Austin's oldest chicken Esperanza dies after 13 years of coop disputes, celebrity status and family feuds
After 13 years of maintaining a brotherly feud, celebrity status and fighting for her spot as the coop's top dog (or chicken), Austin's oldest chicken, Esperanza, died over the weekend.
Esperanza's claim to fame came from the aid of her owners, Edward Gottschalk and Liath Appleton, who started investigating the elderly chicken's unique status after a 13 or 14-year-old chicken from Austin made an appearance on a late-night television show several years ago.
Esperanza as a chick. (Edward Gottschalk)
Esperanza as a grown chicken. (Edward Gottchalk)
At 13, Esperanza lived a full life that ended with her favorite meal, cantaloupe and mealworms, in Austin's Highland neighborhood. Her coop, which was fully enclosed to ward off predators, bordered the couple's bedroom window so she could be fed treats as needed, and she enjoyed bad weather days inside watching TV on Appleton's lap. Gottschalk said Esperanza passed peacefully in her sleep.
Esperanza's coop bordered the couple's window so that she could be fed treats as easily as possible. (Edward Gottschalk)
But her celebrity status didn't come without strife; according to Gottschalk, Esperanza was "not that nice" and had a cantankerous old-lady attitude. Gottschalk said she may have blood on her hands (or claws): some of her companion chickens have died naturally or flown away, but in cutthroat chicken tradition, Esperanza herself has likely killed a sick chicken or two herself in her rise to the top.
Even on her crankiest days, however, Esperanza had the unique power of bringing people together. In an in-family Hatfield vs. McCoy-esque dispute, Gottschalk and his brother, Mark, have been in stiff competition over their claims to fame: for Gottschalk, it's Esperanza, while Mark is a champion pumpkin grower.
But that feud appears to have laid to rest as Mark and many others paid their respects to Esperanza.
"They've been very supportive, actually everyone has," Gottschalk told Austonia.
As Austin's biggest celebrity, over 50 Redditors in the r/Austin subreddit paid their respects to Esperanza in Gottschalk's memorial post.
"I hope you are scratching up delicious grubs in that great coop in the sky," one Redditor wrote.
Esperanza is the daughter of Frita and Frederico. Though her relatives are no longer clucking, she will be remembered by her doting owners Gottschalk and Appleton and the rest of Austin, who will now have to resort to supporting other local celebrities like "that McCoughy guy or whatever his name is," according to one grieving Redditor.
"She lived a nice quiet life the past couple of years," Gottschalk said. "She's pretty sweet with age. It's been nice to have her."
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Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.
As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.
“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”
Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.
“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”
Actually, a purr-fect idea.
Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.
At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”
Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.
“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”
Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.
“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”
Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.
“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”
Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.
“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”
And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.
“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”
Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.
“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”
We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.
This restaurant claims to have the most authentic South Indian food, and from what I've heard, the claims might be true! Their menu features the traditional South Indian dishes of Idlis, Vadas, a variety of Dosas, and more.
If you're looking for an Indian and Tex-Mex fusion cozy restaurant, then look no further! Nasha on East 7th Street prides itself on its specialty margaritas, Tikka con Queso, Biryani, and more creative dishes!