Pet Guide

Good For the Goose: An Unlikely Pet

One local recalls how a honking bird became a part of the family


Published:

Illustration by Chris Reed

Upon their return home after a day of toil, many men are warmly greeted by a faithful pooch. I’ve never actually had that privilege, but I have had a different honor — that of being enthusiastically received by a Canadian goose.

Living as I do in a rural area of Red Hook, my family has never lacked for wildlife visitors — deer, skunks, possums, red foxes, wild turkeys, herons, groundhogs, to name a few — some of which became pets. Feral cats breed in our neighborhood, and a black kitten just waltzed in our kitchen door one day having apparently decided that she was going to live with us. We already had two felines, but okay, we now have three.

There was also Ted the Turtle, a small green variety that was crossing our street at the pace of frozen molasses when my daughter brought it in to stay. But our most exotic resident was Lucy. (Really, what else does one name a goosey?)

The saga began when I came home one spring evening to find a note my daughter had taped to our downstairs bathroom door: “Do not open! Baby goose inside!” Indeed. It was an adorable, if somewhat hyperactive, little brown fuzz ball on little black stick legs. My wife later explained that friends of ours in Red Hook village had found a stray gosling in their yard and, with our reputation for having a modest wildlife sanctuary, gave it us. Not knowing what to do with it, and being soft of heart as well as mind, we raised it.

Tip: Keeping a goose in your kitchen is not a grand idea unless you’re into changing the newspaper liner in its cage every five minutes. Lucy grew up (very rapidly) and was set free in our yard, causing us great alarm by sinking out of sight for long seconds during her maiden swim in our pond. Our cats, who normally patrol our property while hunting for small critters, viewed her with wary interest. Lucy’s size surely made them think twice about trying to help themselves to fresh goose pâté, but she never displayed the ornery aggression for which Canada geese are known. She was clearly just happy to be there.

That silly goose happily spent the spring and summer out there, accompanying our kids to their bus stop, hailing me with excited grunts and honks as I pulled into the driveway at night, supervising my yard work, and trailing after neighbors as they walked along our street. “Excuse me, but is this your goose?” one asked. “It won’t stop following us.”

We reckoned Lucy thought of herself as a person and humans as her flock. It was cool having her around, but also a tad unsavory. Our lawn was always peppered with goose pooplets, which turned it into a minefield that required dexterous footwork to navigate cleanly. (Too bad Twyla Tharp wasn’t watching. She would have hired me for her famed dance company on the spot.)

As fall set in, we grew concerned about how and where Lucy would spend the winter. Thinking it best to integrate her into a migrating flock, my wife and three kids led her to where one had gathered near a local farm. Lucy hurried to it and my family scurried home. That seemed to be that.

Alas, several days later a neighbor told me he’d seen a goose on the street in Red Hook village honking at cars. Was it Lucy? I have my suspicions. I just hope everything worked out for her. As far as pets go, she was different but sweet. I, however, came to the bittersweet conclusion that it’s probably wiser to stick to cats and the occasional turtle and let Mother Nature or local wildlife authorities take care of the rest.


Related: More from John Rolfe

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