Reaching Out to Friends, part 1


I never dreamed I’d have a feathered friend to rival Happy Feet, a Runner Duck who was the only one who hatched from our incubator a few years ago and imprinted on my husband and me. She pecked her way into our hearts as she followed us everywhere we went and “kissed” our toes in affection. Her favorite junk food snack was Doritoes, and if my husband brought a bag out onto the deck, she’d hop up the stairs to beg a handful. Runner ducks can’t fly, and it was comical to see a duck with webbed feet determinedly conquer stairs.

Happy Feet spent a lot of time at our northern Wisconsin cabin. She’d swim with us and got quite good at snatching minnows. One of my favorite memories was kayaking to a sandbar with my granddaughters and watching her swim alongside. We beached the kayaks and spent the afternoon wading. Happy Feet searched for minnows and contentedly filtered out tasty morsels she found under the water plants while we humans discovered pretty rocks, clams, and interesting critters.

One warm day when my son-in-law, Jeremy, wanted to train for a swim event, he asked me to paddle alongside in case he needed a lifeguard. I launched the kayak and Happy Feet joined us. At one point when Jeremy was tired and falling behind, Happy Feet shot ahead. With a spurt of renewed energy, competitive Jeremy dug in. The delightful image of Jeremy and Happy Feet swimming neck to neck is one I’ll always treasure.

It turns out Happy Feet does have a rival for most beloved feathered friend. This summer, my husband and I acquired an orphaned gosling that outshines Happy Feet for her devotion and entertainment value.

A friend swimming in the Wisconsin River was amazed when this lone gosling, maybe a week old, swam toward her group. It tried to climb up the leg of a young woman as if asking for help. Concerned, my friend easily caught it. Even though she searched for a long time, the gosling’s family didn’t appear. Had a speed boat or the strong river current separated it from the others? Had a fox or predator gotten the goose and other goslings? Why wasn’t it more afraid of humans?

When my friend brought us the yellow gosling which was incredibly soft and adorable, I named her Gertie. Three mallard ducklings had recently hatched from the incubator, and I hoped Gertie would be content with them as buddies. The ducklings bonded with her, but Gertie still craved human attention.

I quickly learned how to talk “goose.” Gertie has a contented coo that sounds like wiggle- wiggle-wiggle. She also has an excited chime when she finds something tasty, and a chatter when she’s upset. Her “I’m-lonely” gabble melted my heart so I found a pouch to wear around my neck and set her inside. Gertie would snuggle in and contentedly ride along as I went about my day. My husband Frank kept her company, too. More than once, I found Gertie cuddled in his hands while Frank watched TV. Once I caught them napping together.

I’m convinced Gertie’s soft, whispering honks after I bring her watermelon are thank you’s and her pecking at my hands is a sign of affection. I also believe she shares my sense of adventure.

Gertie loves exploring. She joyously pecks at the garden and lawn searching for tasty worms and loves chasing down the hill. She’s also curious and pecks at objects such as flower pots, pop cans, or rakes. She wants to know where we are and be with us every second of the day.

Continue reading Gertie, One Terrific Goose for the story of what happened when Gertie spotted an unsuspecting woman paddle boarding on the lake.

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