Monday, June 08, 2009

Fred the duck

I'm not sure I can do justice to Fred's story, but I'll give it a shot. Be warned, a few parts might be a tad risque for young uns.

Byrd and I used to work at a pet store that did not sell birds. That didn't stop people from dumping birds at the store, however. And one morning, Byrd found this little guy in a cardboard box at the front door when he opened the store:

Byrd called me up (I didn't work at the store anymore at that point), and I came and took the little duckling home, gave him the name Fred, and introduced him to his new extended family.

He took a liking to everyone right away, of course. Here he is meeting Felanie and one of the prairie dogs.

"Are you my mother?"

When he was little, we kept him inside. He hung out with the prairie dogs a lot. They groomed each other.

I let him splash around and practice swimming in an old, unused tub in the vacant bathroom. This was during the remodel, so yeah, it looks pretty gross and tacky. Perfect for duck baths.

Fred grew really big, really fast.

You can see his flight feathers growing in...

The prairie dogs were still pals with him, even though he was huge.

I looked up his breed at around this time and discovered he was a white Pekin duck. A totally ordinary type of duck that you can buy at any local feed store.

Finally, when his adult feathers had all grown in, Fred was ready to move outside. I got him a baby pool to swim in. (Again, this was during the remodel, so our yard was a wreck--sorry.)

Awww, so that was a cute little story about a duckling, right?

And then Fred grew up. And developed a bad habit of biting and humping every animal he could grab.

"I'm a love machine"

This included the feet and legs of all the humans in the household AND the feet, faces, stomachs, ears, and necks of our poor, bewildered pit bulls.

I'm sure this was actually a normal, typical behavior for a hand-reared adult male duck. But of course, up until this point, I'd only ever seen ducks at municipal duck ponds.

Fred quickly gained a reputation as a yard shark. He would stand casually near his intended victim, quacking quietly as he strategized, then suddenly swoop in for the kill.

Make no mistake, his bites hurt pretty badly, but he was so darn cute that it was hard to be mad. The dogs soon learned to run like hell when lovesick Fred made the scene.

I have literally an hour of compiled home video that looks a lot like this:

We were pretty clueless what to do about this. I thought Fred might be happier living with other ducks at the nearby duck pond. So I took him on a few visits to get him used to the ducks.

To this day, I think that some of the park visitors thought--when they saw me leave the pond with Fred--that I was stealing a duck.

But while Fred didn't really mind the visits to the pond, when we tried to leave him there for real, he flipped out.

"Breathe deep. They didn't abandon you, they're just... oh god, they did!!!"

"Where's the car... where's the car...?"

"Hell no, I won't go in the water. Take me home! NOW!"

We really did drive away and leave him there at the park, but when we turned around to check and confirm that he would be A-okay... he was marching determinedly through the parking lot, headed for the street. Looking for us.

I could just imagine him getting hit by a car while searching for us. We took him back home and decided to go with Plan B.

We got a female duck that he could shower his "affections" on.

This was back before the days of widespread high speed Internet and all the online search tools we take for granted nowadays. Even Petfinder was a pretty newfangled thing. So duck adoption didn't really occur to us; instead, we went to the local feed store and picked out an adult female Pekin duck from their cramped, dirty cages. I picked the most pathetic one.

Daphne was a shy, quiet duck. She could barely walk and didn't know how to swim, and she was filthy from being in close quarters with two dozen other ducks. A bunch of her tail and wing feathers were broken. When I set her down in the backyard for the first time, she didn't move. She didn't understand any of it.

None of this mattered to Fred. He fell in love with Daphne instantly. Our toes became old news, much to our relief.

And Fred turned out to be a sensitive fellow after all. He didn't shower attention on Daphne; he gave her the space and time she needed to adjust to this strange new world. After she had learned to waddle around, he put on amazing splashing displays for her in the baby pool while she watched from the ground.

Fred and I worked together to teach Daphne to swim. Each day, I held her afloat in the baby pool for a short while, letting her paddle her weak legs. Fred spent hours and hours floating and splashing, demonstrating the joys of the water, as if to encourage her. Finally, one day she walked up the wooden plank herself and eased into the water. Fred honked and splashed so loudly I ran outside prepared to chase off a predator, but after seeing Daphne in the water by herself, I cheered along with Fred.

One day we had a huge rainstorm that flooded our entire yard. This was a real treat for the ducks! They had their own private lake for two days.

