Our rescued Canada goose, Gertie, and our pet mallard, Doc, continued to entertain my husband and me. Gertie the goose stretched her neck, getting her head as close to me as possible, and told me stories. I loved hearing the soft, whispery wiggle-wiggle sounds. When I gave them their favorite treat, watermelon, Gertie gave me an extra wiggle-wiggle-wiggle thank you.

At our home in Wisconsin Dells, Gertie and Doc only have a kiddy pool inside a dog pen so I let them run free in our back yard as much as possible. One afternoon, when Gertie heard the neighbors across the street talking, she streaked off and crossed the road to make new friends.  The duck followed Gertie, and I brought up the rear, chasing after them. I managed to herd them back that time. The second time they took off, they snuck away.

My husband Frank was grilling out, and we were checking on them every few minutes. When I realized they were gone, I called my usual “Duck-duck.” They often came running when they heard that call, but this evening there wasn’t an answering honk-quack or flapping of wings. We searched the fringe of woods, their pen, the front yard, the neighbors, and their favorite resting area where I often set out watermelon. But they were gone.

The teenage years. How I remember those trying times with our children. I searched harder, stepping into the heavy poison-ivy laden woods bordering our property. I hiked through neighbors’ backyards calling. I told two families about their disappearance. I tried not to imagine seeing their flattened bodies on the road as I drove around the neighborhood.

When I heard a neighbor’s caged dog barking, I had high hopes. They were surely near the dog pen on the edge of a woods. I ventured through thick brush until I reached the dog pen, but no goose and duck in sight. Where could they be?

I returned home to check the woods near our house more carefully while Frank took a turn driving around. After searching for two hours, we were sure we’d never see them again. They wouldn’t survive the night if they got into heavy traffic and without being able to fly yet, they were in danger from roving coyotes and foxes.

Heartsick, I stood on our deck not sure what to do. Then, precisely at 8:15, their usual bedtime, I heard a honk-quack. With an extra excited flutter of wings, they scooted to the back door. They’d come home!

After a finger shaking and a scolding, I studied them. Where had they gone? What adventures had they had? They weren’t revealing. Darn those teenagers.

I tucked them into their pen. I might have been overly generous with the duck food and watermelon treat that night.

Shortly after their evening adventure, we brought them to our northern Wisconsin cabin. There, they have an entire lake to explore. One day they followed us on a kayak adventure. When we paddled too fast, Doc got tired. My husband swept his arm behind her, scooped her up and settled her on the back. Doc rode on the kayak until she’d rested, then slipped off to paddle alongside again. When she tired once more, she hopped up on her own. One smart duck!

On August 6th both goose and duck could fly short distances. The time had come to let them grow up. That night, we lifted their curfew, made sure they knew to stay close to the water, and hoped for the best.

I slept fitfully. I had noticed that if one slept, the other stayed alert, but could they keep that up all night? If they were hiding in the grasses and a coyote or weasel attacked, would they be fast enough to scoot into the lake? Would they be able to handle the challenges of the scary and wild world?

At 5:00 a.m., I hurried down to the water. Heavy fog made it hard to see. “Gertie! Doc!” I called. I stepped toward the shoreline of grasses. When a flock of ten wood ducks flushed, I jumped. Gertie and Doc swam out of the mist toward me.

They’d been sleeping around with strangers, and I couldn’t have been more proud.

If you’d like to read the last Gertie story, click the link

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