At the New England Wildlife Center in Massachusetts, they treat thousands of injured animals every year — but Executive Director Zak Mertz says one recent case stands out from all the rest.
"This was a first for us," Zak said.
The patient was a Canada goose named Arnold. Arnold had a badly damaged foot.
"And as we're doing it – we're prepping him for anesthesia – giving him meds – we hear this faint tapping at the door," Zak said.
Arnold had a visitor — another goose.
"We all kind of turned around simultaneously and were pretty shocked," Zak said.
"We don't allow that – but we definitely had to make an exception in this case," Zak continued. An exception — for spouses.
"My only guess is that she saw us capture him the day before and he was probably honking in the cage overnight," Zak said when asked how he thought Arnold's mate knew where he was.
After surgery, the staff moved Arnold to the floor for recovery — where his mate, who they named Amelia, comforted and preened him — the avian embodiment of "in sickness and in health."
Geese do mate for life, but if something dreadful happens to one, the other typically "remarries." But not Amelia. She wasn't leaving her man. No honking way.
Throughout his convalescence – now in its fourth week — the staff has been putting Arnold in a pen out back an hour daily for fresh air. And every time, without fail, Amelia comes running to her gander — marches right into his cage — in full-throated surrender.
"I think it gave us all a new respect for how social these animals are and sort of the depth they have in their emotions," Zak said. "... I don't know if it's love, but they really make each other calm and happy. And I think we could all learn something from them."
Arnold was released this week – back into the wings of his beloved. And although the couple was in no rush to fly the coop, they won't stick around for long.
But hopefully their example will stay with us. Because what's good for the goose is crucial for mankind.