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Echo Park goose and man make unlikely bond

June 23, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A man and his gander friend can't help but make you smile. You've never met a bird like Maria the goose.

Dominick Ehrler and Maria have been together for over a year now. Their first date was a walk at Echo Park.

"That's how we met," said Ehrler. "We made eye contact, and within a matter of days, Maria was at my feet for the next 10 months every day."

They were quite the couple from the beginning - becoming park celebrities taking daily walks and rides. But when the city decided to drain the lake, Maria needed a new home.

It was not only a love story but a Hollywood story. As Maria found out, not all publicity is good publicity.

"One guy ran up and kicked her like a soccer ball," said Ehrler. "Another person came up and grabbed her by the neck and started swinging her around and laughing at the same time."

Maria was receiving so much attention at the lake, not all of it pleasant, that they brought her to the Los Angeles Zoo. Vets discovered Maria the goose is actually Mario the gander. But Ehrler still refers to his feathered friend as Maria.

Times have now changed, wings have been clipped, and the flying days are gone.

"She loved to fly," said Ehrler. "But it's just something we're going to have to sacrifice. We don't want her to visit the bear pit. You don't know where she'd go."

But Ehrler still comes to visit his friend come sickness or health. Ehrler broke his leg. He says when he recovers they'll still take their walks and have their long chats.

"It's just animal talk," said Ehrler. "I just say, 'Maria you're the most beautiful goose in the world,' and she'll go, 'coocoocoocoo' and wag her tail."

One thing is for sure, it's a companionship to be envious of.

"So lovable, so much personality," said Ehrler. "I quit eating all warm-blooded animals, that's how much of a shock it was to me. So maybe we all have a certain bird karma. I could tell that with Maria."

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