How to Fall in Love with a Goose

This Canada gosling was obviously a music lover

It was the cutest thing I had ever seen. A baby goose—a gosling—nestled in the pocket of a teenager’s shirt.

I had been visiting friends in the town of Penticton, Canada, a beautiful place surrounded by mountains and lakes. Their outdoorsman son had found an abandoned goose egg and brought it home. He kept it warm, and within days, the shell cracked and a fluffy little gosling emerged. For the chick, it was love at first sight. Thinking the boy, Craig, was its mother, the little goose attached itself to him. Outside, Craig carried the gosling everywhere in his shirt pocket. Indoors, it had the run of the house, its webbed feet padding after him wherever he went.

The gosling also accepted the rest of us as fellow geese, showing no reluctance to approach us. I held the tiny creature in my hands, felt its little feet in my palms, the softness of downy feathers, and I was captivated. We enjoyed watching our new baby waddle through the garden, nibbling small flower heads with its tiny beak. When Craig’s sister played her guitar, the gosling positioned itself within inches of the strings, listening intently and watching her hands pluck and strum.

But Craig knew the adorable little bird didn’t belong in a human environment. He had seen a mother goose and her new hatchlings in the area where he had found the egg and felt sure this was the baby’s mother, so he made a plan, hoping she would recognize and accept her own.

Since I had become as attached as he, Craig took me with him. Together we paddled his canoe across the mountain lake, the little bird rustling around in his shirt pocket. When we spotted the mother goose and her brood near the shore, we drifted as close as possible without alarming them, then placed our charge in the water and started paddling away.

The gosling followed us, its paddle-like feet working overtime.

Realizing this wasn’t going to be easy, I plucked it out of the water while Craig maneuvered the canoe back to our original drop point. This time, after setting the little goose back in the water, we each grabbed a paddle and jettisoned away as fast as possible. The gosling followed once again, honking in desperation. I could hear the distress in its little voice. It broke my heart. I could feel tears welling up, the salty drops trickling down my face. I begged Craig to turn around or let it catch up, but he was resolute. And, as it turned out, he was right not to stop.

Finally we had pulled far enough away. Our little bird stopped swimming. It sat in the water, watching us. It must have realized it couldn’t catch up.

Then an amazing thing happened. The mother goose and her brood glided out of the shallows gently honking at the stranger. In response, the gosling turned and swam towards them. After a brief introduction and some nuzzling—perhaps a goose way of checking I.D.—the whole group glided back to the shore, our gosling among them.

I was sad and overjoyed at the same time. I would miss the little Canada goose, but it was with its family, back in the wild where it belonged.
(published as Back to the Wild, in “The Ultimate Bird Lover,” HCI publications 2010)

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Categories: environment, nature, Photography, Published Work, Stock Photography | Tags: , , , , , | 37 Comments

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37 thoughts on “How to Fall in Love with a Goose

  1. One of the cutest pictures I’ve seen.

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    • Thanks so much for saying so. It was one of those photo opportunities that rarely comes along. I’m so glad I had my camera at the ready.

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  2. This is such a nice story. But that’s right, a goose can’t live forever with humans as a pet.They nee to be with their kind and live in nature just how it should be. Sadly, these kinds of small animals often end up dying sooner than expected when leading a life in the house.
    This story really made me also feel like wanting to go back for the little goose imagining how it swam with all it had to catch up to you T.T But it’s so great that the ending is happy after all 🙂

    By the way, did Craig turn to Greg at the end or is it another person?

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    • You’re so right. I know people who have geese and ducks, but there’s usually acreage and a pond out back for them. Even though this was years ago, I can still picture the whole scene, hear the little guy honking and see it paddling desperately toward our canoe. And I still tear up. Julia (comment below) was right about it being bittersweet.
      Re Craig/Greg…my ooops. It was Craig. Going to fix it. I think I called him Greg a few times when I was there, too.

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  3. what a lovely story!

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  4. Reblogged this on dou dou and commented:
    Such a nice story – I would have had a hard time leaving him too!

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    • I’m so glad you liked it and love that you reblogged it. Thank you. Leaving an animal you’ve become attached to is so hard, especially when it doesn’t want to be left, but I know it was for the best.

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  5. This made me tear up. We learn the meaning of bitter/sweet don’t we? Beautifully written. xo

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    • What a lovely compliment. Thank you. And yes, so much about life is bitter/sweet. Those are the experiences we never forget.

