys. To “adopt” one, visit or call the Turkey Adoption Hotline at 1-888-SPONSOR.

What do you think of Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-a-Turkey Campaign? Have you heard of Thanksgiving-themed fundraisers in your area? Tell us below!

Comments (1)

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4 years ago

I would love to adopt a turkey once I am on my own if I did it now and I am serious about this my step dad would try to kill it and eat even if it had a name and was a pet he has wanted to eat my cats and my dog before one year I did a fishing thing at a store were I caught a trout and he was big and they put him in a bag of water so he was still alive I wanted to keep him outside in a pond as a pet instead of eating him but when I turned my back for one second my step dad had taken him and chopped his head off I did not eat him but eveyone else did so I have to be careful with what types of pets I have right now!

Good Point | Reply ›

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