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Wild goose chase turns into mooch-fest

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Range of emotions display by visiting bird

By Linda Ireland

A couple of weeks ago, a pair of Canadian geese took up residence in a pond in the field behind our house.

They appeared to be happy, squawking and swimming and trying to avoid the four longhorns who were there first.

The longhorns do not like company – save for a few birds and my husband Bud when he feeds them. We once had a problem with stray dogs and coyotes prowling the field. Those cows – with their frightfully long horns and attitude to match – have taken care of the situation.

So, we did not worry about the geese overstaying their welcome. Before long, they would be forced to move to more hospitable surroundings.

But a couple of days later, the female disappeared.

The one left behind wandered about aimlessly, honking forlornly and attempting to befriend the cows and their calves. One finally ventured into the pond with him – a huge step as the longhorns usually decline from wading.

One afternoon, he started playing games with the calves, flapping his wings at them when they walked toward him. They would turn and run across the field, tails straight up in the air. They’d charge at him again – he’d flap his wings and the whole thing repeated again and again.

It was all greatly amusing – a goose taking up with a field of longhorns – but I was getting concerned.

According to an article I read in Kentucky Afield Outdoors, the Canadian goose (the official name is Canada goose) mates for life. I felt sorry for the loner, but I was ready for him to move on. They’re supposed to migrate – not hang around a small Kentucky pond. This one gave every appearance of waiting for his one-and-only for the rest of the summer.

His sadness was depressing.

There is a lot of debate about whether animals are capable of emotion – or what humans consider to be emotion. I’ve never doubted it.

I’ve witnessed envy in chickens, contempt in cows, loyalty in dogs and now, sorrow in a goose.

A few days later, I saw that same goose display absolute joy when his ladylove reappeared. She had a slight limp, but otherwise looked none the worse for wear.

I have no idea where the she-goose spent those days away from her mate. Was she attacked by a coyote? Was she lost and too stupid to find her way home? Maybe she just needed some “me” time.

At any rate, there was much rejoicing at her return. They chattered and waddled all over the field. The gander was so happy, he took her on a date of sorts, venturing closer to the house and raiding the chicken yard of shelled corn.

And then a funny thing happened. The very next day, four geese – almost a gaggle – appeared in the field. The happy couple must have shared their good news with friends.

The next day, the four had multiplied to 17. And every one of them was staring straight at the chicken yard.

“Do something!” I told the longhorns.

They kept chewing their cuds and ignoring the situation.

Now, I don’t mind sharing a few kernels of chicken feed with two geese. But 17?

Worse yet, that’s an odd number. Were they planning to wait around for number 18 to join the party?

There would be no golden egg from a magical goose at the end of the day. With these birds, the smooching had turned into mooching. And the mooching would soon turn into massive pooping.

And that, I could not have.

“When’s hunting season start?” I asked Bud.

He didn’t know but word must have gotten around. The whole bunch disappeared overnight.

And they say geese are silly.

I wish them well – and hope they find happiness – and tolerance – on someone else’s pond next year.