Saturday, February 13, 2016

Arctic Blast, a Lone and Ailing Goose and the Heartlessness of Geese Police -- The Rescue of Warrior




Warrior, alone and ailing on the bitter ice yesterday at the Boat Lake in Central Park. Despite obvious debilitated condition, Geese Police prepared to harass him with dog and ball-filled, metal canister.

"I got to the Boat Lake at 10 this morning. It was almost entirely frozen. There was only one goose on the ice. Then, I saw the man from Geese Police arriving in his van.  He removed the dog from the back and also took out the large, metal canister filled with balls."
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'"What are you doing?" I demanded to know."
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'"There is a goose out there!'' he replied."'I am just doing my job."'
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"Have you no heart? It's 20 degrees and he is all alone! Let him be!"
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"The man finally left without doing anything. I then walked toward the goose and discovered it was Warrior!"
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I listened intently yesterday afternoon as Liliana related her earlier experience over the phone with me.
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Normally under such circumstances, I would be furious to hear that Geese Police was intent on harassing one goose on a frozen lake.
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But, the situation itself was reason for alarm and required attention of a different sort.
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Warrior is the lead gander of a family of geese that includes him, his mate and four youngsters hatched this past summer -- though somewhere out of Central Park. 
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The family returned to Central Park this past October and have mostly been staying at the Boat Lake.
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Warrior is easily recognizable because of the scars of old battle wounds along his neck (hence the name, "Warrior") and a recurring eye infection.
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Both, Liliana and I have been following Warrior and his mate for some years. Since Warrior returns regularly to the Boat Lake and usually stays for some time, Liliana has developed a particularly close relationship with him and his family. Liliana feeds the family everyday, paying special attention to Warrior and spending peaceful time with him. 

