Almost every little girl dreams about being a Disney princess, or at least having an awesome animal sidekick to follow you around and sing with you.
Since life isn’t a cartoon, most of us are willing to settle for a domesticated animal sidekick like a dog or cat. Hey, some dogs can even sing and they’re definitely better at cuddling than fictitious cartoon characters.
With that said, some people are lucky enough in their lives to create a bond with an atypical animal who isn’t usually thought of as a pet.
I know I’d like a baby elephant or wolf to spend every waking moment with me, but neither has proven logistically feasible.
However, one Florida woman, Dina Theissen seems to have figured out how to tame a wild animal and even form a lasting relationship.
Here is the story of Dina Theissen and her family’s blue jay, Gracie.
Dina first found the tiny chick when he fell out of his nest as a hatchling.
She waited to see if his mother would return for him, but once enough time passed, she decided to step in as a replacement.
Dina and her daughter Alyssa took the bird in and chose the name Gracie. Mom, daughter, and dad Kenny kept the tiny bird in a shoebox nest and fed him by hand every 3o minutes.
Taking care of Gracie was indeed a commitment, but one that would end up being worth it.
When Gracie was a chick, they couldn’t quite tell what species, or sex he was. But as he grew his adult feathers, they realized that he was in fact a beautiful blue jay.
In fact, Gracie was so beautiful that they decided not to change his name.
As Dina, Alyssa and Kenny raised Gracie, they helped him learn to hunt for his own insect food by perching him on their balcony with a view of his would-be prey.
The family released Gracie back to the wild when he was just 5 weeks old. Gracie has had chicks of his own by now — but that doesn’t stop him from coming back to visit his first family.
The bird’s friendship was unwavering: when Dina was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016, Gracie continued to come back every day to pay her a visit.
She tells PEOPLE, “I was very weak and tired, and he would be chirping away, acting like he was having a conversation with me. It’s like he knew that something was wrong — he was showing empathy.”
Dina has since made a recovery and is in remission, but that also doesn’t stop Gracie from coming around.
He likes play time and his playmate Alyssa just about as much as he likes hanging out with the whole family.
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