Several years ago our neighbors were given two tiny ducklings as an Easter gift for their children. The family's vision was to raise the ducks then release them on their church's property where there was a nice pond just perfect for two little ducks.
The only problem was, by the time the ducks were ready to live at the church they were so domesticated that the ducks felt they should be able to come and go into the church as they pleased, and if they were not allowed in with the parishioners, they would stand at the front doors and honk and peck. For some reason, the congregation found that annoying.
Back home came the ducks. A week or two later off went the neighbors on an extended vacation.
Would we be willing to babysit the ducks?
Well, of course we would! What fun! No problem! Our pleasure!
Day one went fine. A little water, a little food, spray the duck pooh off the patio - no problem.
The next morning, my husband and I happened to be up pretty early - around 5am. We were enjoying a nice cup of coffee and some much deserved quiet conversation when all of a sudden, looking out the window, I saw it.
Uh-oh! The ducks were under attack! Something was trying to kill them!
We rushed across our back yard, leaped the fence, and realized the worst - it was one of OURS attacking the ducks. It was OUR ferrets! The dang houdinis had snuck out of their cage, made it out of the dog door and across the fence, and were trying to eat the neighbor's ducks! The ducks we had been entrusted to care for, to protect!
Our ferrets had never escaped out the dog door before. Why now? WHY??
Amid much commotion and screaming Prince Charming and I were able to grab the ferrets and rescue the duck.
Side note here ..... we have since learned that inherit in their nature, ferrets will always seek out and attack feathered fowl. They must have smelled the duck-smell on our hands and were driven to search out the source. Do you think we could have found this tidbit out earlier???
Along the lines of "didn't know that", did you know that when you call vet clinics at 5am and tell them you have a duck gushing blood from his neck, there is a chance they will laugh at you?
"We don't treat ducks, ma'am." Snicker...
Desperately, while I was holding the duck on my lap wrapped in an expensive beach towel (the first one I could grab) applying pressure to his bleeding neck, Prince Charming called every vet clinic in the city.
One failure after another. We were desperate. We finally called our old vet. The vet we used to go to before we moved. The vet who lived an hour away.
As luck would have it, he remembered us. (Who wouldn't remember a client with 5 dogs, 4 cats, 6 birds, 2 rabbits, one of them with a very rare eye tumor that the vet drooled over because it was so rare he was able to do a write-up about it in some vet journal....of course he remembered us!) And as luck would have it, this particular vet had completed an internship on a duck farm in vet school. Who would have thunk it?
Driving way too fast, hoping against hope that the duck wouldn't die before we got there, we delivered the duck and the blood-drenched beach towel to the vet clinic. The vet was waiting for us and rushed us to the back.
The news was good and bad.
"We can save this duck, but he'll have to be in Intensive Care for several days. He's lost alot of blood, so he may need a transfusion, and of course intravenous antibiotics...."
What to do? What to do?
If it had been our duck, we might have had some roast duck for dinner. But this was another child's pet who had been entrusted to us and it was OUR ferret who did the damage!
We had no choice. We gave our consent and drove home with anguish in our hearts.
As soon as it was daylight on the west coast, I tried to call our neighbors to tell them about the tragedy and ask them to make those decisions that are difficult for every pet owner. Do we treat or pull the plug?
Voicemail. I left a message.
No return call.
Next day, duck is still alive, but there is danger of infection. Still in intensive care.
Again, I call. Again voicemail. Again, no return call. We had no choice but to continue treatment.
A week later, duckie was ready for release from duckie intensive care. BUT, he would need around the clock antibiotics and wound care 3 times a day. Oh, and we weren't to let him get dirty.
Have you ever tried to keep a duck from getting dirty? Have you ever tried to give a duck antibiotics? It's not like you can bribe it with a toy! AND, I daresay not one of you has ever done wound care on a duck's neck!
Good thing in my other life I'm a nurse.
We brought the duck home. On the way home, we debated on what to do. Where would we keep him?
You're right. We kept him in the house.
DO you know how much a duck poohs? I didn't before! I do now! Aggghhhh!!!!
OK. We needed a new plan.
The next day we built an elaborate pen on our gazebo. We bought duckie a kiddy swimming pool so he could bathe and keep clean.
Day after day went by. We learned to give the antibiotics without losing too much. We were old pros at the wound care. We were experts at duck baths. We were bonded.
Then the call came...
The neighbors. Turns out the brother thought the urgent messages and the frantic voice talking about some duck accident were funny - he, not knowing his niece and nephew really did have pet ducks, thought it was a prank and didn't relay the message until something actually mentioned the pet ducks.
"Well, we hope you didn't go to any trouble."
No, calling every vet clinic in a 100 mile radius was no problem. None at all. The long drive to ducky intensive care several times - no problem!
"We hope you didn't spend any money on it - we would have just told you to have it for dinner...."
Grr.....no. Just $700 or so. And the cost of one expensive beach towel. And the cost of gas back and forth.
Was it worth it? Did the duck live happily ever after you ask?
The neighbors came home the next day.
They thanked us for taking care of their ducks, and gave us $30 "to cover some of your expenses."
Then, they took the ducks to a cemetery east of town and released them into the wild.
It was probably eaten by a coyote the next day. Our $1000 duck. Gone.....Forever.
We didn't even get to say good-bye! (Sniff)
Moral of the story?
Is there one? I can't think of it. Other than I will never babysit another duck as long as I live.
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