At first, jogger Kathy Nash thought it was an attack goose. It chased her, squawking and flapping its wings. Nash detoured from her usual run at Mile Square Park to avoid it, then called the Audubon Society to find out what she could do about the menacing bird.
"I steered clear for about five weeks and ran across the street. But one day I was back sitting in the park while she was pecking the grass with her two buddies. She looked up, did a double take, and came running to me. She would just wail if I'd leave her," Nash said.
Bird experts told her that the goose, probably once a pet, was trying to renew an old relationship, but Nash said she just couldn't make that kind of commitment. "I felt I couldn't meet her needs," she said wryly.
A match was made, though, when Jean Quinn met the mousy-brown Canadian goose. The 67-year-old grandmother encountered it on her morning walk in the Fountain Valley park. Quinn rubbed its head, engaged in pet talk and won a walking mate. The goose, which she named Lucy, accompanied her on her ritual 35-minute walk for more than a year.
But the goose mysteriously turned up dead in the park pond recently. A memorial yellow ribbon has been tied around the tree near where Quinn used to meet Lucy.
"I looked forward to going over to walk with her. She was just a lovable goose," Quinn recalled. "I live in an apartment, so we don't have an animal. I never fed her, but she liked me. She would make a noise the whole time she walked, like she was talking to you."
Although Quinn lived four blocks from the park, she drove the distance so that Lucy couldn't follow her home.
"When I would get in the car, she would stand and look mournfully into the window. I had a terrible time getting away," Quinn said.
Steve Reid, groundskeeper for the park, said of the goose: "She had something with women. She preferred people to birds. A woman probably once owned her and dropped her off here.
"I would see her sit all day with a woman on a bench," Reid said. "It was a neat goose. . . .
"If you were driving a car past (the park) and saw (Quinn) walking with that goose, you probably would have run into something. She has a brisk walk for an older woman, and here was this bird running around on those feet. . . ."
However, some park visitors were afraid of the bird's aggressive behavior. Lucy would often put her head down as if she were going to take off to peck a passer-by or chase after runners, according to Nash and Reid.
That may have led to Lucy's downfall, they theorized.
"She was a misunderstood bird. . . . It was like a Frankenstein story--people would run away because she was so friendly," Reid said.
One morning three weeks ago, Quinn came by for Lucy and found her dead, floating in the park pond. Quinn said she cried for three days, and still does sometimes.
There was talk of contaminated water or poison. But the pond water was freshly recycled--county workers take bacteria counts regularly--and no other fish or birds were found to be hurt or sick.
Eventually, park staff members and several of Lucy's admirers decided that a vandal or a frightened park visitor just might have given Lucy a clunk on the head.
"If you are easily buffaloed by a bird or a bug. . . . People get excited about something they don't know anything about," Reid said. "Somebody might have taken her the wrong way. Or it could have been some kids messing around. Crazy things go on here at night."
Reid buried the goose in the wilderness area of the park.
Nash, with the help of printer John Dollriehs, whose shop is nearby on Brookhurst Street, made a sign using a newspaper photograph of Lucy. Nash tacked the memorial to a tree, and tied it with a yellow ribbon last Saturday. Someone took the ribbon down, but Nash put up another. Quinn said visitors have been seen clustering around the memorial this week.
"She was the attraction of the park," Quinn said. "When she started walking with me, I met everybody. I had people want to take a picture of me and the goose. It was a gift given to me, this goose."