Having gotten over his desire to bite and hump everyone all the time, Fred learned to play fetch with dogs. He couldn't bring the ball back, but he ran with the group and fought for--and usually won--the ball. Then he would push it all over the yard in a victory celebration.

I sincerely regret not getting that on camera.

Daphne never got over her shyness, but she didn't like to go far from Fred. So she hung around while Fred and the dogs played fetch.

Fred was pretty famous among the neighbors. Whenever they had visitors over, you can bet they would take the visitors out to peer through the chain link fence and see what Fred was up to.

Even though we loved the ducks, we still felt they would be happier living somewhere with a big pond to swim in. The baby pool just didn't seem sufficient. So we kept our ears open for a good home.

One day Byrd met a nice older couple who had just bought a big piece of land with a pond, and wanted some ducks to swim around in the pond. So Fred and Daphne went to live with these people.

This all happened about nine years ago, and I'm sure Fred is gone from this world by now. But that crazy duck won't ever be forgotten.


Allison (Dog Mom) said...

What a funny story! The music for the duck-biting montage is hilarious. Glad you were able to find a home for Fred and Daphne (cute names, btw).
Every time I see ducks like this, I think of the duck in "Babe". :)

Kembree said...

What a great story! Your dogs are awesome that they were nice to Fred, then Daphne. I would be so worried that they would eat them! Thanks for sharing that story, I really enjoyed it! :)

Mia said...

What a great story! But who is Taz? He is beautiful - I have read both of your blogs all the way thru and I can't remember a Taz?

happypitbull said...

Mia, good question--When we moved into this house, we had a roommate for several years. He had a pit bull named Taz. Taz was an interesting dog because she had a somewhat rare disease (can't recall the name of it now) that impaired her motor skills. I heard that she passed away last year shortly after Felanie did, at the ripe old age of 12.

PBOforlife said...

Your stories are absolutely GREAT. I can't wait for each new one. I'm so glad you found a good home for them. :)

Dennis the Vizsla said...

Wow, and I thought it was just science fiction when Howard the Duck got his groove thing on with Lea Thompson ...

PoochesForPeace said...

That was such a funny, sad, happy, bitterweet post all in one!! Im jealous of your duck-scapades. I can't wait to see the next story you pull from the photo archives.

Anonymous said...

Fred and Daphne! All you needed was a Scooby-Dooby Dooo! When I was a kid my parents got us each a duck for Easter (we were on a farm). And they were prolific layers, but wouldn't sit on their eggs. So we decided to build an incubator. We had 40 eggs, and wouldn't you know it we had forty ducklings who all bonded on our miniture schnauser as their momma. There was nothing funnier than seeing this arrow of ducks following this grey streak of dog around the property.
Yes, ducks are funny creatures.

Princess said...

I just love this story and the video of Fred 'terrorizing' Felanie and Taz is priceless. If only we could show the world that, certainly no one would go along with the bad rap they have. :o)

I couldn't help but laugh out loud with the comment about stealing Fred from the park. Glad Fred and Daphne found a large pond to share the life together with.

Anonymous said...

Oh I LOVE this story! How cute is that.

forsythia said...

Loved this story!

Sharon said...

That was such a great story! Thanks for sharing Fred :) I'm pretty sure Dobby would have been scared of him, haha!

S and D

Luda's Mummy said...

Luda sez: "!"

Life With Dogs said...

A beautiful story - and I'm sure I'm not the only one to marvel at the peaceful coexistence of bird and dog. My wife wants ducks, and this will do little to dissuade her!

Woodrow, Sweetie, MJ Campanella said...

what an incredible story - and wonderful pictures

woodrow sweetie mj

One Red Horse said...

What a love story. OMG, I laughed so hard at the video of Fred chasing the "scary" pit bulls all over the yard, hoping for a little humpie action. I hope Fred and Daphne enjoyed many happy years together.

Martine said...

what a really cool story! thanks for sharing!

xo sugar & martine

Chester said...

Hi, nice to meet you. I'm here to congratulate you on your Golden Hydrant award. I am a follower of Life with Dogs and see that you are a worthy recipient of this coveted award. ;0=)

What a beautiful duck story! I was feelin' so sorry for Fred there with him having no one who felt deserving of his love showers. But what a happy ending!! Makes me feel all mushy inside. (Shhhh-don't tell anybody I have a sensitive side)

Congrats again!
See ya 'round
Chester ;0=)

Stella said...

Great Story! We had a Sherman and Mildred team of White Pekins and they were wonderful. They were full of fun and made us laugh all the time.

Thanks for the memories!

Stella and Stella's Mom