Friday, May 4, 2012

Life in a Zoo: The Real Thing- Ping Comes into Our Life

It just so happened that we had a veterinary student from Auburn University volunteering one day. While she was there, one of our setting geese had a heat stroke and went into seizures.  Although quick action saved her life, her nest had been destroyed.

“What a shame,” I shook my head as I cleaned out the nest and tossed the crushed eggs into a trashcan.  I picked up an egg and examined it.  “I think there must be a baby inside, but the shell is cracked.

The vet student said I should incubate it.  I didn’t have any idea what to do. She helped me rig an incubator out of a spare lizard tank with a heat lamp attached.  She told me that several times a day I must mist the egg with water and turn it.

I diligently set the kitchen timer and turned that egg four times a day, as instructed.  Three days later, the gosling hatched!  We were enchanted.  This tiny creature was a downy grey fluff-ball the size of my fist. 

She didn’t resemble her parents at all.  Not long-necked and regal, she was all out of proportion with stubby wings and feet so big they got in the way.  She would spat-spat along the porch with those big feet and sometimes step on them and trip herself.

Birds, especially geese, will imprint on the first moving thing they see. It becomes their parent, their food source, and their protection. God gives them this powerful instinct to make sure they will stay with their parents. Their very life depends on staying close to Mamma and Pappa.

We named her Ping. She became my little shadow.  I had to walk slowly for her to keep up. If I forgot or got into a hurry and stepped out, she would shriek, wing stubs outstretched, and run as hard as she could to catch up.  Sometimes it was easier to pick her up and carry her. It certainly was faster!

Like all babies, Ping needed to nap several times a day. Sometimes she would stagger with exhaustion, but she absolutely had to be in my physical presence at all times.  Since caring for dozens of different types of critters didn’t allow much time for napping, I devised what I called the “snuggly pocket” out of a knit cap that I attached to my belt. When I figured Ping needed a nap, I would tuck her into the snuggly pocket and go on about my chores.  She quickly outgrew it.

At first we tried to put her into her little make-shift incubator at night. But she would carry on and fuss so, I finally relented and let her sleep in the bed with us. We made a sort of a nest with a bath towel. She would snuggle down and I would hold my hand over her. She made little peeping noises and murmured her way to sleep.

A few days after she hatched, Joe had to spend some time in the hospital.  He chaffed at having to stay bedridden and gave the nurses a hard time. 

The second day I came to the hospital with a basket over my arm.  It was covered with a small towel.  Our pastor was just leaving Joe’s room. He saw my basket and quipped, “Linda, surely you don’t have some animal in there!”

I just grinned and lifted the corner of the towel. There sat Ping. She jumped up and tried to clamber out of the basket.  Pastor Jim just guffawed!  “I was joking!” he laughed, “I figured you had lasagna or something in there for Joe to eat.”

Both Joe and the nursing staff were delighted with the contraband goose.  Before I went home, she had been visited by dozens of people and I had been invited to take her to several sick children’s room. She brightened everyone’s day just as she always brightened ours.

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