Swan Stories Worldwide
Date: 28 December 2007
I live in a lake community that had two pair bonded resident mute swans. They were both 23 years old.
The female, who we named princess, became quite attached to my family. Everyday, she would haul her butt out of the lake, waddle across the street, walk up the steep driveway to my house, continue through my front gate, and eventually end up in front of my sliding glass door, where she would impatiently peck the door with her bill.
When she would see me through the glass, she would stretch her neck and her body very high and appear to be almost 6 feet tall. I would grab my cracked corn bag, or swan pellets, and sometimes pieces of wheat bread, and large bowls of water. I would place her food and water bowls outside and sit with her while she ate.
Every once in a while, she would stop eating and make a call across the lake to her mate who waited patiently for her at our dock. Her call sounded like a cross between a dove "coo" and the Spanish trill "r" sound. It was very gentle.
One time, I opened my garage, and before I could get in my car, Princess had wandered into the garage and was trying to crawl into the front seat of my 4-door sedan! It took a good ten minutes to gently coax her out of the garage.
One of the saddest days of my life was on December 3rd, 2007. I hadn't noticed Princess come around that day, and there was a freezing wind blowing and a heavy rain. I looked to see if she wandered into our backyard, which she often did, and where I kept food bowls just in case she came by when I was at work. My son and I decided to go to Costco at 3pm to purchase a new Nikon. When we were pulling out of the driveway, my son told me he saw the swan. I stopped the car and looked, but I couldn't see her. He kept pointing. Then, finally, I saw her. She was laying unconscious on my neighbor's porch.
I screamed because I thought she had passed away. When she heard me scream, she mustered all of her stregnth to lift herself up, and she took 3 steps, and collapsed at my feet. I started crying and ran in the house to get a blanket. Her feathers on her neck and head were wet to the bone. After 5 minutes, I decided to take her in the house where she could warm up. I called my mom, who lives nearby, to help me with her. Princess was very lethargic. We sat with her and petted her neck gently, and fed her some food and attended to her water bowl.
I located a local animal rehabilitation center that knew how to care for swans. We didn't have a kennel for her because she was so large, and so we wrapped her in a blanket and I sat with her in the back seat of my father's blazer while he drove to the rehabilitation center.
When we got to the center, they had a clean and dry pen covered with blankets waiting for her. We got her under a heat lamp because she was still very cold.
She seemed to be doing alright towards the late afternoon as she was upright and eating on her own. But, when the rehabilitation center weighed her, they discovered her weight was VERY low-- only 13 pounds. They suspected parasites. She was treated for parasites later that evening with an oral medication.
The head of the rehabilitation center sat up in Princess's pen all night and fed her and comforted her. Sometime in the early hours of the morning she started struggling with pain, and took her final breath with a sigh at 4am, and then she was gone.
I got my call on my lunch hour at work the next day. I literally fell apart and cried for the better part of the afternoon. Not only would I never see the beautiful princess again, her mate would never see her again.
She was returned to the lake community by the animal rescue, and one of my neighbors, who also adored her, buried her in a special place beside the lake.
Her mate made crying sounds all night long. It was very eerie. Three weeks has gone by since her death, and her mate remains alone on the lake, swimming aimlessly. I try to go and visit him everyday, and I feed him and spend time sitting on the dock watching him.
Recently, he has warmed up to me more and become less timid. The other day, he swam up to my face and closed his eyes and "bowed" his head 6 times in a ceremonial fashion. I have no idea what that means in swan language but I felt very special. I am very sad for him and wish we could replace her so he didn't have to live the remainder of his life alone.
It's amazing the impact that the most unexpected "beings" can have on our lives. I have always been attached to my dogs and cats, but I never would have imagined I would be so attached to a swan and that I would miss her visits so much.
My dad always says that "love appears at the least expected time and from the least expected source" and that sums up how I feel about the swans on the lake. My life has been made metter by their beauty and grace and I stand in awe of their presence, feeling special to know them.