Elvis, An Egg, a Goose and Her Family
By: Todd Merchant
Elvis’ story is the story of family, of dedication, of caring. It is a part of all of us who are involved here at TDI. We are all volunteers and do what we do with no thought of compensation. We dedicate ourselves to our families, our animals, and to those whom we reach through our mission. This is our reward. It’s simply “the right thing to-do.”
May 8, 2010 – a beautiful warm spring night in Kentucky. We had the windows open to bring freshness into a house that had been closed tightly all winter. Outside on the farm, we could hear the calming night sounds of frogs, owls, and crickets. It was a peaceful night to sleep.
At two o’clock, however, I was awakened by the alarm calls of a pair of Canada geese that were nesting near our lake. We had just repaired the dam and were thrilled that the geese had decided to make their home with us.
I leaped from my bed, threw on my bathrobe and boots, and sprinted toward the lake. As I ran, the noise subsided and in the moonlight, I saw a shadowy figure lope away, heading north. A coyote!
One goose was still calling from the water.
At the water’s edge, I found the female dead, her nest destroyed. Down, twigs, and grass were strewn about with bits of broken shells mixed into the mess. The gander was swimming frantically, continuing to sound his alarm.
HONK! HONK! HONK!
I cast the beam of my flashlight about, broken-hearted but resigned. This is the way of Mother Nature and survival in the wild. I put my hand in the still-warm remnants of the nest, amazed how well built it had been. My fingers found a smooth shape in the corner – a single egg, unbroken still. Without a second thought, I slipped the egg into my pocket and slowly walked back to the house.
I did not know if the egg was fertile or not. But without a female to keep it warm, any gosling inside would have no chance of survival.
I went directly to the basement and brought one of our incubators up into the kitchen and set the temperature and humidity to what I hoped would be an appropriate level. I knew the female goose had been sitting on her eggs about two or three weeks, but was unsure of the incubation period. Was this egg even fertile?
My wife, Brenda, heard the racket and came into the kitchen to see what in the world I was doing. As I explained what had happened, her eyes filled with tears. She was so disappointed. Her face lit up, though, when I pulled the egg from my pocket and placed it into her hands.
Brenda held the egg and spoke softly to it, telling whoever was in there that we would try to help them if we could. She gently placed the egg into its lonely spot in the incubator. We turned back toward the bedroom, and Brenda told the egg, “Goodnight.” As she did, the egg rocked and rolled on the floor of the incubator. We had a gosling!
Brenda grinned. “Well, whoever is in there is the King of Rock and Roll. Its name is Elvis!”
For several days, we watched as Elvis lay in our incubator. The egg continued to rock and roll whenever we spoke to it. Then four days later, on the morning of May 12, the egg magically began to “pip” as Elvis chipped a larger and larger hole in its shell, struggling into the world and into our lives.
It took over twenty-four hours, but finally Elvis was free and on her own. Our lives would never be the same.
Elvis imprinted on us immediately, as goslings do. Brenda would walk through the house with Elvis running behind, whistling her baby gosling whistle.
Elvis grew and thrived.
She napped with us.
She slept by our bed every night in her Rubbermaid box.
She attended Bible School.
She LOVED our bathtub.
She interacted with our collies, and our therapy dog, Lanie, helped raise her.
Elvis became a huge part of our lives and helped define who we are. While she had imprinted on us, we had imprinted on her. Elvis spent most of her days outside, free to roam and fly as she pleased, rain or shine. But we were a family, she was our “child,” and Elvis was always ready to come inside in the evenings to be with us.
This continued until Elvis reached two years of age and became mature. Her natural instincts began to take over, and she became increasingly intrigued by the wild geese that flew over the farm. She would go on short flights with them, but still returned to her Mom and Dad. But the day did come when she found a mate, and she spent her first night ever away from us. She came back the next day to spend one last night by our bed in her box. The following morning, she spent part of her time with Brenda in the yard, but became agitated and flew away to join her mate whom we called Anthony.
Throughout that spring, Elvis would fly by on occasion, circling us and honking, but then she would leave. We suspected she was searching out a nesting site. One day, we found that Elvis had built her nest in our annual garden next to our back porch.
And while this is a “happily ever after” story, the part I cherish is that in two months, Elvis returned, bringing Anthony with her. He was quite leery, but lingered in our yard because his job is to protect both mate and nest.
On May 12, 2012, almost two year to the day we found Elvis as an egg, the cycle of life came full circle. Elvis hatched out six baby goslings! She and Anthony took the babies to the lake, successfully raising three to adolescence.
In the fall, the family all flocked with the other Canada geese nearby and remained in our area over the winter. The day before Valentine’s Day, 2013, Elvis returned to our lake with her family, and the cycle of life with Elvis continues….