Pet of the Day

November 25, 2001

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Dirty Bird, the Pet of the Day
Name: Dirty Bird
Age: Three years old
Gender: Male
Kind: Canada Goose
Home: North Carolina, USA
   This is Dirty Bird (DB), a Canadian goose, who lives in our house. I caught him napping with my wife one day. He can't fly because of an old injury but sure is a Huggy Honker! DB is special foremost because he is a Canada Goose that genuinely loves being hugged, and I mean hugged for hours on end. My wife tried to find out his limit one day and sat for three hours with no sign of him fidgeting. Her bottom wore out before he did. He responds to affection by giving little "goosey kisses." These are very light, tender pecks with his bill on a face or an arm. If you've ever experienced what a goose is capable of delivering, you'll know that is extraordinary.

    Every night my wife holds him in bed and watches TV (He likes the fast car shows). If he has to go, he gets up, backs to the edge of a towel that's under him leading into a bucket, and lets go. We've never seen anything like it and probably never will again.

    From Diane:

    I don't own The Bird. The Bird owns me. He was hauled up on my lawn as a result of a dog attack. Out of 12 hatchlings, two survived. Both seemed to be doing well until two weeks out. At midnight Dirty Bird started screaming. I went in to find out what was wrong. I put the two goslings in my lap and covered them partially with a towel, but then I realized one was dying, of what I don't know. The dying gosling had seemed fine that day. DB would not stop crying. I spent a WHOLE night first lying on my stomach with my left arm in an aquarium and when I lost feeling rolling over on my back placing my upturned right hand into the aquarium. This bird was relatively wild at the time and didn't trust. Somewhere between 6 and 7 AM the next morning this gosling just stepped up into my right hand and sat down, and I very gently closed my hand around it. My home-schooled children came into the bedroom at 7:00 AM and asked if they were going to have standardized testing that day. Lying on my back with my hand wrapped around a gosling in an aquarium, I said, "No, guys, you have today off."

    As DB grew he developed scoliosis, probably from the force of the dog bite. Goslings have very fragile bones. Because of this he can only fly short distances and can only float in very shallow water without capsizing. But he loves being hugged. We started off with him in my lap as I worked at a computer. Then he started climbing up onto my chest and under my chin as I sat upright. I thought that this was just a "baby thing" and would subside, but it's gotten worse. Finally, one day when he was full grown, he suddenly began leaning into me and flapping one wing. When a full grown goose begins flapping in your face, it's an experience. I didn't know what he wanted, so I let him go and reposition himself the way he wanted. He wants me in a semi-reclining position with him wedged tightly against my face and his beak resting on the bridge of my nose.

    He was hatched in late April 3 years ago and had all my attention until school started. I became busy and didn't hold him for a week. He simply stopped eating. I thought I'd need to give him to someone more experienced to save his life. The night before I called wildlife, I sat down and hugged him up. After an hour or so, I put him in his cage and he scarfed up everything in sight! We've reached a compromise now. He expects to be hugged between 7 & 9 PM. If I'm late, he becomes agitated. The only territory he defends is me. Don't try to touch me when I'm holding him! He lives in a large dog carrier with the top off in my study. I picked that spot, because I do a lot of work on a computer. He can get out, but he doesn't try unless a vacuum is used nearby. He has a large cage outside and also gets walked at least once a day. I'm afraid of a dog attack; that's why the precautions. He rides to and from the front door in a bird chariot. That's a large wash tub filled with hay. He likes cracked corn and grasses as well as Romaine lettuce when he's molting.

    Living with a goose in the house is a dusty business. I use hay for bedding. But I love him. I'm certain he's against all ordinances, however, I've since become a wildlife rehabber and am called to pick up and raise injured and orphaned geese. I've raised (with DB's and my children's help) and returned to the wild three so far.

    I wouldn't want people to get the idea that a Canada goose would make a great pet. I love DB dearly, but no pet-sitter can handle him. He will not allow anyone to touch him except my daughters and myself. I'm the only one he snuggles with. I have been away from this goose two nights in three years, because the only way others can handle him is by leaving him in his cage. I have a couple of hotels who know me and allow me to bring him. They like the attention it draws when people see a Canada goose being sprayed with water or being carried in a washtub; otherwise, I'm grounded.

    A special set of circumstances brought DB and I together, opening my eyes to something I hadn't even thought about i.e. the Canada Goose. The healthy goslings I've raised since, I have not attempted to make into "hugger geese", although the nature of these birds and their capacity to accept affection from selected people would have made it very easy to do. Even if they hadn't been hugged, they knew my daughters and I after they were released into the wild, and we were the only ones who could touch them.

    Some people consider Canadian Geese as pests and want to have them culled. Because of their very affectionate nature, they mate for life (which beats human records). Killing breaks up those ties. Geesepeace and the Coalition for the Prevention of the Destruction of the Canada Goose are organizations that will nonviolently help with getting rid of some Canada goose if you have a problem with them.

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