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  6. Beautiful and amazing picture and story. It was the perfect solution. ~ Lynda

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    • Thank you so much, Lynda. I wasn’t so sure at the time, but when my head cleared, I knew it was the right thing to do.

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      • I understand how you felt. Mine have all imprinted on me and they are very adoring pets. I have learned through mine that mother geese are very accepting, and fiercely protective of abandoned goslings. 🙂 And although the little goslings imprint instantly, I believe yours looks young enough that they would have adjusted just fine.

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      • So the mother goose might not have been the gosling’s mother. I didn’t realize. Thank you for the insight. And that makes me even happier that all ended well. We have a distinct species of geese here in Hawaii which are protected (as there are very few) and which we have designated the state bird. They’re called nene (nay nay) and are descended, I think, from some wayward Canada geese that flew here way back when. I’ve seen how protective they are of their eggs.

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  7. that is such a gorgeous story! you are so much stronger than me and i am glad you and craig were strong enough, me i am just so soft would have ended up with whole goose family back at home! have a super day xx

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  8. I’m a softie, too, kizzy. Craig was the strong one, and I’m glad of that.

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  9. Ahh, what a sweet and touching story!

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  10. Pingback: i am rubbish! | kizzylee

  11. hi 🙂 i hope you dont mind but i tagged you in the list of blogs i like to read for more info if you would to join in go here http://kizzylee.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/i-am-rubbish/ i hope you have a lovely day xx

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    • I love it. Thank you for thinking of me. I will have to get busy and respond soon. p.s. my genes tell me I have to live by the ocean, too 🙂

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  12. Oh! This made me want to cry, too. What a smart guy Craig was. I don’t know if I’d have been brave enough to let the little one go, but I hope so. Bravo!

    I just stopped by to say thank you for liking my post and following my blog. It always gives me a lift! So, thank you. 🙂

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    • It was just the hardest thing to paddle away from the little baby while it was crying for us to come back, so thank goodness for Craig’s resolve. I don’t think I could have done it by myself.

      You’re welcome. I love reading about the experiences and thoughts of others as they journey through life. I think it brings us all closer together. I hope you’ll drop by here now and again, too.

      Like

  13. Sadly beautiful, with a semi-happy ending. I know, it’s a happy ending as that was the gosling’s best chance, but…

    Thank you for sharing the story!

    Russ

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    • You’re so welcome. I’m glad you liked it. It was a story waiting a while for me to share it, but I’m glad I finally did. Yes, sad, but happy. Bittersweet.

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  14. heart breaking story!

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  15. Susan Cooper

    What a heart warming story. It made me happy and sad at the same time. Love is always a good thing.

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    • Thank you, Susan. This story seems to have touched a lot of people the way it touched me. I guess that’s why HCI Publications chose to publish it in the Ultimate Bird Lover. When it comes down to it, there’s nothing more important than love yet real love comes with its share of emotional ups and downs.

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  16. This reminded me so much of “Fly Away Home” which was my favorite movie when I was little. Such a wonderful and bittersweet story.

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  17. Thank you, Mallory. I haven’t seen “Fly Away Home,” but now I think I must seek it out.

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  18. A wonderful story. Nature is us. We humans are at our best only when we listen to nature´s voice within and do what has to be done.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and being so nice about my pictures! Awesome coming from a pro like you. I will wander around in your writings and lovely pictures for a while…I´ll be back.

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  19. Very nicely put, lagottocattleya. The early Hawaiians believed that, too—that nature is not only outside us, but part of us. Knowing that enriches us and everything around us.
    I always enjoy looking at good photography, so I’ll be back to your site, too. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation.

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  20. What a great story with a happy ending.

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  21. This is a very blue but sweet story. Some say love is letting go,you guys just love the baby goose so well.The little one may cherish every moments with his/her true family now , but I do believe that from somewhere in his/her mind , he/she will miss the warm shirt pocket , the smell of a garden with those swinging colorful flowers and special his/her very first family as well ^ – ^

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  22. Part of me hopes you’re right, yinyin, that the little gosling will remember Craig—its birth “mother,” and its “first” family—me included. Just not the part where we paddled away leaving it crying for us to come back. That must have been traumatic, judging from the plaintive cries (it was traumatic for me, that’s for sure). The young are adaptable, though, and from the looks of things as we left, this little one adapted nicely. I sometimes wonder what it’s doing now, all these years later, and how everything turned out.

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