70: What’s Good for the Goose

70: What’s Good for the Goose

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

What’s Good for the Goose

It is in my nature to be kind, gentle and loving . . . But know this: When it comes to matters of protecting my friends, my family and my heart, do not trifle with me.

~Harriet Morgan

For the past twenty-nine years, my wife and I have lived in Richmond Hill. Here, in this quiet suburb just north of Toronto, we raised our two wonderful children, as well as four of our six dogs.

I often like to walk in a nice little park called Rumble Pond Park, which is near our home. As one might expect, the main feature of Rumble Pond Park, is Rumble Pond. An eight-foot-wide paved pathway circumnavigates the pond, lazily ambling between trees, shrubs, rocks, and eventually crossing a quaint wood and steel bridge. A well-manicured, gently sloping embankment falls from the pathway to the pond below.

Rumble Pond is not very large but, even so, is home to a fair bit of local wildlife—frogs, fish, turtles, ducks, muskrat, several transient great blue herons, and about six breeding pairs of Canada geese. Over the past few years, within this small community of geese, an alpha pair has emerged. The male, an enormous specimen for a Canada goose, rules the park with a cruel and unwavering iron beak.

Each nesting season, once the various broods have hatched, the alpha pair kidnaps them and ends up with all the baby goslings “under their wings.” The other resident geese don’t seem to have much say (or “honk”) about this practice of mass child abduction. But whilst caring for all the little ones, Mr. Alpha Goose becomes even more protective and aggressive.

The incident in question took place one nesting season when our dog, SchuBRT, was not quite fully mature. A week prior to the confrontation, SchuBRT and I watched, totally bemused from the opposite side of the pond, as Mr. Alpha chased a rather portly man and his two dogs (an equally portly 110-pound Labrador Retriever and a medium-sized terrier cross) halfway across the park.

SchuBRT is a lovely Black Russian Terrier, or BRT (hence, the spelling of his name). Black Russian Terrier is actually a rather ill conceived name for the breed, as these are not actually terriers, but large working dogs. The breed was created by a group of mad Soviet scientists after World War II, at the beginning of the Cold War. Their task was to create the ultimate police/military dog. After a number of years of crossing and re-crossing about seventeen different breeds, the BRT emerged as their extraordinary accomplishment.

If you’ve never seen a Black Russian Terrier, picture a hairy, black, bearded Schnauzer. Now imagine, under all that hair, 120 pounds of rock hard muscle, and you’re envisioning our own “little guy,” SchuBRT.

In reality, SchuBRT is a very sweet boy. He is highly intelligent, gentle, friendly, great with kids, and certified for therapy work. Unless necessary, he does not bark. Most of our friends have yet to hear him sound off. That is probably a good thing, as SchuBRT has retained all the protective guard dog qualities of his progenitors. When he does bark, it is serious and impressive. Beneath the kind exterior of this gentle giant is a fearless, formidable, and ferocious guardian, genetically hardwired to react to any form of aggression. But, I digress . . .

Back to our story, it is early summer. The local Canada geese had already hatched their new batches of goslings and, as per usual, Mr. and Mrs. Alpha have “adopted” all those fuzzy, cute little poop machines.

Taking our morning walk, SchuBRT is happily heeling off lead beside me. We casually approach the park and as we start upon the paved pathway I see, not forty yards ahead of us, the entire Rumble Pond Park Goose Gang. The alpha couple, along with all of the young ones, is busy grazing on grass whilst simultaneously depositing the fruits of this labour in countless gross green piles, strewn across the pathway and lawn, like so many squishy landmines.

The adults, upon giving us a quick gander, turn and address the young. The alphas quickly shoo their little charges down the slope and into the safety of the pond. SchuBRT, having seen geese so often, takes only a passing interest. We keep walking. And then it begins . . .

Once he sees his extended family is now safely pooping in the pond, Mr. Alpha, with decided deliberation, climbs back up the slope and positions himself directly ahead of us, right in the middle of the paved path. Much to my surprise, he does not lower his head in anticipation of one of his famous chases. Rather, he stands menacingly erect, stretching his entire body towards the sky. He raises his head stiffly upright, and spreads those enormous wings outwards, tensely splaying his large flight feathers like taut fingers.

Without so much as a honk, he fearlessly and threateningly waddles straight towards us, wings still outstretched, as if to prevent us from skirting around him. I think that, perhaps, I should turn around and retreat. But then my mind quickly turns towards the very intelligent guard dog beside me. I certainly don’t want to send him the message that geese were something to be protected from; this would, without a doubt, set a nasty precedent for future encounters. But there is no time to ponder. I stay calm, unruffled. We keep walking forward. So does the goose.

I keep glancing down at SchuBRT to make sure he is still calm. We are now about twenty yards apart and closing. This is surreal. Here I am, playing “chicken” with a goose. Which of us would flinch first? Fifteen yards. Ten yards. And then . . . uh oh . . . a BIG flinch!

SchuBRT has had enough. He breaks ranks and charges. The goose panics. Honking like a madman (or mad goose), he quickly turns. He frantically flies towards the safety of Rumble Pond. The downward slope of the embankment helps his flight path. He is already four feet off the ground. Almost there. But unbeknownst to the goose, he has a real problem. For although SchuBRT is built like a Russian weight lifter, he actually runs like a gazelle. And just as Mr. Alpha thinks he is safely out of reach, SchuBRT leaps.

Like a deadly, hairy guided missile, SchuBRT rockets through the air. With a loud smacking thump, that massive hairy chest smashes broadside into the hapless bird. Those huge jaws close around the goose’s vulnerable neck. Instant panic ensues. Oh, the humanity!

Feathers fly everywhere. The goose is screaming. The goslings are pooping in the pond. This is going to be ugly! But then suddenly, SchuBRT releases his grip, and lands with a graceful thud upon the grassy knoll. The goose, still desperately flailing its wings, continues spinning headlong out of control. Totally stripped of his former dignity, he splashes down heavily but safely into the pond below.

Without a sound, SchuBRT, tail up, tongue lolling out, and eyes filled with a mischievous spark, prances back and takes his place, heeling at my side as if nothing happened. Then smiling, hairy ear to hairy ear, he proudly looks up at me as if to say, “I could’a killed him, Dad . . . but I didn’t!”

Seasons have since passed, but the big goose’s attitude has not mellowed with age. Except that whenever SchuBRT and I approach, he turns away, throws a bitter but wounded evil eye our way and, begrudgingly, gives the two of us a respectfully wide berth to pass.

It appears that news travels fast in the goose community. Since that day, not a single one has dared to approach or threaten us, regardless of the situation. And with peace re-established, SchuBRT has kept and maintained his casual disinterest towards the geese. The truce remains intact. But now, everyone knows that there is a new Mr. Alpha at Rumble Pond Park.

~Ian Kochberg

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