"If you're looking for a heart-rending story about geese, read this book!"

Choo & Earl

"This moving story about a lady's love for her goose will touch you."

Choo & Earl



By Debbie Gribben

DECEMBER 2005 TO MARCH 22, 2007

Amie (standing, also known as Melvin) with Speckles in the background.

Larry, Curly, Moe and Angel (the white goose) have been visiting Debbie & Scott's pond.
They are hybrid Canada Geese.

My name is Debbie and my husband, my daughter and I have truly come to appreciate and love the wonders of the Canada goose.


We moved to the country two years ago and we have a three-acre pond. The pond is continuously fed from the Erie Canal and has a large waterfall so for most of the winter, parts of the pond are not frozen. We have at least 200 birds coming and going all year.


We have come to know certain families as they have come to know us.

Last year, there was a goose who couldn't fly. We named him Goose Goose. We were extremely worried all winter and made sure he had a continuous supply of food. We made him a wooden shelter which he wanted no part of. He either liked to stay in the rushes on the island in the center of the pond or he'd sit in the very middle of the pond when it was really, really bad out. It broke my heart. I'm certain he tried to stay as far away from shore as possible when the pond was frozen because of predators (foxes). What was truly amazing was that his mate would leave at dusk but return almost every morning to spend the day with him.


This year, we have Goose Goose and another smaller goose with a really bad wing. We named her Dolly. We also have a large white domestic goose named Amie (no idea where she came from; showed up about six months ago). This time we made a really big shelter and lined it with straw but they are terrified of it.

DECEMBER 18, 2005: Something tragic happened. We found Dolly along the pond. It appears she succumbed to a fox. We retrieved her body and I'm devastated.

I've been frantically looking for Goose Goose and Amie. My daughter saw Amie at the food area Friday and I saw Goose Goose late Friday night out in the middle of the pond. I could not see Amie but she is harder to see because she is white and it's pitch dark here at night. Saturday morning, I could find neither anywhere.


We have walked and walked the creeks both directions from our pond coming and going and I can find nothing. We are having a tough winter and our pond is already frozen but the creeks are not.

Goose Goose and Amie are very large and very street smart and I think Goose Goose was healed enough to fly a little if he had to. I have also been told that domestic geese can fly a little like domestic turkeys. Neither would go down without a good fight and there are no kill sights or drag marks to indicate any kind of fight. We have thoroughly looked.


Last year, Goose Goose disappeared for a little while giving me a lot of worry but did return.


Our sweet Dolly was very small and very injured. We are going to bury her beside this year's Christmas tree (we buy a live one every year).

Some of our other geese have been stopping by and I sense they're looking for the three geese, too. They had been coming each day to join the three that could not fly.


I have not given up complete hope because I can't believe something could have happened to them without a trace. I hope they just went for a long walk up the creek and will come back when they feel safer. They are a big part of my life. All three would stay together so I'm sure they witnessed what happened to Dolly and it horrified them as it has us.


JANUARY 3, 2006: Goose Goose and Amie have not shown up so now I'm frantic.
Once again, this weekend I looked and looked and looked and could not find any sign of them. I've been around the entire pond several times and the surrounding forests and the only place I cannot get to is the very center of the pond where the rushes are.


Our house is built up on a hill so I go up to the top deck with my binoculars and can find no disturbance in the rushes. They could have gone upstream where it was not frozen but I thought they would have come back because most of the pond is not frozen right now and they know they have a continuous supply of food. They could have also gone downstream but they would either have to cross the road or go over the waterfalls to get there. We have a very large waterfall, about 30 foot drop.


Last night, we had about 30 overnight geese guests.


Is it possible for a fox to take both geese without any disturbance? The pond is large and the fox would have to go to the middle of the pond to get them. I have been told that most predators will not usually go that far on the ice; they just know not to.


I'm still hopeful but I have a constant sick feeling. I have come to truly love geese and I sincerely miss my special friends. I will not give up on them.

Amie (also known as Melvin)

JANUARY 29, 2006: Good news! Amie is back!!!! I'm in total awe of her. Where did she go? How did she get back? Where did she come from initially? This morning, I got up and looked out and couldn't believe my eyes. I called my husband and we both just stood there in shock. The pond has been frozen since last Wednesday so we really didn't have any visitors. Yesterday, the temperature went up so the pond is about 80% thawed. She came with about 200 other geese today so I couldn't tell if she had Goose Goose with her. The hybrids were here and because Goose Goose's wing had healed so well the last time I saw him, I couldn't be sure if he was here. We had to go out for a couple of hours and when we returned all the geese were gone but Amie and a few mallards. However, I now feel very confident that Goose Goose is capable of flying. Is Amie? We've been around and around and up and down this pond so many times I don't know how we could have missed her hiding. There are so many questions that I know will go unanswered but I'm so very grateful she is okay. We are completely overwhelmed and miracles do happen.

