When a Canadian goose loves you she starts at your scalp and slowly drags her wet beak down the entire length of a few strands of your hair, leaving behind a firm, sticky gel.
She shakes her head around and clicks her tongue on her beak and moves on to the next clump of hair to repeat the arduous process. She will spend hours if necessary to tenderly coat your hair feathers in what I can only call goose mousse. I spent an entire summer with my hair covered in this substance that is the envy of every hairdresser alive and Dobbie spent countless hours tending to my needs in the only way she could.
I imagine she was born just like most every goose, pecking her way out of her tiny egg to the sound of nearby traffic and her siblings doing the same. I imagine it was hard work, she was more than likely tired as well as a bit distracted by the new sights and sounds that accompany entering the world.
I imagine her mother coated her new family in flotation goo, counted her babies in whatever way geese count and headed off to the waters edge, so unaware in her bliss that she didn’t notice when one baby went missing.
I came home from work to my 13 year old and my three year old sitting on the couch with a golden fluffball curled up on the lap of my youngest. She was smiling and cupping her hands around its tiny body.
“This poor duck or goose or whatever, it was was alone and cold and lost,” they said. “It must have hatched late or something it was just there by itself, I couldn’t just leave it there to die,” my oldest explained. No, she couldn’t leave it to die, I agreed, finding a box and a towel.
“Tomorrow we will walk back to the river and find its mother,” I informed them.
The next day we tried but the mothers all ran away. Again the next day we tried but they still ran away, and the next day Dobbie HoHo had a name and a bag of feed.
At this point we didn’t know if she was a duck or a goose, she was just a ball of cute that ran along behind my oldest and slept on my youngest. Although I kept insisting that we try to find the poor mother goose who had lost her child, Dobbie was growing on me and I found myself wanting to keep her.
Each day we would walk the dog to the river, my daughter and the goose in the stroller. At the river our goose would attach herself to the dog or a kid, never looking at the multitude of ducks and geese that surrounded us. Oblivious to the fact that her mother and possibly a dozen siblings were within shouting distance. She didn’t care—her mother was a 12 year old human and her siblings were a two year old, some cats and a dog.
By the time Dobbie was a month old she came to her name, slept with the pets and kids, and was clearly a goose rather than a duck. She had outgrown her box and was sleeping in a large plastic storage tote in the laundry room. One night while I was trying to fall asleep I heard a thumping over and over again. Almost rhythmic but with occasional long pauses. I tried to ignore it. Dobbie was at the bottom of the stairs probably pecking at the side of the tote.
Thirty or so minutes passed, the thumping continued then stopped just moments before I felt a tugging on the sheet at the side of the bed. Dobbie somehow pulled herself, little by little up the blanket and nestled herself in the animal pile at the foot of the bed. She sighed, fluffed and fell asleep. She had climbed the hardwood stairs. At least 15 of them.
She was tenacious and determined.
Dobbie followed me through the garden eating snails as she grew. She would look at me with her head cocked like she was expecting me to say something brilliant. I never did but she stared at me anyway, not blinking, just staring while I stared back. She was almost full grown and she had occasionally started nipping me. I was starting to question the logic in keeping her, not to mention its not exactly legal to posses a Canadian goose. The problem was—Dobbie couldn’t fly.
Watching a three year old human teach a goose to fly is not only hilarious but heartwarming as well. She ran back and forth flapping her arms and Dobbie chased her until she got bored and went to hunt snails. This went on for days. Then weeks. Dobbie didn’t fly. She didn’t even really try. She did however keep nipping my legs, sleeping with dogs and cats and coated the entire family’s hair, cats included. I moved her from the luxury of the laundry room to a dog run in the back yard.
I learned that geese are far better watch dogs than actual dogs.
She was fiercely protective.
One morning just after the leaves started to fall I went out to feed her and she was gone. No sign of struggle, no hole in the fence, just gone. The river was about a quarter mile away so we headed there hoping she had figured it out and made it back to her birth place. We sat on the edge of the water scanning the flocks.
There was one goose swimming with a duck. The rest stayed with their own kind, like Sneeches. “I wonder if that’s Dobbie,” I said. Her head snapped toward the sound of her name, she sprung up out of the water and flew to my lap landing heavily and immediately started nuzzling and coating my hair. The ducks looked on.
I hugged her and she made a low purring sound. I don’t know if all geese make that sound or just geese raised with cats—but I do know that she purred.
For a few weeks we would visit Dobbie at the river until the birds all left for the winter. I don’t know if she flew with ducks or with geese but one day she was gone. We never saw her again.
Almost a decade later my daughter confessed that Dobbie HoHo was never lost and alone, she had chased the baby goose and had stolen her from her mother. Why? Because she wanted a goose and as every kid knows… it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
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Editor: Travis May