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Gregarious grouse has a human friend

A wild bird has found his way into the heart of a woman who lives in Hancock County.

People with pets know they can feel like part of the family. A dog or cat or goldfish can make you happy.

A wild bird has found his way into the heart of a woman who lives in Hancock County.

Most days Doris Pace drives a 4-wheeler up a steep trail at her home near Sneedville.

Doris Pace has a friendly date with a bird.

He is a grouse and that is his territory.

On this particular day she calls him again and again and he doesn't show himself.

"Every time I come and I don't see him I'm afraid something's happened," she said.

The gregarious grouse finally does show up like he did four years ago. A friend was hunting on their property when he saw the bird.

"His daughter actually picked the grouse up. But then we didn't see it for a year or so. Then since Jerry died I have been coming up here and he's been coming and and getting more friendly every day," Doris said.

Jerry is her husband who passed away and also the name she decided to call the grouse.

"Jerry loved nature. He would walk in these woods for hours and hours. And so I think he would be happy about that," she said.

Jerry the grouse makes her happy and Doris seems to make him happy too.

"You're such a pretty bird. Yes you are. And I love you, I do. You telling me you love me too? Ok."

She sometimes brings sunflower seeds but Jerry prefers leaves. It's not a relationship based on food. But it does depend on trust.

"He acts like he wants to get on my shoulder. He keeps looking like this. Did you reach over and peck me while I wasn't paying any attention to you?"

Photos show Jerry sitting on her leg and standing beside her head and perched upon her 4-wheeler.

The wild bird seems almost tame.

"He's been really a source of enjoyment to me this past couple of years," she said.

They confine their almost daily meetings to a clearing about 100 yards from her house.

"He acts like he would like to come home with me but I am afraid for him to because I have cats and a dog so it is best he stay up here in his environment," she said.

So she'll come visit again and Jerry will come running to spend some time with his friend.

"I know he can't live forever and it will be a sad day but I thank the Lord for the years I have had with him," she said.

Just like she is thankful for the years she had with her husband, Jerry.