Though generally wary of strangers, Warrior loves and trusts Liliana with his life. (That would become paramount later in the day.)
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There have been times in the past when Liliana and I discussed rescuing Warrior to secure medical attention to his wounds and infections. But, the timing was never right.
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Either rescue would have entailed leaving his mate alone and unprotected or, in the past few months, abandoning the entire family.
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But, both, Liliana and I knew yesterday that the "time" for rescuing Warrior had finally come.
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The fact he was alone on the lake signified that he was apparently unable to fly out with his family (and the rest of the geese) on the lake when either it froze over or the geese were harassed earlier in the morning by Geese Police. (Typically, when park lakes ice over or the geese are harassed, they move to the Central Park Reservoir which is free from Geese Police and is usually last to freeze over.)
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I offered to meet Liliana at the Boat Lake and to bring a cat carrier.
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The plan was to capture Warrior and bring him to the Wild Bird Fund.  
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With temperatures predicted to hit zero on Sunday morning with minus 25 degree wind chills, an older, already physically compromised goose alone on a frozen lake stood little chance of survival. The situation was dire.
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But, things rarely go according to "plan."
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I had run to meet Liliana on an empty stomach (except for a quick coffee) and did not dress properly for the low 20's degree weather.  
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By the time I walked the mile and a half to the Boat Lake, I was feeling somewhat nauseous with cold chills running up my legs, to my stomach.
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I felt a need to throw up.
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Nevertheless, I found Liliana sitting at the ice's edge attempting to coax Warrior to come to her with some cracked corn. He was resting on the ice a few feet away and seemed to just be taking peace and comfort in her presence.
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"I fed him a few minutes ago," Liliana turned around to tell me. "He might not be that hungry now."
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Sensing in that moment, the rescue might take some time, I laid the cat carrier down and told Liliana I needed to leave for a few minutes and would return.
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The quickly gulped coffee was turning somersaults in my stomach.
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I headed for the ladies room near Turtle Pond and once upchucking the coffee, felt better. I then returned to the Boat lake.
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Warrior started to move closer to Liliana and it seemed we might get lucky.
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But, suddenly sensing the food, two other geese came flying across the ice -- seemingly from nowhere.
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It was the other pair of geese ("Man and Lady") who lay claim to the Boat Lake most of the year.
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Man aggressively charged after Warrior, sending the challenged, older gander scurrying across the ice.
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By the time the attacking gander was finally satisfied and let him be, Warrior was in the middle of the frozen lake, far away from any chance of rescuing him.
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He sat down on the ice and did not appear to move.
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Meanwhile, Liliana put some food out for Man and Lady near a tiny pool of still open water. The two geese were eager to eat.
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We then looked at Warrior far out on the ice and determined there was little chance of getting him any time soon -- especially with Man and Lady in the vicinity.
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"From what I understand, freezing to death is not so bad." Liliana said with resignation.
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Not wanting to discuss the obvious, I asked instead,  "Why don't I leave the carrier with you? Perhaps you might get a another chance later or tomorrow morning."
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"No, no!" Liliana answered adamantly. "I got some loaves of whole wheat bread for you. Put these in the carrier and give them to the geese and ducks at the Reservoir! I insist!"
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Since the carrier had wheels, I loaded the heavy loaves of nutritious (day old) bread into it. I learned long ago, that Liliana is not one to take "no" for an answer.
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"Don't worry!  If Warrior comes back, I have this canvas bag I can put him in." Liliana added confidently. "You go on now!"
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Walking back from the Boat Lake, I felt bad. But not physically, emotionally.
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I thought of Warrior all alone on a frozen lake on a night of Arctic temperatures.
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He would be easy, stand-out prey for a hawk.
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But, not wanting to dwell on failure and grim outcomes, I went instead to the Reservoir to break up and toss some of whole wheat bread Liliana had given me. There were the still-living birds to think about.
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The hundreds of geese and mallards at the Reservoir were damn happy to get the whole wheat bread and ravenously gobbled it up. 
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Finally home and a few hours later, the phone rang.
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It was Liliana.
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"Warrior is at the hospital now."
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"Really? But, how......?"
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"I guess he knew it was do or die for him. I went to the Ladies Pavilion and Warrior began to walk along the ice. He eventually came to me. As he was eating, I slipped the towel over him and put him in the bag. He honked and struggled a bit, but I was able to secure him and bring him to the Wild Bird Fund."
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Perhaps I should have been shocked, but wasn't.
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Liliana has rescued many birds from pigeons to ducks to geese. At this point, she is a "regular" at the Wild Bird Fund.
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While feeling bad that I was no help to Liliana, I was immensely relieved that she was able to rescue Warrior and that he was safe, warm and getting good care.
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But such rescue could never have occurred without the close relationship of trust and bond between human and wild goose. -- A trust and bond so loving and intimate that this battle-scarred gander even trusts Liliana with his very life.
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It will be some days before we know for sure the ailments plaguing Warrior and why he was unable to fly out with his family.
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Good news is that he has no broken bones nor lead poisoning. Initial assessment is infections from old wounds. Hopefully, Warrior doesn't have to be hospitalized too long and can soon return to the Boat Lake to be eventually reunited with his wife and kids.
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My personal guess is that battling constant infections and somewhat advanced age have compromised Warrior. Though a "tough old gander," severe cold and perhaps the stress of daily goose harassment served to further weaken his condition, leaving him unable to fly out from the Boat Lake with his family and the other couple of dozen geese recently there.
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But, hopefully, nurturing care, some antibiotics and warmth and safety can fix Warrior right up again.
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All of this brings us back to the original feeling of fury when learning Geese Police was actually going to "harass" this helpless, ailing, elderly and solitary goose on a frozen lake in sub-freezing temperatures.
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Since when is heartless and intentional animal cruelty a "job?"
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More calls and letters are in order for the Central Park Conservancy.
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As for the other good guys in this story, please donate to The Wild Bird Fund
Wild Bird Fund | Saving NYC Wildlife without whose service and expert  medical help, birds like Warrior would be left alone to die horrible deaths in public places right under our noses.
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It would greatly please my friend, Liliana, to make such donation in the name of Warrior.
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He is a very special goose and greatly loved by a very special woman.  -- PCA
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7 comments:

Mary Castrovilla said...

thank you ,lillian and patty!

i was so touched by this blog

made a small contribution inhonorofwarrior!!

God bless, always

PCA said...

Thank you so much, Mary. Your empathy and generosity is much appreciated. Liliana is an elderly and poor woman. She lives on food stamps. I too, am not in good financial circumstances at this time. The Wild Bird Fund has been wonderful in accepting all these wounded or sick birds from Liliana without demanding payment. Thank you so much. :)

Shining River said...

I have known Lillianna for many years. She truly is a beautiful, kind soul and I loved reading this about her. Blessings and love to you, dearest Lillianna. Sheilah

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