A hobby farm in Soddy-Daisy is missing its most charismatic resident. Bobo, an "overly friendly" emu, fled the farm the night of July 4 after becoming agitated by nearby fireworks, according to his owner, Leslie Holdman.
Holdman has alerted law enforcement and posted "be on the lookout" notices to social media, but so far the notices have produced no Bobo. There have been a couple of reported sightings - unconfirmed, of course, though Bobo is the only emu known to be loose in the area.
In a phone interview, Holdman said she hiked through the woods from her home on Old Thatcher Road to an address less than a mile away on Green Pond Road, where a passer-by reported seeing Bobo in the yard Thursday as he drove past.
Holdman said she talked to the homeowners, who also saw him that day, "but no one has seen him since that one time."
Bobo's appearance is typical for emus, which are large, flightless birds native to Australia and second only to ostriches in size. He has a stout body, long legs and shaggy gray-brown plumage with a dark gray head and neck. Holdman said Bobo is about 1 1/2 years old and, at a little more than 5 feet tall, is almost fully grown.
"Males get about 6 feet tall," she said. "I'm 5-foot-2, and he can stand and look me in the eye."
Holdman said she's owned Bobo since he was 2 days old. He was one of a pair, but the female developed a bone defect at about 3 months old and died, leaving Bobo to rule the roost.
"He's just been spoiled rotten," Holdman said. "He doesn't know he's an emu."
Holdman said Bobo had been in the backyard for most of the Fourth of July weekend, but "he was getting more and more anxious" as the neighbors' fireworks became more frequent. Thinking that having access to a shed in the turkey yard might calm him, she moved him to that fenced enclosure for the night.
"He seemed fine," she recalled. But when she went out to feed her menagerie the next morning, Bobo had "lifted the gate up off the hinge" and escaped. The gate was lying on the ground, with the chain still on it, she said.
"The was probably the mistake I made," she said. "He couldn't run around."
Holdman said there are plenty of surrounding woods where Bobo might be roaming, but she's a little surprised he hasn't been seen more often after being missing almost a week.
"Most people, they don't approach (emus), but he's so friendly he'll approach you," she said. "He's curious. He likes hugs and pets (being petted)."
Bobo also knows his name. "He comes running for that name," Holdman said. "When I go to feed, I holler 'Bobo' and really everybody comes running. They all know it's feeding time."
Holdman also has milk goats, miniature pigs, miniature cows, turkeys, ducks, chickens and guinea hens on the 12-acre property where she and her husband, Carl, have lived since 1995. Bobo serves as the livestock guardian, though he has little use for the guinea hens.
"They attack his tail. He runs from them," she said. "Everything else he's not afraid of."
Bobo has grown up around dogs, so he probably wouldn't be afraid of any neighborhood dogs he might encounter, Holdman said. More likely, he would help himself to their dog food.
"I don't know what he would do with coyotes, but emus are extremely fast when they run," she added. They also have powerful kicks to ward off predators.
Holdman said Bobo is a born entertainer who does funny dances and loves playing in the sprinkler. "He tries to splash in the water trough, but, of course, he's too big for that."
His only apparent vice is an attraction to jewelry and bright toenail polish, Holdman said. He can nip off an earring "before you even know it's gone" she said. "He's that fast." And he can do it without causing any pain.
Polished toenails are another story. He's entranced by the bright digits and will try to lift those if he sees someone wearing flip-flops. "Now that does hurt," Holdman said.
With her searches proving fruitless, Holdman said she plans to call the Humane Educational Society on Monday to see if they've netted a large bird.
"He's very dear to me," she said.
Contact Lisa Denton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6281.