LIBERTY, Utah (AP) – Quite the goose-down comforter winds up on Diane Westcott’s bed every night.
There’s down aplenty, of course, but some pretty big feathers, too – along with two webbed feet, some wings and a bright orange beak.
Why, look, it’s Gladys, a real live goose, settling in for another night of fowl dreams. The snowy white bird sleeps at the foot of Diane and husband Kevin’s bed every night in the couple’s cozy log home in Liberty.
And a goose around the house is a comforter of sorts for the Westcotts, even if it’s not one of the blanket variety.
“They make wonderful pets; they’re very calming,” says Diane.
A goose as a house pet? Who would have thought it?
Well, Diane, a raiser of geese, had been thinking about it for quite a while, until the day a clutch of nine eggs laid by one of her brooders hatched.
“Time for a house goose,” Diane decided right then and there. She snatched up the cutest of the fluffy goslings running around at her feet and brought her inside.
That was six years ago, and now Gladys is a part of the family. At least that’s how it seems, as the 2-foot-tall goose struts around the house like she owns the place, nibbling at her food in a big dog dish on the kitchen floor or gazing out the patio door at the family’s other geese, and ducks and turkeys, “banished” to a life in the backyard.
But Miss Gladys isn’t content to be just a homebirdy – she’s also quite the gadabout. Maybe you’ve met her at the Ogden Farmers Market or at a school, home improvement center or craft store.
“She loves getting out and meeting people,” says Diane. “When we go on vacation, if at all possible, we try to take her with us.”
The Westcotts say they are responsible pet owners and don’t take Gladys places that other house pets can’t go, such as grocery stores or restaurants.
“Although,” Diane points out, “Gladys is wearing a diaper, and she’s very clean.”
Yes, a bird diaper, an ordinary baby diaper stuffed inside a pouch that straps onto the goose with a special harness. Gladys gets changed several times a day, depending on how active she is or how much she eats.
Every errand with Gladys in tow takes two or three times longer, because, “Everybody wants to pet the goose,” Diane says.
And double takes are the rule of the day when Gladys goes out on the town, Kevin adds.
There the Westcotts are, wheeling their pet through Home Depot in a shopping cart, when Gladys moves or lets out a squawk and other customers suddenly realize, “Wow, that’s a real goose.”
“They’ll think she’s a ceramic goose we picked up in the garden area or something,” says Diane.
The sight of a goose riding in the front seat of the Westcotts’ car never fails to prompt waves, honks and thumbs-ups from passersby. Folks have been known to pull over to the side of the road after going past the goose car and then chasing after it again to get another look.
At stoplights, Kevin says, “People roll down the window and yell at us, ‘Can we take a picture?’”
One of Gladys’ recent adventures was posing for photographs with visitors at The Amazing Raise, an annual fundraiser that benefits charitable groups in Ogden Valley.
The goose – and a leopard Appaloosa – acted as representatives for the Wasatch Front Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen of Utah, of which the Westcotts are members.
Horses can be intimidating, especially to small children, but Gladys is very approachable and well-behaved, says Julie Heavirland, chapter president.
“She really thinks she’s more of a person than a goose,” Heavirland, of Hooper, explains.
Geese often have a bad reputation for nipping or pinching at people, but Heavirland says Gladys just tries to “preen” folks, by running her bill along their skin.
“Diane and Kevin are really good about making sure the experience the kids have is positive, and they don’t need to be afraid of her,” she says.
Guests are also pleasantly surprised when they meet Gladys playing “Mother Goose” at the annual community baby shower for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, says executive director DaLyn Erickson-Marthaler.
“She’s a very sweet goose. A lot of geese can be a little bit temperamental and sort of testy about things,” Erickson-Marthaler says.
She adds, “Just seeing a goose walk on a leash is kind of a novel thing to see; you don’t see that every day.”
A little spoiled?
Erickson-Marthaler, who sometimes “bird-sits” when the Westcotts take goose-less vacations, says Gladys is probably the “most-pampered goose in Ogden.”
“She likes things done her way; she’s cute and she knows it,” the director says.
Gladys, for instance, has her own cat bed for sleepovers at the wildlife center and a tennis shoe she likes to sleep with. And she is very aware that there are treats packed in her diaper bag.
“If you don’t give her the treat, she is obviously offended – she sulks,” Erickson-Marthaler says.
Diane Westcott says she has thought about certifying Gladys as a therapy animal so the bird could cheer up people in hospitals or nursing homes. The goose was always great with children when Diane used to substitute teach and took her to visit special education classes.
One little girl “would hug her and stroke her and Gladys would just let her do anything she wanted,” Diane says.
Some day – who knows? – you might even read about Gladys on the pages of a best-selling book. Diane says she has chronicled the bird’s real-life escapades in what could be titled, “The Adventures of Gladys the Goose,” and hopes to find a publisher.
As a pet, Gladys is more like a cat than a dog, Kevin says. She doesn’t play fetch or know any tricks, and she may or may not come when you call her name.
But she will come a-waddling across the room at the sound of Diane shaking a resealable plastic bag filled with dry cat food kibbles.
“Gladys, do you want goose treats?” the goosemama calls, and the bird dives right into Diane’s hands to gobble up the goodies.
The Westcotts enjoy the novelty of a pet like Miss Gladys.
“We like to be a little bit different,” says Kevin, known for carrying on honking “conversations” with his goose.
And Diane – holding Gladys on her lap and petting her at her Liberty home – admits she just kind of melts when the goose looks at her with those big blue eyes.
“She brings a lot of joy to people,” this goosemama says. “She brings a calming effect ... she brings that uniqueness.”