Friday, November 16, 2007

The Duck In My Tub, Part 3

Hi Folks!

Picking up where I left off last time...

The weather was a bit of an issue, during Pretty Boy's stay. While I really don't know all that much about birds, I do know that they have very delicate lungs. Apparently, those lungs are not supposed to be subjected to any greater difference in temperature than twenty degrees. Which means that if the house your bird lives in is a toasty seventy-five degrees, you can't take him out for a stroll in your yard when the temperature is thirty. When I asked Dr. Susan whether this rule applied to ducks, too, she suggested that, as a precaution, I should close the bathroom heating vent, and open the bathroom window.

As we'd had some unseasonably warm weather, I didn't mind having the window open for the first couple of days Pretty Boy was here. Since all that duck poop stank to high heaven, I left the window open while I cleaned the tub and floor every morning. But when the temperature dipped to a mid-November average of 40-something, it got pretty darn cold in that bathroom. This was fine for Pretty Boy - who's a bit of a porker, as far as Domestic Ducks go, but I've got a lot less body fat than he does, so cleaning the bathroom felt a lot like scrubbing down an igloo.

Every morning, I put on a pair of latex gloves, then pulled up all the (by now) pooped-on leaves I'd left him the day before. I'd wipe down the floor not once, but three times, just to make sure there weren't any poop cooties still lurking about. Having a duck with delicate lungs made me go green in a hurry: my usual cleaning products gave off enough toxic fumes that 1) they've surely taken months, if not years, off my life, and, 2) I have no idea why I still use them. But if they made me cough and gag, imagine what they would do to a small animal.

I consulted Bob (Tarte) on the issue and he recommended looking for something organic at the store. This I did, putting my faith in a product that promised not to give off any fumes at all. Thank God they were telling the truth. I might just stick with that Seventh Generation brand cleaner even after Pretty Boy's gone!

In any case, while I cleaned the bathroom, Pretty Boy spent his time in the critter carrier trying to escape. I would set the carrier out on the patio, and from the open bathroom window, I could hear the metal cage door rattling in its' moorings as Pretty Boy (who was, by now, I think, developing a bit of an anger issue) bit into whatever he could get his bill around, and gave it a good thrashing in the obvious hope of effecting a break-out. It never worked, but you've gotta give him credit for not giving up.

Giving up was what I worried about most. Sometimes, when a wild animal is confined - no matter how good the intentions of the jailer - sometimes, they just sort of give up and die. They stop eating, and that's the beginning of the end. When Pretty Boy's appetite began to drop off, I started worrying even more. It was bad enough that his eye didn't seem to be healing as it should; the lack of appetite was another matter entirely.

It's not as if you can sit them down and have a talk about why you're holding them prisoner in your bathroom. Pretty Boy had no way of knowing that he was very likely going back to the pond in a short period of time. Indeed, he had no way of knowing that the whole situation was temporary. So there was no way to convince him that he should eat more. As it happens, the only real solution to the problem was force-feeding, and I had absolutely no intention of doing that.

So, yet again, I consulted Bob. He suggested offering Pretty Boy anything I could think of - chopped-up veggies from my fridge, or even just some grass from the yard. The vegetables were a vexing issue: for one thing, I didn't have any on hand (because I don't like them, that's why!), and for another, the one time I tried giving the ducks chopped-up kale, they all looked at me like I was an ax murderer and dashed away to safety. I was already giving Pretty Boy dishes of cracked corn, and cat food, but I made a mental note to pick up a bag of never-been-tried-on-these-guys duck pellets, and threw down a portion of grass just in case.

We were so close to the finish line - only three more days! I hated the idea of having to quit too soon and risk losing that eye, and his freedom, in order to save his life. It was a frustrating paradox, and what sort of life would it be with only one eye and no pond, anyway? I ramped up my prayers to the Critter Gods figuring, can't hurt, might help. Sometimes, that's the hardest part of helping animals: the fact that a goodly portion of the healing is out of your hands.

That's all for now, folks. I'm off to buy a bag of duck pellets. Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!

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