by Henry Lane Hull
Last month I briefly mentioned in a column the serious health concerns I had over my pet gander, Lou. Since that time I have received numerous inquiries from readers as to his condition and prognosis, for all of which I am most grateful.
Today, after a month of intensive nurturing and care, I am happy to report that once again he is in good health. The problem arose after several days of heavy rainfall, which formed a puddle in one corner of the fowl pen. On one of my routine visits I beheld Lou, upside down in the water, motionless and silent.
He was sopping wet and ice cold. I thought he had succumbed, but then I saw a foot twitch. I immediately picked him up and he could speak only a pathetic little whisper of a honk, rather than his usual deep melodic sound worthy of a baritone with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra.
Where there is life, there is hope. At once I prepared the ICU (Intensive Cage Unit) for him, installing nice fresh straw, a pan for his water and a bowl for his corn. For the rest of the day I checked on him on an hourly basis, but the situation still seemed dire. Very gradually, his voice returned; at first the honks were soft, but definitely more audible each day.
I think in part his coming around was due to getting away from his nagging spouse, Gladys, who honks at him incessantly from the pre-dawn hours until late at night. The peace and serenity of the ICU suited him well and I could observe noticeable improvement each day. Within a single day his beautiful down feathering had dried out and he was looking and acting more himself.
After a few days, I decided the time had come to begin OT and PT. The OT part was fairly simple. As “he” is not gainfully employed in an occupation, that aspect mainly focused on getting him to eat and drink properly. PT was a different matter. Each day I began taking him out of the ICU and out of the pen where I could work on his walking without the hindrance of the other fowl, especially Gladys.
We started with simple steps, getting him to come to me from only a few feet away. Slowly, we increased the distance. Lou is a particularly gregarious animal, who likes people and thrives on attention. He was a present to us nearly 15 years ago from the late Paula Teeples and her husband, Tom. Paula had imprinted Lou and to this day he retains his preference for humans over other fowl.
He thoroughly enjoys being tucked under my right arm as I carry him out of the pen, stroking his neck with my left hand. Assuredly, he should rather be carried in such a manner than having to walk himself, but no one ever said PT should be easy. I remind him that in all phases of life one only gets what one works to achieve.
The oldest goose on record lived to be 102. By my calculation Lou is now about 25. One can see that he has developed cataracts, but still sees sufficiently well to walk around without bumping into anything and has no trouble getting to his water basin. He drinks almost constantly, still being a gander, albeit an atypical one.
When we are together, Lou and I talk constantly. He seems to understand me, although at times I must admit I do not comprehend fully the meaning of some of his honks. I know when he wants food or water, but at other times I assume he merely is telling me that he is happy that all is well. He is never impolite or aggressive and is an exemplar of great patience, witness his life over the past decade with Gladys.
Now we have gone two weeks out of ICU. Lou is walking and honking almost at his normal level, although still at times a bit wobbly on his feet, especially if the terrain is uneven. I continue to check on him frequently, which he seems to appreciate immeasurably.
I close as I began, with thanks to all who have inquired about Lou. I have told him of each of your concerns.