WEST FORK KICKAPOO - On a warm spring day, I send my friend Kristina a message: “We have a mission! We’ll call it Operation Goose: to create a splint for Wilma, my injured goose, and get it on her leg. How hard can that be?”
Kristina replies enthusiastically: “I love those kinds of projects. I once made a wheelchair for our goldfish.”
The next day, I receive an email from retired veterinarian Marta, who has read my column about Wilma and is offering to examine the goose and splint her at no charge. This leads to a new exchange of messages:
“Kristina, can you drive Wilma and me over to Marta’s house? It looks to be about a 30-minute drive.”
I grab an old blue blanket in case of any “accidents,” and Wilma and I wait near the road. Kristina drives up in an unfamiliar car and we jump in. Wilma is nestled under my right arm like a football—a football with huge, strong wings and a long slender neck.
Holding a twenty-pound goose for a thirty-minute car ride seems breezy until someonerolls down a window or accidentally turns on the windshield wipers.
Jane: “Ouch! Ouch! Hey, that hurts! She’s putting another hole in my ear.”
Kristina: “Here—I wore this thick jacket so if she bites I wouldn’t feel it.”
Like a linebacker, Kristina holds up her arm for Wilma to bite instead of my delicate earlobe. Mind you, I’m wearing a thick, giant-sized sweatshirt for the same reason; it just doesn’t cover my ears.
Wilma calms down, but then Kristina hits the wiper again! “It’s my daughter’s car,” she explains. “I don’t know where anything is.”
I start laughing, and Kristina holds up her padded arm again in an attempt to distract Wilma, who is now pinching the delicate skin just below my neck.
When we reach Marta’s, we first set Wilma down in a puddle to get a drink of water, but she pitches forward. That dang leg!
Inside Marta’s house, Wilma settles down as Kristina and I pet her while Marta does a thorough exam. “Okay, turn her on her other side, let me feel her other leg. The injured leg doesn’t feel hot. She has good color. There is no break. She has feeling in the foot...”
And on it goes, until Marta is satisfied. She then phones the UW vet school and consults with a resident in the Special Species department, while we keep Wilma entertained.
Since Wilma doesn’t have a broken leg, there’s no need for a splint, but there might be an infection. Marta sends us home with a bag of antibiotics and an oral syringe, and advises me to soak Wilma in warm Epsom salts nightly.
Both Kristina and I are thrilled Wilma’s foot isn’t broken, although I suspect Kristina is a little disappointed not to have had a chance to be involved in a goose splinting. As we drive along the country roads, we discuss the logistics of getting the antibiotics past Wilma’s busy beak and down her lengthy neck.
Kristina picks up her phone. “Hey, do you have any amoxicillin to give a goose a shot with?” (Three-second pause.) “Okay, we’ll be right over.”
We take a hard left and start climbing a hill while I sit dumbfounded. Soon enough, I learn that Kristina had called her brother, a farmer, who never even questioned the fact that she’s driving around with a goose in her car. Which makes me start pondering the wheelchair she made for a fish.
A few minutes later her brother is asking me to hold Wilma still, and then we’re back in the car, heading home.
Mission Goose accomplished! But the job isn’t over.
Next time you soak your goose’s foot in the tub in warm Epsom salt water, keep in mind that the salt is also used as a laxative. Be prepared to scour and disinfect the tub afterward. And, as Kristina and I expected, getting those antibiotics down Wilma’s throat with the syringe was a death-defying act of love. We ended up taking Wilma back for another injection.
And if, like me, you are still shaking your head over the wheelchair for a goldfish: the “wheelchair” was a contraption Kristina built using a wine cork to help a fish that was suffering from swim bladder disease remain upright.
“He didn’t make it, but I like to think the extra mobility in his final days made him more comfortable.”
“I continue to drink wine just in case we find ourselves in that situation again,” she adds.Let’s raise a glass of wine and toast a successful recovery for dear Wilma.