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Aging Goose Still Honking In Oxford, Md.

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Barnyard, Geese

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OXFORD, Md. (AP) — Donna Richards got a strange visitor this January. Early one morning, after the holidays, a man came to her door and asked if she was “The Goose Lady.”

The man then thanked a surprised Richards for taking care of Goose and asked how the animal was doing.

“He offered to make a contribution to her feed … I told him it was a wonderful gesture, but not necessary,” Richards said. “He insisted and said he would feel much better if I would accept his donation. I agreed, and said I would tell Goose about him.”

Richards, nicknamed “Mother Goose,” has fed a barnyard goose, appropriately named “Goose,” for about 17 years. The animal, and Richards, made headlines in October 2008 when the daily feedings in Oxford drew controversy.

A barge that summer had blocked the animal’s usual feeding spot, which prompted a move and some complaints about Richards feeding Goose along the Strand.

Richards brought the issue before the Oxford Commission, and a debate ensued about whether a sign posted nearby that forbid feeding ducks applied to geese. The commissioners unanimously voted to let Richards continue her feedings, and to let Goose live out the rest of her days in Oxford.

At that time, about three years ago, Richards estimated Goose’s age at 25 years. Barnyard geese typically live between 20 and 25 years, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Waterfowl Project Manager Larry Hindeman said then.

Goose hit her approximate life span three years ago, and has since weathered each winter with Richards dedicated to her feeding. The fowl’s age is starting to show, Richards said, but she still has her sunny disposition.

“Her legs indicate signs of arthritis and if it’s damp and cold, she walks with a limp,” she said. But the goose still greets Richards each day with a loud proclamation, as the bird has done for the past 17 years.

“Like myself, the poor old girl is experiencing those inevitable Golden Years,” Richards said.

As for the mysterious visitor, Richards said the man told her that in the Hindu religion, Goose might be an angel or a soul of someone who has departed this life.

“And I was chosen to be her caretaker,” the man told Richards. “I was at a loss for words, and said, ‘She is an angel to me.’”

“He turned and left … and I regret that I didn’t get his name,” she said. “But I will always remember him and his concern for my feathered friend, Goose. I hope someday he will meet Goose.”

Information from: The Star Democrat of Easton, Md., http://www.stardem.com

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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