SAANICH -- “Bienvenue,” Yvonne says, reading the sign attached to the collar of her dog lawn ornament. “Welcome!”

Welcome to Yvonne’s display of backyard critters.

“This is a squirrel!” she smiles, pointing to a metal sculpture attached to a tree. 

There’s also a stone alligator lurking in the lawn and metal butterflies resting on the fence. 

“We have Fat Cat,” she points to the round feline, before tapping the head of a bird sculpture. “This is a Beautiful Owl.”

Then Yvonne sits on a chair by the rock garden, featuring a pot with a plastic bear in it. The sun shines on her face. 

“This is my Aaah!” she says, singing the word like she’s in a choir. 

“Your ‘Aaah?’” I wonder. 

“My Aaah spot,” she answers, saying the word like a deep sigh. “We need it.”

It’s a place to just be when Yvonne can’t be with her real feathered friend. 

“I have a selfie!” she laughs, before showing me a picture of her posing with a swan. “It was great! He even smiled!”

They first met a few years ago when she was camping along the Sooke River. She was told the swan’s name was Romeo. 

“Oh Romeo, oh Romeo,” she laughs. Yvonne says that when she’d call his name – “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” – the swan would start swimming over. 

“You see a little white dot in the distance that gets bigger and bigger, closer and closer.”

Yvonne shows me a video of Romeo arriving, stepping out of the water with his large webbed feet, raising his long white neck and greeting her with a trio of honks. 

Yvonne says she and Romeo regularly visit each other every time she goes camping. 

“He would stay with me and swim with me,” she says showing pictures and video of Romeo swimming up to her campsite or following along with her kayak. “It was quite beautiful,”

Yvonne knows she is no Juliet. She was told that Romeo and his lifelong mate’s parting was not sweet, just sorrow. She was killed by another animal. 

“He’s a loner,” Yvonne explains. “So we give him extra love when we go camping.”

And Romeo, she says, returns the love. 

“You take it in and you’re gifted. You just want to share and appreciate how beautiful he is and he knows it too!” Yvonne laughs. “So I hope he finds a girlfriend soon.”

She says there’s another lone swan, about 80 kilometres away, near Port Renfrew. Although that union is unlikely, Yvonne is definitely feeling “happily ever after” about her feathered friendship. 

“Romeo is definitely an Aaah!” Yvonne smiles into the sun. “[I’m] gifted to be in his presence.”