SEPTEMBER 5, 2006: Our geese have been doing extremely well. We had over 100 babies this year! I never saw Goose Goose again, or should I say, I couldn't identify him. He looked good the last time I saw him and I'm hoping he flew away and is among the 100 we get daily. The babies have all grown and the most amazing thing my husband and I have ever seen was the parents teaching them to fly. I could never put into words the comedy or dedication of the parents.

Most of the geese now leave for the night and return in pockets during the day. Unfortunately, we have some remain throughout the winter. Amie, of course.

We now have Sweetie, a baby born this year who appears to have broken her wing during a flying lesson. Amie takes care of her and it's been a long time so I don't think her wing will heal. Sweetie has a small friend who now stays with her.

Amie (also known as Melvin) and Sweetie

And we have Speckles, the goose with the injured foot. He will probably always limp. Speckles is not a well goose and he is very tame. He always sits on the grass shore and I feed him separately. I bring him a large tin of water daily, which he loves. He is my baby and I can sit beside him and talk to him. My husband feels that everyday that he's alive is a gift. Speckles has been worked on. He has a partial prosthetic leg. He can swim and slips into the water for the night. He hangs out with Melvin and Sweetie. Some days I don't see him at all.

We now know Amie's background: About a mile up the street there's a large farm called Becker Farms. This farm is open to the public. They have a fudge store, ice-cream store, pie store, fruit and vegetable store and a large petting zoo. My daughter got a job working for a health care company that deals with supplying health care for low-income people. My daughter went up there because they have a lot of workers who don't have health care. She spoke with the owner and once my daughter told her where we lived, the woman told her the whole story about Amie. Amie is actually male and they had named him Melvin. Melvin lived with them and he had a wife who had babies. The geese were free roam and one day, the whole family was hit by a car and the only survivor was Melvin. Melvin became depressed and started hanging out with Canadian geese who came to visit. One day, about a year ago, Melvin disappeared and they found him in our pond with the Canadian geese. They are very happy Melvin has found his home and they have no intention of taking him. They are also quite certain the four hybrids belong to Melvin.

When Melvin disappeared last year and we were frantically looking for him, he had actually gone to visit them. They fed him and once again, he disappeared, only to show up at our pond again. She told us he cannot fly so he must have walked up to their farm. They love their animals and none of them are ever slaughtered. They're pets.

Speckles' prosthetic holding his leg together. His feathers are thinning which will make it very hard for him during the winter.

MARCH 19, 2007: Speckles and Melvin are doing great but we did have some drama! Last year around the end of October I started getting really concerned about Speckles' leg. I finally found through the Internet a wildlife rehabilitator close to my home. I described my situation to her and she was intrigued with this goose situation. She spoke to her avian veterinarian who agreed to take a look at Speckles. It goes something like this: Sometimes scientists try to help birds that are not migrating to follow planes but the birds often get caught up in the planes and die. So they decided to help the birds with the help of hot air balloons and they banded them with large white bands about 4 inches long. Speckles received one of these bands at a very young age and the band worked itself up out of place into her leg and her leg grew around it. As one would expect, her leg got very infected and she was probably in a lot of pain.The vet removed the band and bandaged her up. Because she was so sick and sat on the bank most of the time, lice set in and made her extremely anemic and most of the feathers on her chest were gone. She also had zero flight feathers. The vet patched her up but clearly, she could not be released free with winter coming on. Wendy gave us a large 12' X 12' chain link walk in cage which we set up as close to the water as possible. I lined the ground with about 16 inches of wood shavings to keep it as clean as possible. We put three large canvas tarps on 1/2 of the roof and about 8 bails of straw to keep 1/2 the cage out of the elements which she loves. The other 1/2 of the cage has her pool which we keep thawed with a floating heater and we have a large plug in heated dog bowl for drinking. We had some really tough weather and she had some really tough times due to lack of feathers but we feel confident the worse part is over (phew)! We know it will take at least one molt to get back her flight feathers but we are thinking of releasing her to the pond the end of April, beginning of May. She has loads of pin feathers but no flight feathers yet. If she still cannot fly by this October we will probably take her back in as she really knows me well now. I didn't plan on taming her and I try my hardest not to but when you take care of something for so long you can't help but have them trust you.

Amie (in tub) and Speckles in their recuperating home.

I absolutely adore her, she is my girl but I can't wait for her to get back out with here family. The geese are back now and they come up to her cage and visit her, she gets really excited. Melvin would go up to her cage and sit outside the door. So one Sunday before the pond froze I opened the door and hid behind my car to watch what Melvin would do. Melvin walked up to the cage and walked in, I ran up and closed the door. Melvin has been in with Speckles for about 2 months. I am planning on getting Melvin out the end of this month when I am sure the pond won't freeze again so we won't have the predator worry. Melvin and Speckles get along really well but I think Melvin likes Speckles more than Speckles likes him. I also find Speckles swims less with Melvin in the cage because he monopolizes the pool. Twice a day I give them a treat of baby lettuces and Melvin usually goes after her food when he's done. I was afraid she was lonely and I was afraid he would be killed by a fox but I think she's better off without him so I will let him go with the other geese in two weeks (they are all coming back now).