One of TV’s best known villains has stepped up to create a Hollywood ending for the male donkey and female emu that fell in love on a South Carolina farm and ended up homeless at an animal rescue outside Charlotte.
Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan -- the cold-hearted Negan on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” -- adopted the pair Tuesday, says Jennifer Gordon, founder of the nonprofit Carolina Waterfowl Rescue. He intends to let them live out their affair on his farm in New York State’s Hudson Valley region, says Gordon.
She says Morgan found out about Jack the donkey and Diane the emu on social media, and he tweeted Nov. 11 that he’d be “happy to take them, and keep them together at our farm.” At that point, the center in Indian Trail and Morgan began exchanging emails.
“It was clear he is an animal lover and his farm was fabulous,” says Gordon. “I am embarrassed to say I had to ask who that was. I don’t really watch a lot of television. I definitely knew who he was when I saw the picture. I have seen episodes of the ‘Walking Dead.’”
It’s easy to see understand how Morgan learned of the donkey and emu.
Their story got international attention after Carolina Waterfowl Rescue posted Nov. 6 on Facebook that the pair were so intensely bonded that they’d need to be adopted together.
They were found last month on a farm in Kershaw, S.C., after the renter moved away and left a menagerie of pets, including dogs, cats and chickens, says Gordon.
The emu (a shaggy kind of ostrich) and the donkey had been kept together in the same enclosure on the land and had bonded while “comforting each other,” Gordon said.
Rescuers learned this the hard way, after trying to separate the pair for transport in different trailers, reported the Charlotte Observer on Nov. 7. The 5-foot-5 donkey “started crying” and the 6-foot-tall emu “got frantic,” according to the Observer story.
Gordon says the pair act as if they’re a romantic couple. “They like to cuddle and even sleep together,” Gordon told the Observer. “We can’t separate them. Where one goes, the other follows.”
The rescue center posted the story online in hopes of finding someone who would adopt both animals, but quickly discovered the world was fascinated to find a donkey and emu had some how fallen in love.
“The response has been overwhelming,” she said in a Facebook post. “We have had inquiries from London, Canada, France and several other countries where this story has gone viral....Our phone system is crashing, our email system is crashing.”
She said she stopped counting at 2,000 inquiries, including some from animal sanctuaries.
Gordon says Morgan -- who is also known for recurring roles on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Supernatural” -- proved to be the best choice to adopt the pair because he has the resources to take care of them and a “huge” farm where they can roam free.
“We had a lot of people trying to capitalize on the publicity of the story, and we were really concerned that they would end up in the wrong hands,” says Gordon.
“I strongly felt that by allowing Jeffrey Dean Morgan to adopt them that it would take the publicity fear off the table. He definitely doesn’t need to adopt an animal to get publicity, and so I knew that would not be his motive in giving them a home.”
Morgan began tweeting about the pair later Tuesday, noting the emu had made the trip lying between the donkey’s legs.
“Made me smile big. Love is an amazing thing,” he tweeted. “They spent the day exploring new digs... and I just tucked them in to bed with some berries for Diane, apple for Jack. Family is in love with its newest members.”
The fuss over the two animals comes at a time when Carolina Waterfowl Rescue is in the midst of raising $150,000 to move from its current 11-acre site near Indian Trail to a 50-acre farm outside Waxhaw, where larger animals can be kept safely.
To help, call 704-668-9486, or visit Carolina Waterfowl Rescue on Facebook and click on “Donate.”