Vinny & The Goose: A Westchester Fairytale

Within days of moving up here, I found myself chasing a goose across a Metro-North parking lot at 11 p.m. Had I lost it already?

I approached the bird with an old white bedsheet spread between my hands like a villain from Scooby Doo. I would gain a few steps and then the goose would powerwaddle away, looking back periodically from the corner of its beady eyes. As it eluded me, its long neck swayed upward as if giving a Master class in elegance and the Alexander Technique.

Earlier in the evening, my wife walked by the goose which was sprawled on a grassy rectangle between parked cars and a bar at our train station. Plastic wrap surrounded its ankle and its wing was cocked at an unnatural angle. It clearly couldn’t fly and very likely was in some kind of pain.

She worried that it had been hit by a car and called an animal rescue center, which gave the following impossible advice.

1) carefully wrap the goose in a thin blanket

2) put it in a laundry basket

3) carry it in the cabin of our car (the bird would freak out if confined in our trunk)

4) keep it fed and hydrated in our house until a veterinarian could see it the next morning.

Still, it was heartbreaking to consider the plight of this beautiful creature. I had driven down to see it myself, and the color of its neck was as black and unfathomable as the surface of an inkwell. I thought of how this noble flyer, just 100 yards from the river and marshes where its compatriots freely consorted, was the latest collision in a long line of violation and displacement: from Native Americans forced out by 17th-century Dutch colonizers to working-class residents now being priced out and now this: a poor, injured bird struck by someone’s gas guzzler dying beside parking spot 417 under a 50-foot-tall floodlight.

But don’t despair; an unexpected hero arrives.

Given that my wife and I were hapless bird catchers (the goose couldn’t fly, but it could run), things were looking bleak until the animal rescue center reached one of its volunteers: a modern-day St. Francis straight out of the Bronx who arrived in a twenty-five-year-old Pontiac Grand Am at 11:30 p.m. Vinny. Vinny, who does not have a smartphone and printed out directions on MapQuest and offered to drive up from the Bronx to help this bird (and us). I will always love Vinny.

Vinny was a short man in his fifties who sized up very quickly that the bird was not only injured in its wing but also likely very dehydrated and hungry. We had brought some bread and the goose eagerly came near us to gobble up the bread chunks (here’s a short video of my wife feeding the goose as Vinny approaches). What I don’t have — and what I will regret for the rest of my life — is a video of how Vinny grabbed the goose.

He took some bread in his hand and crouched down. The goose (which had been running away from my wife and I for the better part of an hour) came without hesitation towards Vinny’s hand and started to eat right out of it. In a moment, Vinny grabbed the goose’s neck, which elicited a muffled honk and then, with his other hand, he quickly wrapped his arm around the bird’s body and placed it firmly against his side so the wings could not flap. Then the most amazing thing happened of all. He slowly let go of the bird’s neck with his hand and the bird remained still and docile. It submitted to Vinny and sunk its head on top of its body, resting finally, and let Vinny slide it into an animal crate.

Vinny drove across Westchester that night and dropped off the bird with another volunteer in the bird rescue network to be seen by a veterinarian in the morning. Vinny went to his day job the next morning (which proves again that New Yorkers have incomparable side gigs). The next day we found out that the bird had been ensnared in fishing line but was cut free and would otherwise be fine and able to return to the flock. And so, Nomi and I drove back from the train station and also returned to the flock, ever-grateful for the stranger who can help when all is dark.

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