A lifelong friendship between two unlikely species
No, that's not a car horn you hear coming from the Wildes' property near Alexandria.
It's the playful banter of the couple's pet geese.
"We don't really know why we got them, they were just so cute and tiny, they looked like little cotton balls when they were first born," Karrie Wilde recalled.
Seventeen years ago, Karrie's husband Jarrod gave her two 2-day-old Brown Chinese geese for Mother's Day. They instantly became attached.
Though the couple knew nothing about geese at the time, they never regretted getting them.
"I love the geese," Karrie said. "Our first two geese were like our children before we had children."
Although those geese, Gumbee and Daisy, have since passed away, the couple currently has seven other geese.
"We heard that geese will be your friends for life if you befriend them and spend time with them, so we brought them everywhere," Karrie said.
The Wildes hold their geese, feed them, bring them to town and give them all the love and affection that would be given to a child.
Eventually, the geese imprinted on them.
"They followed us everywhere and still do," she said. "When they were younger though, it was so cute to watch them, because they would follow right behind our heels and trip over their feet because they were too big for their bodies."
Sometimes, they would get distracted by something and not realize Karrie was gone until she was 20 feet away.
"They would fly across the yard to catch me. They looked so funny because their wings hadn't grown yet so they were just sticking out from the sides of their bodies," she laughed.
The geese act like children in other ways also, running to their "mother" to protect them when they are scared or craving attention.
"When they are scared, they jump on our feet and stick their heads up our pant leg," Karrie said. "And because we always held them in our laps when they were young, they always hop on our lap when we are sitting down."
PART OF THE FAMILY
Over the past 17 years, the geese have become part of the Wildes' daily lives and, more importantly, part of the family.
"We really try to spend as much time together as possible," Karrie said. "They like to be around Jarrod and me whenever we are outside."
Because they are such curious birds, they will come and cock their head to the side in wonderment of what Karrie is doing.
The Wildes have found over the years that each bird has a different personality -aggressive, loving, an outsider, or simply annoying and needy.
"A few of the geese will come into the garage when I am working, untie my shoes and peck me until I let them sit on my lap," Jarrod said.
And, though the birds stay on the lawn, they will often come squawking into the house when the screen door is left open.
"They are supposed to stay in the yard and usually do. It's like they know where the property line is," Jarrod said. "But sometimes they come into the house. It's so funny and surprising when they do."
Since the birds are not allowed in and can't eat with the Wildes at their kitchen table, they wait outside to be fed.
"They eat corn, food scraps, grass and clover and they will eat right out of your hand," Karrie said.
Though the Wildes could not learn goose language, they have grown to partially understand what their feathered friends are saying.
"When they hear me in the yard, they will make a certain noise if they are coming over and a different noise if they aren't," Karrie said. "Two sharp noises is just a general call sign like a greeting, where a long loud call is a warning."
Because of how much they have been together, they can also tell when the geese are scared and tired and they will come if called.
Though the Wildes' geese have usually been kind and caring to their owners, there are instances when this was not the case.
"The male goose started getting very aggressive with Karrie," Jarrod recalled. "He would sneak up on her and charge at her when her back was turned."
Eventually, the Wildes found out that this behavior was because the female was laying eggs.
"The male is just looking out for the female, which is why he makes a great father," he explained.
Still, Karrie has to watch her back whenever the male goose, Dumpling, is around.
"I think it's kind of funny. When he comes at me I usually charge at him and he doesn't know what to think," Jarrod said. "Geese can bite you but they won't do anything terribly harmful; they are just intimidating to most people."
Despite the aggression, the Wildes are not planning on getting rid of their geese. On the contrary, they hope to expand their family.
"Geese are such great pets, I wouldn't get anything else," Jarrod noted.