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JUAN
SILVER LAKE, ROCHESTER, MN
2006, 2010 (Update)


Juan: Photo taken September 26, 2006


     We visited Rochester in September, 2006 and had spent the first day feeding the 150 plus rambunctious and friendly geese at their Official Greeting Area at the parking lot.

     We decided to take a walk around Silver Lake park two days later in order to check out the rest of the park and it was while doing so that we met our new friend, Juan.

     Earl pointed him out to me when I went down to the shore to feed him and the mallards.

     "Is that goose missing a leg?" he asked.

     I'd seen the goose but hadn't realized that he only had one leg. Geese often balance themselves on one foot and this goose was doing that. However, Earl had observed that he hopped on his single foot.

     When he saw that we were offering grain, he hopped up to us on his left foot. His right foot was just a stub and his feathers looked worn and rather tattered. He had missing and raggedy tail feathers as well. He looked as if he'd been badly beaten up.

     We wondered how he lost his foot. Could it have been blown off by a hunter? Could his foot have been entangled by a fishing line, causing infection which finally led to the loss of the foot? We would never have the answer to that sad question.

     Juan was the first goose we'd come across with one foot. Through our website, we had met Marcia Martin, author of BANDY, a single-legged gander. We had also met Bruce Beverly, who had a single-legged goose friend by the name of Hop-along. And we had read about a goose with a single foot in GOOSE'S STORY.

     We could understand why he chose to remain on the other side of the pond, rather than join the Greeting Party of ducks and geese. With his single foot, he'd topple over when they rushed for food. He was also no match for an aggressive goose.

     He was incredibly hungry, gobbling up the hen scratch with such enthusiasm we felt he had not had a good meal in a very long time. Most park visitors feed the ducks and geese at the parking lot and seldom venture to the other side of the park.

     When he was done eating, he hobbled back down to the water, using his wings for balance (see photo below).


Juan uses his wings for balance

     The condition of his wings was even worse than we expected. He was missing quite a number of primary feathers. We wondered if he could fly with so many missing feathers and a raggedy tail. Geese only need one good foot for flight. Not once did we see Juan take flight. We finally arrived at the conclusion that Juan probably could not fly or if he could, only a short distance.

     We visited him again and decided to name him Juan because it is pronounced 'One' and appropriately describes his single-foot and his profound loneliness.

     The last time we saw him, a large flock had joined the feeding. Juan ate a little but hobbled to the water when the flock advanced upon him. He slowly paddled to the other end of the lake, a picture of utter loneliness.

     Even though we only knew Juan for two days, we felt close to him. He touched us with his desire to survive and rise above the cruel fate that life had dealt him.

     DECEMBER 18-24, 2006 UPDATE: I had the opportunity to spend another week at Silver Lake. I'd looked for Juan throughout the park the first day. When we saw him in September, he had frequented one of the smaller ponds off the large lake. Now this pond was completely frozen over. When I didn't see him anywhere that first day, my spirits sank. I thought my courageous friend hadn't made it. While feeding the rowdy Greeters the next day, Juan showed up on their side of the park. He hopped up to me, his eyes filled with hope and anticipation for a crumb. When he noticed that I had no food, his eyes registered disappointment. I rushed to the car and brought back some cracked corn for him. I didn't see Juan again until the morning of my departure. It broke my heart to say goodbye to him. I wanted to stay and look after them.

     Please CLICK HERE for a videoclip of Juan.

APRIL 2010 UPDATE: We finally managed to visit Rochester after four years. So much has changed since our last visit. Please visit our SILVER LAKE page for more details. We looked all over for our friend, Juan, but he was nowhere to be seen. Four years is a long time for an injured goose to survive and given the negative changes made to the park (discouraging of feeding), geese like Juan would not have fared well so we think that Juan is gone. He was part of the Silver Lake we used to love. And his absence just drives home the point that Silver Lake is no longer a welcoming place for the geese and the people who love them.

 








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