On September 25, Jamie McCary stepped out of her Gulfport home and was greeted by 50 pink flamingos on her lawn. In their midst, decked out in her party best, was her long-lost 4-foot-high Pinky.
After missing for a year and a half, Pinky the flamingo lawn ornament had returned home just in time to wish her owner a happy birthday.
From the beginning, Pinky was a very special avian. Made out of left-over plywood by McCary’s partner, Kim Schnitker, Pinky was meant to cheer up McCary after the death of her daughter.
“I was just trying to do little things to put a smile on her face,” Schnitker said October 26.
For several years Pinky lived peacefully in the beautifully landscaped back yard of their Spanish-style home on 63rd Street South. In early March 2014, the couple decided to host a dinner party for 20 of their best friends and set Pinky on the front lawn for the festivities.
The next morning, the bird was gone.
“I said, ‘Kim, there’s been a Pinky-napping!’” McCary recalled. “And Kim said ‘No way!”
Within a few days, letters from a desperate Pinky began to arrive. She said she was being fed worms, which she hated, instead of the shrimp she needed to maintain her bright pink color. She had diarrhea and flatulence. She was fading.
Then came an ominous ransom letter, in words pieced together from newspaper and magazine clippings, demanding that a “special chocolate” be delivered to an unspecified person. The delivery was to be made while wearing only underwear. And then the horror: a letter with Pinky’s toenail clippings and feathers threatening to hurt her if the ransom wasn’t delivered.
Shortly after, the letters stopped.
What didn’t stop were the text messages and photos. Friends kept reporting possible sightings of Pinky or her family members, everywhere from a Sea World souvenir shop to roadside lawn-ornament displays.
“Pinky was never forgotten,” McCary said. “At every single family gathering Pinky was brought up.”
Before McCary’s recent birthday, a man was spotted setting plastic flamingos in their front lawn around midnight. He was dodging the sprinklers, flattening himself to the ground when discovered, Schnitker said.
But the household kept the secret from McCary. Schnitker armed herself with a camera to document McCary’s reaction when the two walked outside the next morning.
“I was delighted and touched,” McCary said of the entire caper. “And honestly, since my daughter died, I didn’t know my heart could be so bubbly and effervescent. … I’m a very blessed human being,” she said of the friends who would do so much for her. “I’m just so lucky, very fortunate.”
Since her return, Pinky has been living again in the back yard, safe from bird nappers. And the household’s two Rottweilers have been assigned to keep an eye on her.