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Penticton’s beloved broken-winged goose mourned by human ‘flock’

A week has passed but Dave Choukalos still can’t bring himself to sweep the sand out of his truck — evidence of the daily trek the Penticton retiree made for years onto the beach on Okanagan Lake to bring food to Kevin the goose.

The last time the 78-year-old saw Kevin was Good Friday — or “Black Friday” as Choukalos calls it — when a veterinarian put the injured bird to sleep, a dog bite to his leg proving one injury too many for the broken-winged goose now mourned by his human “flock.”

Choukalos was a proud member of “Team Kevin,” a ragtag community of strangers who gathered to keep the bird fed, photographed and friended.

He says he’s always been an animal lover — animal meaning cats and dogs.

“If you had said that I would be associated with a Canada goose — saving a Canada goose — I would have laughed at you because I had no dealing with birds, none whatsoever,” Choukalos says.

“But here’s this great big old goose there that got into my heart, I’ll tell you that.”

‘Penticton became his flock’

Choukalos is one of hundreds of people expected to gather at a Penticton brewery Sunday afternoon for a “celebration of life” for Kevin the Goose.

In death, as in life, Kevin appears to have inspired a number of “firsts” for those who loved him: calls for a statue in his honour; impassioned Facebook posts; the AI-generated song Kevin the Angel — “Kevin you soared beyond the skies/ a symbol of strength in our eyes.”

Steve Heer took the iconic photo of Kevin the Goose featured in the poster for the bird’s celebration of life. Hundreds are expected to gather. (Steve Heer/Slackwater Brewing)

Slackwater brewery co-founder Kelsey Peyton never expected to find herself organizing a wake for a goose. But she also never expected her two-year-old twin daughters to start calling every goose they saw “Kevin.”

“He was vulnerable. I definitely think he was a sign of resilience for people in the community. He obviously made a huge impact on many, many different people. Anywhere from small children to everyone really,” she says.

“He didn’t have a flock but the people took him in. It shows how humans can work together. Penticton became his flock.” 

‘A sixth sense’

Choukalos was recovering from an injury to his leg when he first encountered Kevin four years ago. He used to walk along Okanagan Lake for rehab. One cold day, he figured a dip in the water couldn’t hurt.

“You know how you have a sixth sense that something is behind you?” he says.

“I happen to turn around and here’s this big Canada goose and he’s following me.”

Kevin The Goose
Kevin the Goose relied on the kindness of strangers to eke out a life on the shores of Okanagan Lake. He was well fed but was ultimately taken down by a cantankerous canine. (Submitted by Steve Heer)

Choukalos says Kevin trailed him back to the beach. Choukalos got some “cat crunchies” from his truck. He later Googled “What do geese eat?” And thus a love affair based largely on Kevin’s stomach began.

In the ensuing weeks, Choukalos figured out Kevin’s wing was broken — apparently the result of a dog attack. Worried about what might happen to Kevin during the winter, Choukalos called a local reporter.

“That article just went crazy. It went worldwide,” Choukalos says. 

“This started the Kevin ball rolling.”

‘He knew I was there to admire him’

Budding photographer Steve Heer started going down to the beach in search of Kevin as soon as he heard about him.

“And then I realized that wasn’t hard. He finds you,” Heer says. “He just became kind of a cornerstone for photos.”

Kevin the Goose spreads his wings
Heer captured this iconic picture of Kevin the Goose, with Okanagan Lake behind him. Heer believes the goose ‘quite literally posed’ for him. (Submitted by Steve Heer)

Heer took the iconic photo of Kevin — wings outstretched, webbed-foot forward — which has become both a new profile picture for Kevin fans on Facebook and the centrepiece for the invitation to the goose’s wake.

Heer remembers the day he got the once-in-a-lifetime shots.

“It was like a little mini photo shoot. He came up and he quite literally posed for me,” he says. “I think he knew I was there to admire him.”

‘It’s going to take a little while’

On the day of Kevin’s death, Choukalos had driven his truck past the beach, hoping to spot his feathered friend.

“I’m looking at him and something is terribly wrong here. He can’t get up. He can’t do anything,” he says.

“And as he’s trying to move around a bit, that’s when I see his right leg, and his right leg is just sort of hanging there like an old rag.”

Dogs aren’t allowed off-leash on the beach, but it appeared Kevin had been mauled once again by a cantankerous canine. 

Choukalos called his wife and other members of Team Kevin into action.

“We caught Kevin,” he says. “Put it this way, a 78-year-old man could catch Kevin, that’s how bad he was.”

They put the goose in a dog cage in the back of the truck and began the hour-long drive north to Kelowna — where Choukalos found the only veterinarian in the Okanagan who could see Kevin on the holiday.

Kevin was quiet during the trip. Choukalos says he was sleeping: “I think it was because of the pain.”

The vet assessed the bird, but there was no hope. Kevin was already down a wing. He couldn’t live without a leg as well.

Along with the sand tracked in from his sneakers, Choukalos says he also can’t bring himself to remove the container of bird seed he always kept in the cab of his truck.

“It’s going to take a little while to accept the fact that he’s gone,” he said.

“It was a very sad occasion, but at the same time, you know that you’re putting an animal that’s in pain out of pain.”

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