OAKLAND -- It started as a typical Monday for Ann Hyde. She arrived at Children's Fairlyland at 7:15 a.m. and walked toward the giant shoe where tickets are sold, eyes on the ground scanning for garbage just as she does every morning.
Then she spotted him -- the missing blue goose statue was just sitting there, alone, at the locked front gate. One front yellow leg was completely gone, the other broken in half.
"(My mind) went into some other dimension," said Hyde, the park's head of operations. "I mean, I thought, 'Am I dreaming?' It looks really familiar, but I thought, 'It can't really be there.' I was shocked. It had some damage, but it was definitely there."
Just to be sure, she snapped a picture with her camera phone.
The goose was later taken into protective custody by park employees.
In May, park employees notified police that the 3-foot blue statue, said to have cost the park about $7,500 when the multimillion-dollar theater was built four years ago, was gone. It had sat atop a column at the park's theater, next to a serene white swan, but one spring day park employees noticed that only bits of the statue's yellow webbed feet and a strand of rebar remained where the goose had previously stood.
Word spread about the theft. A fundraising drive was launched, but only $1,600 was raised, not enough money to replace the one-of-a-kind goose.
Given the statue's return, that money will now be used for paint
Hyde said the statue was left between about 4:30 p.m. Sunday when the park closed and 7:15 a.m. Monday when she arrived. No arrests have been made.
"I'm wondering if maybe it was an end-of-year school prank and then someone felt guilty," C.J. Hirschfield, Fairyland executive director, surmised of the theft. "Someone just plopped it at our front gate."
Park employees had promised "no questions asked" for the return of the goose.
Both Hyde and Hirschfield have their theories about why the goose was returned.
"I think the perpetrator was shamed into doing the right thing," Hirschfield said.
Added Hyde, "Someone must have talked them into bringing it back."
Whatever the story, park employees are pleased it ended happily ever after.
"It was one of the happier days of my life," Hyde said. "I was so happy because we were really, really sad about the theft."