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Compassion spurs rescue attempt

| Friday, Feb. 9, 2007

Lest anyone think that sportsmen and outdoors lovers do not have a great concern for wildlife, and are willing to show compassion for animals in distress, think again.

Jack Bowser, a Rosston resident, noticed Wednesday that a Canada goose seemed to be frozen in the ice near the Rosston boat launch about 75 feet from shore.

Bowser returned home to get his binoculars to confirm the goose's plight. Sure enough, the goose was trapped in several inches of ice. A few yards away, the water was still flowing and flocks of ducks and geese were swimming free. The goose seemed to be calling out to its flock for help, but to no avail.

Bowser was determined to help the goose, but he rightly feared walking out on river ice. He discussed the situation with two of his friends, Ronny George and Dan Quinnell. George thought he might have a solution to rescuing the stranded bird -- venturing out on the ice in his flat-bottomed John Boat.

Using his boat to distribute his weight on the ice, George had Quinnell give him a shove from the shoreline and gingerly poled the boat over ice of an unknown thickness until he reached the hapless goose. Using a hammer to break the ice around the bird, he lifted it into his boat and began the trek back to shore.

"After Ronny made it back, we wrapped the goose up and decided to take it to a local veterinarian," Bowser said. "We got to the vet's office but discovered that no vet was on duty at that time. So we decided that we'd just keep the goose in the back seat of the car, feed it and make it as comfortable as possible. We thought that if we could nurse it back to health we could release it back to the river. It appeared that it might have a broken leg, but we weren't sure."

Bowser said that George took on the responsibility of caring for the goose.

"Ronny sat up half the night with the goose," he said. "It never tried to bite or peck at us in any way. We fed it out of our hands and gave it water to drink and kept it warm. Each time the goose would eat something, it would look up right in to our eyes as if it was saying thank you.

"We petted its head, and it seemed to like the show of affection. Ronny was very worried about it and he knew I was, too. At 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning, he called me on his cell phone to tell me the goose seemed to be doing just fine."

However, for whatever reason, things took a turn for the worse. Bowser said he went to check on the goose at George's residence about 4:40 a.m.

"At 5 a.m., the goose just looked up at us and looked right into our eyes. Then he laid his head down and he died, just like that," Bowser said. "I think he was saying thank you for the care you gave me, but now it's time to say goodbye.

"We all felt very bad. I'm an emotional person and couldn't help but shedding some tears when the poor thing died. I think Ronny did, too. Ronny literally risked his life to save that bird.

"Not many people care that much about wildlife to go that far to save a creature that is in trouble. The goose would have died out there on the ice if Ronny hadn't have done what he did. At least the bird's last few hours were passed in comfort, knowing that some others of God's creation cared for it and tried to ease its suffering. I wish we could have saved it and later set it free and watched it fly away. But it just wasn't meant to be. I'm an animal lover, and this event touched my life in a way I'll never forget."

On a personal note, I can't help wondering if the goose was really a goose, or was it something else. An old adage says that we sometime "entertain angels unaware." If that's true, perhaps this lowly and helpless goose was an opportunity to bring out the spark of compassion and concern for all creation that lies with in all. That spark was fanned into a glowing flame in the hearts of the three men who took a great risk and braved sub-zero temperatures and dangerous river ice in an attempt to save one goose.

Going out on the river in a boat under such conditions is not a recommended practice, but it was done nevertheless. No good deed goes unrewarded, but I feel certain after talking to Mr. Bowser, these men did what they did without expectation of reward. That alone is an example to all.

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