We like to let the geese free range around the fruit trees because they eat bugs and graze on weeds, but our gander, Uncle Waldo, just loves to eat the bark off our orchard saplings. Since this kills the trees, we put some chicken wire around the saplings. This turned out to be a mistake which we have since rectified; however, we didn’t fix it before Uncle Waldo stuffed his big bill through the chickenwire in an attempt to get at that tempting bark, freaked out when he got stuck, and yanked his head up and back:
Geese’s bills are actually rather soft and the chickenwire sliced right to the bone:
Off to Dexter Animal Clinic we went, with Uncle Waldo in a dog crate honking dejectedly for his mate, Abigail, who was running about the yard in a tizzy, calling for Waldo, while the quacking ducks ran along behind her.
Protip: a wire dog crate is NOT the ideal way to transport a goose, as they spray poo out of their vent like a fire hose when they are scared. Luckily we had put a plastic tarp around him.
We weren’t sure if the vets would be familiar with treating geese, but Dr. Anna, a charming young British veterinarian, put us at ease right away with the knowledgeable way she handled Uncle Waldo. This clearly wasn’t her first goose rodeo.
She had Phil hold him in a towel to prevent poo spraying:
And then proceeded to clean his bill thoroughly with a cotton ball and iodine, soothing our worried nerves by distracting us with commentary about the kind of “gayce” they have in England:
She used a cotton swab to clean inside the sliced portion of his beak while chatting with him softly in her charming English accent, “Alright then, old man, here we go…”
She showed us that the slice had gone down to the bone but wasn’t as bad as other damaged bills she’s seen. She trimmed away the dead tissue with a little scalpel and then used surgical glue to fix him up:
Uncle Waldo is about nine weeks old and weights 9.1 pounds:
An injection of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and pain reliever was next; good old Uncle Waldo was such a trooper!
Dr. Anna said the bill will not regrow but that granulation tissue will form and fill in pretty well around the injury. Until then, Uncle Waldo must remain quarantined in the duck yard, which means the whole flock must remain there as they won’t willingly leave Uncle Waldo.
We had hoped to enter Uncle Waldo and Abigail in the Chelsea Community Fair; we thought they were a shoo-in for a ribbon given how rare Pilgrim geese are (the Livestock Conservancy lists them as critically endangered). Alas, his days as a show goose are over before they began:
However, he’ll still make excellent breeding stock. We plan to breed and sell Pilgrim geese so as to do our part in saving the breed from extinction.
Uncle Waldo has a ten-day course of oral antibiotics now. Dr. Anna explained to us how to crush the pill, dissolve it in warm water, and inject the antibiotic solution down his throat with a syringe; a goose’s windpipe is right at the back of their tongue in the center, so to give an oral medication, you must open their bill and insert the syringe down the side of their mouth a few inches into the esophagus. I haven’t been able to get any pictures of us doing this yet, but I will try to and will add them when I can.
After we got home and Uncle Waldo had reunited with the frantic Abigail and resumed his place as Head of the Flock, I treated everyone to a big bowl of blueberries and cantaloupe, which I dumped into their little swimming pool for them to enjoy rooting out:
It was a harrowing day but all in all Uncle Waldo is one lucky gander!