Man-goose bond (and gender) put to the test

LOS ANGELES - This is a classic tale of love and devotion.

It's a story about a goose named Maria and the object of her affection -- a retired salesman from L.A. named Dominic Ehrler.

"People would look at us like - what is this?" Dominic said.

"What, they've never seen a guy walking with a goose before?" CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman asked.

"Yea, that's pretty much a fact."

Dominic says it all began about a year ago when Maria just started following him -- started tagging along on his daily walks around Echo Park Lake. Eventually, she even became protective of him.

Man and a goose form unlikely friendship

When we first told this story about a month ago, it seemed as though nothing could keep this goose away from her man. But that was then - and this is now. Today Maria is in protective custody at the L.A. Zoo. She has to stay here while the city completes a two-year restoration of Echo Park that includes draining the lake. She's now in quarantine for a month - zoo policy - but, obviously, a big problem for a goose in a relationship.

"When they develop a bond with a certain person, they can definitely have problems when that person is gone and not there on a regular basis," says a zoo veterinarian.

Which is why the zoo granted Maria a privilege rarely extended to animals in quarantine - visitation rights.

Dominic is allowed to visit once a week.

"You can see the response when Dominic comes, which is great," the veterinarian says.

Together they now walk the length of Maria's tiny two-room apartment. Then - when they get to the end - they turn around and walk back.

In that sense, nothing has changed between them. Although the vet here has discovered something new about Maria - namely that she -- is a he. Maria is a Mario. Not that it matters to anyone.

"I think Dominic has some sort of animal magnetism that has caused Mario to bond to him," the vet says. "Once that occurs, that bonding can be a lifetime thing and I think we're seeing it now."

Same sex, different species -- but still, total commitment.

Zoo officials plan to move Mario - the goose formerly known as Maria - to the children's zoo, perhaps as early as next week.

  • Steve Hartman

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

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