Imagine being a social being who hatches from the dark into the dark and confusion of a commercial hatchery. Just close your eyes and think of the peeping around you. All peeping and no Gung-Gung-Gung! Mother Goose is supposed to be there, waiting. She is supposed to nudge you and keep you warm with her fluffy goose pillows, that soft goose-gunt between her downy thighs.
Even more…you are supposed to be able to see.
Ray was born without eyes, basically. She has eyes that were not fully developed. And she has a condition called angel wing in which the wings grow twisted and stick out from the bird’s body. Sometimes this can be corrected by taping the wings to the body. Some sources say this condition is genetic, others point toward too much protein in the bird’s diet. I’ve had angel wing pop up in a couple of my ducks, but they all ate the same food, so at least in my cases I lean toward genes.
Ray must have been put in a box and shipped with the other hatchery rejects. (I was told by the pet store that gave her to me that their store receives the hatchery rejects.) The pet store employees took her in and sheltered her as best as they could. Unfortunately, it’s common knowledge that this particular store sells “pet” geese, ducks and chickens to people who intend to eat them. The women I talked to wanted to save Ray from this fate.
Ray’s rescue began with a text from my good friend M. who is a fowl expert and a former employee of the pet store who now works at a dairy and has given up most meats after fully realizing his relationship with animals. I assured M. that I would find a place for this poor goose, so I contacted River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary. They agreed to take her.
Upon first meeting Ray, I didn’t know what to expect. She was beautiful and reminded me of my rescued buff goose Ooma who passed away last year from hyperparathyroidism, or so the necropsy concluded. Her wings were splayed out and I suggested the pet store manager clip them to prevent her from injuring herself and so that she would fit in the transport box better. The employees said their goodbyes and sent me with a letter about Ray and her care, asking the sanctuary to contact them about how she was doing in the future.
At first the sanctuary owner, who was very busy with guests upon our arrival, suggested I let Ray out into a small field spotted with sapling aspen trees. I watched her spin in circles, trying to find her bearings, so I called to her. At first she ran into trees and I steered her away into open areas. After discussion with the sanctuary owner, we transferred her to a smaller pen and discussed her care–how she needed to have predictable food and water settings and be free from bullies.
I said I would call to check up on Ray periodically and to call if there were any concerns. I did get the impression that the sanctuary owner thought I would be a suitable home for this wonderful goose, but I assured her that I don’t have the space or the funds to accommodate her. We discussed bringing Freddie out to meet Ray some time, which I thought could be possible if it turned out she wasn’t doing well at the sanctuary. So far I’ve heard she’s doing fine, though the little duck they thought would make a companion for Ray ended up being picked on by her.
While I was at the sanctuary, I noticed two gigantic mallard-looking boys strutting around speaking muscovy duck language. Marvelous, I thought. I had to take their picture. Muscovy ducks are native to Mexico and South America, though they can be found in Southern states such as Louisiana and Florida, some parts of Texas. They are a different species from mallard ducks, though the two can reproduce, the offspring being mules and hinnies who are infertile much like mules who result as a cross between a horse and a donkey.
We wrapped up the rescue that day by the owner sharing her paintings and telling me that a family member of mine had donated fused glass pendants to one of her fundraising events and how much she loved S.’s work. I mentioned how I wished I lived closer, then I could volunteer (it’s difficult to come up with gas money these days). The truth, too, is that I have my hands full. But if I lived down the road from the sanctuary, perhaps volunteering would be something I could do. However, I am passing on the need here.
Please volunteer at River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, if you live in the Spokane area, to help lovely beings like Ray.