This is a love story with a difference. It’s a story of a storm, chance and family.
Even if some members of the family happen to have feathers.
On August 27 last year, Rachel and Jeffrey Nimberg-Young were in their Muizenberg home, huddled with hot water bottles and blankets as a storm gathered outside.
At 7pm, the couple received a phone call that changed their lives.
“Our dear friend, Phillip, called to tell us that he had found an abandoned goose egg in the middle of a field by the vlei and he wasn’t sure if it was even still alive,” Rachel says.
They made an incubator out of a hot-water bottle wrapped in a towel, stuffed this in a box and set up a warm yellow lamp.
When the egg arrived, they put it into the incubator, and waited. And finally, after about 90 minutes, the most miraculous thing happened, says Rachel.
“We heard a first little peep. It’s almost impossible to describe the feeling of joy. We peeped to him, and he began to peep back. As he warmed up and came back to life, our peeping encouraged him.“
A few hours later, the gosling emerged, and Ryan Gosling was announced to the world. Rachel says he was a perfect little baby gander: fluffy bright eyed and rearing to go.
“It is said that upon hatching, birds will imprint on the first living thing they see as their parent. But truth be told, I think it was me that imprinted on him,” Rachel says.
Holding the little ball of fluff, which was on the verge of death only hours before, moved her as almost nothing has before.
“After a cuddle, I put him down on the floor, and from that moment, wherever we went, so did he. The first few weeks were very much about snuggles and cuddles and eating and sleeping and cuteness.“
She describes him like a toddler: never wanting to sit still, always curious, fearless, chatty and very funny.
Rachel says a goose is very easy to look after: they eat grass, duck weed, snails and, in Ryan Gosling’s case, green peas.
“They eat and eat and eat. They don’t stop eating. From morning through the night, he ate and ate. In a week he was doubled in size. We would wake up in the morning and notice that he was different to the gosling we had seen only yesterday.“
As he grew, so did the pooping. Rachel laughs; she says she read online that it is upwards of one hundred poops a day, but one day she counted the poops in five minutes and averaged it out for a day and it came to more than 300 poops a day.
Ryan Gosling went through incredible growth spurts, says Rachel. One week he had no wings, the next they had appeared, and four weeks later he was flexing them proudly, wanting to fly.
It was Rachel who took him on his flying lessons, after watching countless YouTube videos.
Somebody must have borne witness to this and briefly wondered if they had seen correctly: Rachel, running up and down the vlei, flapping her arms, with Ryan Gosling running as fast as he could behind her.
“One day he just flew. The pride I felt on this day was immense. He was so proud, he did a few laps and then landed next to me. We went home, and the next few days, he was strutting up and down the garden,” she laughs.
Then one day, he just flew again. Over the fence and into the air. Rachel says it was magnificent.
Muizenberg’s Ryan Gosling is now 6 months old.
It was his hatchday just last week. “He is a big, beautiful goose now,“ says Rachel. ”He spends days and nights out in the world doing goose stuff at the juvenile sanctuary on the other side of the Vlei – or chasing seagulls – and he likes spending time with the sacred ibis.“
He does still visit. He wanders about on the vlei under the trees opposite the house, or on the other side of the road and the couple go and visit together.
“Sometimes he likes to come to the house and sit with me in the garden on the outside furniture, and we just hang out,“ Rachel says. ”Recently, I discovered he has been turning up on the beach, and in particular the Shark Spotters offices.“
Ryan Gosling now has one webbed foot in the wild-goose world, and one in the human world, she says.
“He is well known in Muizenberg, and I get messages all the time that he is here or he is there. I know that as more time passes, I will probably see him less and less, and that’s okay.“
She says he was raised to live the wild life that he is supposed to live.
But – and there is a but because this is a love story, after all – Rachel says she hopes and prays that he will always come home to visit. And that he never forgets that he is Ryan Gosling: “the most amazing goose in the world”.