April 19, 2005 > Saving Sparky
by Nancy Lyon
For more than eight years, travellers on the Alameda Creek Trailhead near Old Canyon Bridge in Niles have seen the feisty and handicapped goose that lived there among the rocks. Years before she had a mate but he had long since disappeared to an unknown fate. Alone and subject to the limitations of her disabilities, "Sparky" as locals knew her, faced the challenges of a life that often relied on the kindness of strangers.
Fremont Animal Services has received numerous calls over the years from concerned animal lovers worried about her well-being. However, there was little that could be done for her and no real options but for her to face creekside dangers as best she could.
During this time, hikers and a number of residents of the Senior Mobile Home Park adjacent to the trail took on the responsibility of feeding Sparky. For two years, Jeri Romwall, an OHS member and park resident, faithfully arrived at 6 a.m. with food and water so she would not have to traverse the dangerous rocky slope to the creek.
It was Jeri who noticed that Sparky had become the casualty of a thoughtless fisherman. Fishing line was deeply embedded in her neck greatly limiting her ability to swallow. The line was also wrapped around her one good leg and bleeding, further limiting her ability to escape predators human and otherwise. She needed all the mobility she could muster to escape the off-leash dogs whose owners thought it amusing to let them chase her.
Add to this that this past winter was hard, taking its toll on the ageing and crippled goose. It was time to at least attempt a rescue. But first and foremost, there needed to be a safe place for her to go.
Unfortunately, there aren't that many sanctuaries for domestic fowl. OHS volunteer Judy Canright contacted the Animal Place in Vacaville, a sanctuary for farmed animals, but they did not have the right accommodations for geese. So founder Kim Sturla got on the phone and within days we had a safe haven for Sparky -- and then the hard work began.
On Friday morning at 6 a.m., Paul Arvin, Judy and myself arrived creekside hoping that Sparky would know we were trying to help her and cooperate. Even with only one functioning wing, she was able to glide down to an inaccessible sandbar in the middle of the raging creek. It was decided to try again in the afternoon when she normally slept along the trail. Once more, with her years of experience escaping ill-intentioned humans and others, she eluded capture.
We would try again the next day with a larger cast of volunteers - this would be our last chance to get her as the holiday vacation would be over and work loomed on the horizon.
With nine stalwart OHS volunteers and a game plan to surround her with invisible netting, Sparky was quickly caught. She was safely crated and David Anderson, who is also a vet tech at All-About-Pets Veterinary Hospital, transported her there to be examined by wonderful Dr. Roark Freeman who helps with our wild critters. She then came to our house to spend a quiet and peaceful night in our washroom.
Early next morning, Judy and her granddaughter Kimberly, and I were on the road to Loomis and sanctuary - with a stop along the way at OHS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to pick up at the four ducklings, an injured seagull and a sick mallard to deliver to the International Bird Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Cordelia.
Teri, who works for the Davis based Association of Veterinarians for Animals Rights, lives in the beautiful and rural Sierra foothills would be Sparky's saviour. Because of her special interest in caring for farmed animals, Teri has turned a large section of her cyclone-fenced property over to caring for disabled fowl. There is a blind turkey, geese of various species, a crippled duck and various chickens including one with only one leg that had escaped becoming dinner.
Sparky was allowed to view her new companions in a sectioned off area where she could see them freely roaming the tree lined rolling lawn with its multiple wading pools. She would have veterinary care, night protection from predators, good food and companionship. We want the good people who cared for her to know that her disappearance was in her best interests, that she is home at last and safe.
Why bother with a goose? Why travel close to 300 miles with her? Because she is a wise and courageous being, a survivor who needed our help.
We also want to promote a greater awareness of the impact and cruel results of our often thoughtless behavior. Fishermen need to understand and act responsibly by stopping the careless discarding of fishing line and plastic six-pack holders that injure and slowly kill wildlife.
An important part of this tale is that people need to understand that animals are not ours to harass or injure for amusement, and that we need to walk among the wild creatures that share this world with awareness and respect.
"The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth."
Henry Beston, "The Outermost House," 1928