As spring comes and I watch the Canada geese flying overhead, honking their way north after the winter, I remember a Canada goose who spent one summer on our acreage when I was growing up.
Someone found her wandering on the road and brought her to us because they knew we had animals. We didn’t know what she was, but we had a duckling named Boris, so we kept this new gosling and named her Igor.
When we got her, she fit perfectly in the palm of my hand, a little round, downy bird with webbed black feet, a small black bill, and beady black eyes. If I talked to her, she would make soft whistling noises in reply.
I spent hours with Igor, holding her and talking to her. If I put her on the ground and walked away, she’d run after me as fast as her webbed feet could go, just like Amy’s geese in Fly Away Home.
I let her swim in the lamb’s water trough. After the first uncomfortable dip, she got used to the water and was happy there, undaunted when the sheep came for a drink. Noses in the water, they watched her going around and around.
As she got older, Igor began feathering out with the dark coloring of a Canada goose. She and Boris, a white duck, frequently spent their time in the sheep pen, and she was always ready to talk to me. I would squat down and she would come over, head low against the ground, whistling and chattering as she walked. Boris was always slightly behind her, but he didn’t have the confidence and charm that Igor had.
When Igor was feathered out I taught her how to fly by taking off running, knowing that she would follow me with her wings outstretched to keep her balance. One day when I did this she lifted off and flew a short distance. After that, it wasn’t long before Igor was flying further and further.
Several weeks later, I glanced out the front window to see a Canada goose fly past. It was the first time Igor had flown without me. I went outside and found her on the front lawn, marching across to talk to me. After that, it was common to see her flying around the house or wandering around the front lawn waiting for me to take her back again.
In the fall, the wild Canada geese started flying overhead. Igor would tilt her head at them, occasionally honking back. We watched her, wondering if she would follow them. When the first snows came, she was still here with Boris.
One day we were gone from morning until evening. I returned home to find Igor missing. Boris was nervously pacing about and quacking, lost without her. There were goose tracks all over in the snow outside the sheep pen, and I guessed what had happened.
Igor had flown out and wandered about waiting for me to come put her back in. When I never came, she flew again… and this time, she didn’t come back.
When the geese fly overhead now, I sometimes honk to them as I used to honk to Igor. I wonder if she found a partner and made it to her southern destination.
This story was originally published in The Olds Albertan and Country Asides.