By: Dr. Jack Stephens
A northern Idaho man diagnosed with terminal cancer says a usually cantankerous goose that befriended him on his walks has helped him live past doctors’ predictions. Bill Lytle, 73, a two-time state legislator told the Coeur d’Alene Press that after retiring, he became a founding member of a walking club that walked around a local lake where a goose was well-known to actually attack humans. After he was diagnosed with cancer, the goose, called Mr. Waddles, began to attach himself to Mr. Lytle. For some strange reason, this change in behavior only happened after he was diagnosed with cancer and seemed to be limited to this one person.
Mr. Lytle thinks Mr. Waddles knew he was sick and started coming up to him and letting him pet him. The goose now rubs his head against Mr. Lytle, yet will snap at anyone else who comes too close! This has inspired Mr. Lytle to continue his walks despite feeling ill, in order to have the daily meeting with Mr. Waddles. “He keeps coming to me, and I look forward to the daily sessions. Although I have cut my walks, he inspires me to keep going even when I do not feel like it,” Lytle said. (Coeur d’Alene Press)
Another example of animals helping humans. It is a mystery why this goose-who was well-known in the area for being a bird to stay away from-would change from a goose that would charge and nip anyone straying to close to suddenly befriending one ill person. Why would its behavior change so dramatically to this one person and become a motivational factor in this man’s battle with cancer?
My own personal experience with Spanky, coming to my rescue in my battle with cancer, was similar in that his behavior changed suddenly when I was diagnosed with cancer-although not as uncharacteristically as Mr. Waddles. He became tuned in to my need to fight the disease with more than drugs and radiation-a mystery in life that I feel is somehow rooted in our biology from eons of interaction with animals. My faith says humans are the stewards of animals, but is that because of our hierarchy or is it much more because they benefit us in ways we do not understand?