Have you ever been goosed by a goose? Geese can be aggressive, mean and FAST. And they’re big—especially when they’re in your face. Humans often misread critters both wild and domestic and in fact can often misread other humans too.
I’ve been a dog person for a longtime and get really anxious when I see a non dog person doing stupid things around a dog. It’s a great way to get hurt—really hurt. Pissed off or scared cats can also do some bodily damage if pushed.
I had a dog named Major-san. He was a German Shepherd and my best friend. One day we were at a local dog park (he was off leash) and a stranger (without a dog) started taunting him and then took off running. Major-san took him down in a nanosecond. Major-san was not attack trained, he was just exhibiting instinctive German Shepherd protective behavior. He didn’t bite the guy (only his clothing) but he did scare the shit out of him. I explained to the guy (in an angry way) what he had done wrong and he was very apologetic and said he had learned a valuable lesson. Thankfully—he didn’t call the authorities or try to sue me.
Major-san was not an aggressive dog towards people or other dogs but he would stand his ground. This guy didn’t know anything about dogs and he certainly didn’t know anything about German Shepherds. That in itself wasn’t a crime but his ignorance of dog behavior put him at some risk of getting injured. As humans we tend to anthropomorphise animals—increasingly, science is now suggesting that we might indeed share some commonalities with animals but bottom line there are some very distinct differences too. Humans put themselves in peril when out of ignorance or stupidity they dismiss those differences.
The impetus for this post came from a Facebook meme I saw recently about being chased by farm animals as a kid (see above). It brought to mind the time I got chased by a BIG pissed off goose—as I passed by it I was talking to it like it understood me and it took exception and came after me. Did you know that geese have teeth like little shark’s teeth? Well they do. Technically, these are called “tomia” not teeth because birds can’t produce enamel. Tomia aren’t as hard as our teeth but they’re [hard] enough to cut grass and provide traction for eating slippery things like snails. Also, they can give you one helluva a bite.
The goose in question never caught me but not for lack of trying. My mom grew up during the Great Depression and her family raised their own food—in addition to fresh vegetables my grandfather raised chickens, rabbits and turkeys for family dinners. My mom hated the turkeys because they were territorial, aggressive and chased her all the time—she was a little girl in her preteens. That experience stuck with her throughout her life and she told the story often—I think she took extra delight in cooking our Thanksgiving Day turkeys. Pay back time. Even rather benign critters can cause injury if you’re not careful.
I love the outdoors and its critters—but I’ve learned to be careful. Once a domestic bull chased me (or I thought it did) in a pasture when I was a kid and I hopped a fence before it got too close. In Alaska a very big moose disliked me taking its photo and made its displeasure known. In Belize a large male howler monkey whacked me in the head with a tree branch when I tried to photograph his harem (he was the jealous type). Rattlesnakes bit me as a kid (ages 8 & 10) while I was exploring our local canyons (not a good experience) and brother Joel was false charged by a large grizzly bear in Alaska while out solo hiking.
Field Notes: As a longtime photographer (almost 65 years now—I started when I was 7) I’ve learned to be careful around critters—both animal and human. An ounce of caution can save pounds of hurt. Learning and understanding natural behaviors can literally save your life—reading the signs before events start to unfold is paramount. Most critters, even human critters, will give warning signs if you’re open to them: heed body language, eye position as well as verbal warnings. Whether you’re in the Amazon jungle or a city’s urban jungle the warning signs are usually there. In the Marines we called it situational awareness. SFD