Tinkerbell – My Wild Goose Story
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By Lisa Johnson
As a child, I fell in love with Canada geese. I researched and found a gentleman that sold them at the time. They came with paperwork and a license. I loved my geese — Banff and Brittney — and always wanted more.
Several years ago, my husband sent me a picture of a Canada goose along with a text that said, “Want it?”
He was at a local business. The owner of the shop told him that the goose had flown in with some customers. They often have geese fly in and rest overnight at their place, and are gone by the next morning. A flock flew in the night before and this lone goose stayed behind. They had noticed her flying after them. When they left the business, the goose stayed and had been in the parking lot all day.
Without much effort at all, we caught the goose. I set up a crate in my feed room. The goose did not seem bothered by me. When I went to check later, the goose was pressed up against the crate door. I opened the door; it came right out. I tried to give the goose some space, not wanting to stress it out. The goose followed my every step. When I stopped, it sat on my feet. Not knowing what else to do, I sat on the floor with my legs stretched out in front of me. Without hesitation, the wild goose climbed onto my legs and stood facing me. It began to preen. I was in awe. After a while she lifted a foot, wiggled it, and tucked it up into her downy, white belly feathers. Then the goose turned and tucked its head under its wing and went to sleep. When I finally had to move, the goose lifted its head to look at me as if to ask why I was interrupting its slumber. I scooted the goose back into the crate. Then I made a call to a friend, that was a wildlife rehabber.
As I was telling her about this goose, she laughed and said, “That sounds like one of Mother Goose’s geese.” She went on to tell me about Mother Goose. Her real name was Ruth, and she had been rescuing geese for many years. The two had recently talked and one of the geese was late in returning and Ruth was worried. She told me to call her.
I did and began telling Ruth my story. She was silent until I finished. When I was done, in her soft, 80-some-year-old voice she said, “That sounds like my Tinkerbell. Can you bring her to me?” She went on to tell me about her Tinkerbell. It was a goose that she had rescued as a gosling 18 years ago. Tinkerbell had grown up with her. She flew south for the winters but came back every spring. She was late this year and Ruth had been worrying.
I told Ruth that we would bring the goose out. I told myself that I would know if the goose knew this lady. Because I wasn’t just going to pass her off if she didn’t. I was more than happy taking care of her!
When we got to the house, a tiny, silver-haired woman walked toward us. My husband got out and I stayed in the car with a goose on my lap. Mother Goose Ruth’s voice was as soft in person as it had been on the phone. I already knew. As soon as we had pulled up to the gate, the goose had started making soft cooing noises that I had not heard before. When she heard Ruth, she got louder. I opened the door and put Tinkerbell on the ground. Mother Goose ooh-ed and awh-ed over her. Tinkerbell marched right past Ruth and headed for the front door. Mother Goose began telling us more of her story. I couldn’t take my eyes off the goose. She went up to the front door and waited. The door opened. Ruth’s son was there — Tinkerbell went inside.
Ruth laughed a soft, gentle laugh. She said that when they were raising Tinkerbell (along with other goslings), they would sit and watch the movie Fly Away Home (a show about rescued Canada geese). Tinkerbell loved to sit and watch the movie with Ruth and her son. So much so that every year when Tinkerbell came back, she wanted to watch the movie. One year she got upset because Ruth had rearranged the furniture! Ruth went on to say that many of her goose stories had been written about in a book called The Nesting Season by Bernd Heinrich. I ordered a copy that day.
Leaving my new wild friend was hard but I knew she was in the right place. I asked if I could call and check up on Tinkerbell and Ruth encouraged me to.
We had some wonderful conversations!
Ruth got sick a few years later. She invited me out one beautiful spring day. When I got there, she was sitting on the back porch in a sky-blue robe. Her hair was as silver as could be, and her cheeks were rosy pink and her eyes glowing. Tinkerbell was at her side as well as a new rescue named Greta. Ruth showed me her collection of other Bernd Heinrich books and told me about how they still kept in touch. She encouraged me to write to him about my part of the story. About halfway through our visit, Tinkerbell had come to stand by me. Ruth told me that Tinkerbell remembered me — she could tell. I was touched.
A couple of months later, I received a call. Mother Goose Ruth had passed away. Her son told me that Ruth had wanted me to take Tinkerbell but requested that, when Tinkerbell passed away, she be brought back and buried next to the pond where Ruth’s ashes were scattered. Tinkerbell was 21 now and had stopped flying south.
To say that I was honored was an understatement. Ruth’s son wasn’t sure what he was going to do yet and Tinkerbell and Greta were welcome to stay until he did.
That was two years ago. Greta flew away and joined a flock. A new rescue came in and has bonded with Tinkerbell. She is where she belongs. We have a place set up for her if something ever changes. Until then, I am thankful to be a part of this wonderful wild goose story!
Originally published in the February/March 2020 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.