My Sal Gal was a wonderful goose.

She was mostly gray, very smart and in her early days, she was the leader of the flock. She took no guff from the males, and mated only when she wanted to.

She was also Finny’s mom. As with many animals, she determined that he was flawed and kicked him out of her nest more than a year ago.

Sal Gal died last week, and I’m very sorry. She was one of my original flock and the mother of several goslings who have grown into adult geese. She also kept me and family members supplied with fresh, mild, delicious eggs each spring.

I don’t know why she died — she was only 8 or 9 years old, and domestic geese very often live to at least 20. But she did.

For the past few months, she has been separating herself from the flock, so much so that I have often had to chase after her to usher her back into the pen.


Then last week, I noticed that some of the other geese, including Finny, began chasing and attacking her, which is something they had never done before. After studying these delightful creatures for eight years, I knew that Sal’s days were numbered. Animals want to rid themselves of a sick member, and Sal was clearly sick.

When Sal first arrived, she came with her sister, Suzie Q. Both were lovely gray-and-white geese that a woman in Wayne didn’t want any longer. So my husband and I tucked them into cardboard boxes and brought them home. They weren’t very happy at that time, but soon they took over the flock from my large, feathery, non-flying, white Sebastopol geese, Seb and Sam. Since Sebastopol geese don’t fly, I figured probably Sal and Sue didn’t either.

But the next day, both gray geese were standing atop the goose coop. Soon, they had flown out of the pen and were waddling their way down the road.

My first thought was, “Thank goodness I hadn’t had a chance to get attached to them.” But my husband, who had owned geese many years before I met him, knew what to do.

He jumped in his car, drove to the neighbor’s house, turned around and began herding them back to our yard. I had received my first lesson in goose herding and finally got them into the pen.

But not before they both got a wing clipping.


As I held Sue or Sal next to my body, Frank clipped just a little off their wing feathers.

A year or so after they joined the flock, we didn’t have to clip their wings any longer because they were so much a part of the flock.

I don’t think Sue has ever laid any eggs. It was always Sal who began laying in late March right through early July. But Sue was a great auntie.

She shared the nest with her sister and provided additional warmth to the huge, white eggs. And once a gosling was hatched, she helped with the parenting.

After Sal died, Sue was at a loss for several days and kept looking for her sister. I felt sad.

When I realized that Sal was no longer safe in the flock, I gathered her up in my arms and gently placed her in a small pen with food and water, giving her a comfortable shelter. But she seemed to have problems standing, so I knew her time was short.


The night she died, I stayed with her for quite some time. She clucked quietly as she sat in the pen, seemingly trying to say goodbye. I left her alone for a while.

Sure enough, an hour or so later, she was dead.

Sal was a large goose, and had not lost weight, even with her illness. I buried her, as I have all my pets, in the pet cemetery next to the garden, adjacent to a miniature pine. She is buried in the same place as several of her goslings who never grew to goosehood.

Finny, of course, did not know that she was his mother — and even if he did, it likely would not have mattered. When Sal pushed him out of the nest, Finny was almost dead. He had not opened his eyes, and his feet were splayed.

I became his “mother” when I brought him in. I fed, watered and held him, kept him atop our bedroom dresser and took him everywhere with me. He’s a spectacular gray-and-white gander now, who has adopted two goslings hatched from one of Sal’s early clutches.

Sal will always be special. She taught me so much about geese and was the friendliest of the adults. I loved her calm but firm personality, and the chance she often gave me to pet her.

I do miss her.

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