HALIFAX – Two well-loved geese who were run down by a motorist will be memorialized Saturday by local residents who see them as far more than just a couple noisy birds.
The geese were among nine known for using a crosswalk to get to their home on Sullivan’s Pond in downtown Dartmouth, a fiercely independent enclave across the harbour from Halifax’s core.
Three were hit by a motorist heading downtown at Wednesday’s afternoon rush hour, with one surviving, police said.
Katy Jean, a poet, artist and part-time restaurant server whose home overlooks the pond, said Friday she was expecting — and got — skeptical reactions to the idea of a memorial, to be held Saturday evening.
But she said the geese are “almost part of the architecture of the area” and prominent in local art and memorabilia.
A video of them slowly waddling across a zebra crossing, oblivious to waiting cars, has been featured on American TV host Ellen DeGeneres’ “ellentube” web site.
Jean said the famously grumpy birds serve almost as a Grimms’ Fairy Tale for local children.
“You will see people walk about five feet around their radius, but we still feed them and they are harmless,” Jean — known for her Dartmouth Haiku Twitter poems — said in an interview.
“I’ve never actually witnessed the mythology of a goose biting someone, although my parents lived on the pond 30-some years ago and one almost bit my brother’s toe when he was an infant. But they definitely are Oscar the Grouch and people do appreciate them.”
“They’re immortalized in murals and paintings all around Dartmouth, they’re a huge icon of Dartmouth.”
The deaths at first prompted an outpouring of anger, after reports that the driver had hit the birds intentionally. One person posted an online petition demanding the driver face motor vehicle charges, garnering about 1,260 signatures by Friday afternoon.
But Sam Austin, who represents the area on Halifax regional council, said the driver told police he had glanced briefly at the pond, and hit three of the geese as they were entering the crosswalk.
“It’s difficult for me to understand how the driver missed seeing them at the crosswalk since they’re fairly large, slow moving and always cross the street at the same spot. That appears to have been what happened though,” Austin said on Facebook.
“The driver remained at the scene and police interviewed him and several witnesses. The driver was very distraught. He got physically ill and called police later that night to check on the geese.”
Halifax police Const. Alicia Joseph said Friday officers determined speed was not a factor, and there were no motor vehicle violations.
“This is just an unfortunate incident for everyone involved — the witnesses, the driver, the geese who are a staple in the Dartmouth community and who are loved by everyone,” Joseph said in an interview.
A Reddit thread on the memorial includes goose puns, ersatz goose recipes and skepticism likening the birds to a well-known dead Toronto raccoon honoured with a shrine in July, 2015.
Most of the cynics, though, seemed at least a little charmed.
Said one user: “This is ridiculous. But it’s harmless ridiculousness. The best kind.”
Local roots musician Eric Stephen Martin, who plans to play a song at the memorial, implicitly acknowledged, and rebuffed, the skeptics in an Instagram post.
“The fact of the matter is that it’s not just about geese. The incident that took place could happen to a cyclist, motorcyclist, pet, pedestrian, duck, you name it,” he said.
“For me, this memorial represents comfortability and safety on our roads and in our transportation systems. It stands for the elimination of reckless and/or impaired driving in our community. So come down and let’s spend a moment talking about safety, celebrating art, and remembering a few beautiful creatures.”