Receptionist Sandra Roberts, left, and Dr. Kathleen Diehl, right, of Duluth Animal Hospital feed treats to the two legged chihuahua named Roo in August. Roo who was found abandoned in a park and now uses a personalized wheelchair to assist with his movement. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
DULUTH — What do an orphaned silky chicken and a two-legged chihuahua have in common?
No, this isn’t a bad joke. The answer is Alicia Williams.
The Duluth Animal Hospital employee has made a home for the two peculiar animals at her house and at the office.
“I had not seen a silky chicken except in pictures until Alicia brought her in,” head veterinarian Mike Miller said. “And what an ice breaker. People want to come over and meet this crazy chicken.”
That’s right — both chicken and pooch come to the office on a regular basis.
“Clients will schedule their appointments around the animals’ schedules, especially Penny’s (the chicken),” Williams said. “She’s always here on Saturdays.”
People come in just to see the two behind the front counter. Penny in her red and white polka dot chikini (aka chicken bikini, aka a chicken diaper) and Roo (the two-legged chihuahua) rolling around in his wheelchair.
They are unusual companions, but share one main thing — both were saved from devestating situations by Williams.
Penny the chicken was Williams’ first adopted critter of the two animals. The chicken was 9 weeks old when taken from her former location.
“She was in a really bad situation. We in animal science (in college) visit all types of animal facilities, farms and things like that,” Williams said. “She was an experimental chicken in the program and she had run the course of the experiment, so that was it for her. I happened to be there — and I didn’t know anything about chickens at the time. I asked if I could have her instead of them doing anything with her. I brought her home.
“I’ve had parrots in the past and they’re very different. Luckily Dr. Miller’s wife is a commercial poultry veterinarian. She’s a wealth of information and he is, too.”
But Penny began to get restless at her new residence.
“They are flock animals, so she was getting lonely at home,” Williams said. “That’s when I started bringing her to work. She just became a regular.”
Being a chicken, Penny — well — lays eggs four times a week. Usually at the office. The morning it happens, Penny “talks” loudly, pokes her head into dark shapes and does a little egg dance.
Williams never knows when it will happen, but when it does, Penny lays a small pink egg that can be eaten.
“She’s so relieved afterward,” she said with a laugh.
In February, Roo was about 7 weeks old when he was rescued when someone found him in a ditch in a park.
“It was probably a backyard breeder, breeding a bunch of puppies and he ended up deformed,” Williams said. “He was probably dropped off because he couldn’t sell him. It was freezing that night in February when they happened to see him.”
Since then, he’s gotten a new outlook on life. New house, new family and new wheels to help him get around. Williams had to wait until her pup was full grown to order the customed-sized cart. When it was time to buy the contraption, a client at the vet hospital donated the money.
“It was such a blessing,” Williams said. “He hated the wheelchair at first. Now we call it the treat mobile because whenever he’s in it, that’s all that ever happens is treats. When we get it out, he wants to get in it.”
With the wheelchair, he can finally sit down.
“Isn’t he cool?,” Miller said. “In the cart, it was the first time we’d even seen him sit because before he couldn’t sit since he doesn’t have any front legs. He was either up or laying down.”
The amazing thing is that these two unusual animals act like old friends.
“They get along really well,” Williams said. “Penny gets excited when Roo is around because she knows he’s got treats and food all of the time. Whenever she hears him being fed, she steals his food. He loves snuggling with her because that’s his big teddy bear. He runs over her sometimes because he doesn’t realize how big his wheels are.”
Penny likes to run away with his doggie chew toys on occasion. They also share a carrier to work each morning.
The two have a pampered life. Penny is an active hen. This summer, she took a vacation to Florida, where she played on the beach, plucking in the ocean and drove around with her head out of the car window like a dog. She also visits schools and birthday parties.
“You can see she has quite a life,” Williams said. “She’s quite a lucky little chicken.”
Williams has other rescue animals at home, including a pit bull that came out of a dog fighting ring — who apparently loves Penny.
“All of our animals are kind of oddball animals rescued from bad situations,” Williams said. “It’s my heart.”
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Chihuahua with two legs and a silkie chicken
Client Services Receptionist Alicia Williams of Duluth Animal Hospital talks about the unique pets she has adopted. Williams owns a silkie chicken named Penny and a chihuahua with two legs named Roo.