HEALING TOUCH
Jerome A. Pollos  /  Coeur d'Alene Press
Bill Lytle and a goose that befriended him last winter visit April 26 along the shore of Fernan Lake, near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, during one of Lytle's daily walks.
updated 4/27/2006 6:49:25 PM ET 2006-04-27T22:49:25

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.

"I'm 73," Bill Lytle, a two-time state legislator, told the Coeur d'Alene Press. "And I'm not ready to die."

After retiring as project manager for the Bunker Hill Mining company, Lytle and his wife of 52 years, Myrna, moved to Coeur d'Alene, where Bill became one of the founding members of a walking club called the Lake City Striders.

Then last fall his skin turned yellow overnight, and doctors diagnosed pancreatic cancer, giving Lytle only months to live. But Lytle continued his walks, having to cut them down to two miles at a nearby lake, where he met the goose who has inspired him to keep going even when he wasn't feeling well.

"I have to keep walking or I won't make my next December," Lytle said.

The goose, called Mr. Waddles, is a feral domestic goose, a biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said, offering no explanation for the relationship that has developed between the goose and Lytle. Myrna has thought about that as well.

'I think he knows ...'
"I wonder, why would that one goose attach himself to Bill?" she said. "I think he knows he's sick. I think animals can sense that."

The goose, about 30 pounds with a red beak and red feet, approaches Lytle when he calls and rubs its head against his arms. But it snaps at anyone else who gets too close, including Myrna, their daughter, and Bill's hospice aide.

"Sometimes he walks around me, sometimes he walks beside me," Lytle said of the near-daily meetings the two have. "I rub his neck, and the top of his head and down to his back. Every time I came down, he just kept coming out. I think it's pretty nice, that he'd always come to me."

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