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Calif. man's best friend is fine and feathered

LOS ANGELES -- At most zoos, it's the visitors who are excited to see the animals. But at the Los Angeles Zoo, they've got an animal who loves a visitor.

Dominic Ehrler
CBS News
"He knows I'm his friend," says Dominic Ehrler. "When you realize that an animal has this unconditional love for you, what do you do?"

It's a conundrum Dominic, a retired salesman, first faced four years ago. Back then, Mario lived in a public park -- just one of many geese who lived there. But whereas the others pretty much stuck with their own species, Mario had a different allegiance.

"They walk around the park together like they're in love," one observer said at the time. "It's wonderful."

"People would look at us like, 'What is this?'" Dominic said.

Virtually every morning for the past three years, Dominic has stopped by to visit.
CBS News
What, they'd never seen a guy walking with a goose before?

It wasn't that he fed the goose. He didn't even coax it. For whatever reason, Mario just liked him, started following him and eventually even became protective of him.

And if you think that's devotion, when Dominic would take off on his scooter, Mario would be right there -- flying by his side.

Obviously this was a problem. On most days, Dominic had no choice but to turn around, go back into the park and wait for Mario to fall asleep.

Asked if the relationship has changed him, Dominic replied , "I quit eating poultry. ... I used to think birds were dumb. This has changed all that."

After our story first aired, Mario got so famous that city officials took him out of the park and put him in the zoo for his own protection. Of course, that meant he couldn't get back to see his friend, which is why his friend now comes to see him.

Virtually every morning for the past three years, Dominic has stopped by to visit. Mario couldn't be happier.

But what's in all this for Dominic? Why would a guy devote so much of his retirement to a goose?

Well, you know how we told you he used to be a salesman? Wait until you hear what he used to sell.

"I used to sell rotisseries," he says. He thinks his friendship with Mario might be atonement.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.