Many people have seen or heard stories of dogs sticking by their fellow dogs who have been hit by cars – and even dragging them out of the middle of the street. There was one particular story floating around the internet with a picture of two dogs – one had been hit and the other refused to move from its side, not allowing anyone to even get close to it. Even though such stories are tearjerkers, I've never really bothered to put much thought into them.
I saw a goose get hit by a car yesterday. Well, I didn't really see the car hit it. To be exact, I saw the aftermath of a goose getting hit by a car yesterday. I saw the goose – two broken wings and a broken foot, dragging itself the rest of the way across the street. A mixture between hopping on its good foot and inching itself along on its stomach – like it was trying to swim on dry land. Alive at the time or not, the goose was clearly done for. It couldn't fly and it could barely attempt to walk. The probable internal injuries taken into mind, I have no doubt that the goose will be dead by tomorrow at the latest.
I wonder if animals have the potential to lose hope. I'm sure that some do. There are several creatures besides humans that have been capable of expressing complex characteristics and brain functions. Elephants and dolphins, for example. Both have shown themselves to be intelligent and also to be capable of developing friendships with their own species and with others. I'm not 100% sure of the accuracy, but I once read that primates in captivity losing interest in the outside world and repetitively counting their fingers instead of interacting is a sign that they have lost hope. So I wonder if geese can lose hope. If something in their brain can trigger a sense that they are dying and they find themselves with the option to keep going or just give up.
If geese can lose hope, this one was a fighter. It made it all the way across the rest of the road and kept going. I could write an entire blog post on an inspiring goose that was clearly dying but decided to keep going until the very end.
But that wasn't what struck me. It definitely wasn't what led me to the internet to research the habits of Canadian geese, nor was it what led me to write a blog post on them.
In front of the injured goose was the rest of its flock. I never really took the time to think about what geese do when a member of their flock is injured. (...which is actually odd, because that definitely seems like something I would take the time to think about and spend an entire day bothering my friends [particularly Alexx] about.) I've always seen geese as assholes. Because they are assholes. So in my head, it's always been that a goose dies and its asshole friends and family are like 'Did you see Gary walk right out in front of that car? What an idiot. How did he survive past being an egg.' and then they move on to chase unsuspecting creatures and eat everything in creation (then poop it out all over the damn place). Because really, geese are just assholes.
Though, unfortunately, I can no longer be so adamant that geese are evil creatures created by Satan for the sole purpose of infesting the earth with a desire to kill anything standing between them and food.
The rest of this goose's flock did not fly off and let it there to die alone. In fact, they stayed only a few steps in front of it as it dragged itself along. Every few seconds, they would stop and turn around to make sure it was still there – honking rather quietly at it as they did so, as if to encourage it to keep going. I was stunned. (I really had no good feelings about geese. None. Not even a kind of good feeling.) The geese in the flock slowed their pace and even stopped to wait when need be. I knew that ducks would do this for their ducklings, but I never considered that geese may do this for their fellow flock members.
At first, I considered it was just instinct. Something in the geese said 'You can't move on unless all of your flock is with you'. But when did instinct fizzle out? When the goose was mostly dead? When the goose was completely dead? Was it all about instinct? Or did this flock of geese actually care about this injured goose? Thoughts flooded my brain until I had the chance to go home and research the characteristics of flocks of geese.
It turns out that if you want to be a decent human, you should probably forget being a human and aspire to be a goose.
Geese show a strong devotion to other members of their flock. (Random fact: Did you know that geese are monogamous? That's right. It isn't just penguins. Geese will find and mate with one other goose for the rest of their lives.) Geese are highly emotional in their connections to one another – especially when a fellow flock mate is on the brink of death. If a goose has become sick or injured, two flock mates will stay with it until it is either well or has died. They will honk encouragement to it. And if it dies, the flock will mourn its death. I think that is a development that surpasses just instinct.
I am lucky enough lately that a few of my friends have devoted themselves to being geese. Not even just two, but three. I feel like the goose that was hit by a car and dragging itself across the road. The past few weeks have been the car. I've been lonely. I've been sick. My mental health is taking its toll, and my meds no longer seem to be working. I constantly want to die. Everything I do is insulted or mocked by family. I seem to be slowly losing my job – or at least being deemed inadequate, working for an hour and a half then being asked to leave because someone can do my job later. My grandfather has cancer. Life in general is just a mess. I can't get control over myself, and no one seems to understand. Every time I try to be positive, I seem to be slammed back to the ground by a problem even worse than the last. So I stop trying in order to protect myself and I am deemed just one of those negative people who brings others down. And no one wanting to be around me, people getting tired of me, not feeling understood, loved, or like I have any support – it just makes everything worse. It just enforces that not only is everything going wrong, I am wrong as well.
I am just dragging myself across the highway with a limp foot and two broken wings – waiting for the inevitable.
Yet, somehow, three people manage to stick with me – looking to make sure I am still here and honking encouragement while the rest fly off. I am probably not going to get very far. I think everyone knows that by now. I have no desire left to keep dragging myself and more cars seem to just keep running me over. Still, they are here for now, standing on the other side of the road.
Sometimes I hate them. I hate them because I can see they made it across the road and I didn't. I hate them because I know they are going to get somewhere and I am just broken. Other times, I admire them. I imagine what it must be like on the other side of the road. Their successes at being functional people in life give me something to dream about. Then I feel guilty that they have to stand there, watching me get hit by car after car. Something else must be calling them and I am holding them back. And I wish the last car would hit and it would all be over with.
Mostly, when the last car does hit, I hope they're the last thing I see. Because it means someone believed in me to the very end and felt that I was important enough to stick by even when it was clear that it was a hopeless cause.
And now the one animal that I wished to never see is the one that I aspire most to be.