Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Duck In My Tub, Part 2

Hi Folks!

Well, as I drove Pretty Boy to my house, my mind was spinning with the minutiae of Operation DuckTub. I'd need to get all the wash-my-face stuff out of the bathroom, and pick up the rug before he pooped on it. Food and water bowls - do I have any? Bedding for him to sleep on. My hair dryer. What else was I forgetting? I was suddenly overwhelmed by the enormity of the disruption to my routine, and the risk to his eye and future if I failed in my task. As always with duck emergencies, I consulted my friend and fowl expert, Bob Tarte.

Bob and his wife have been taking care of ducks and other fowl for years. He's got a barn and custom-built pens and everything. So I rely heavily on his knowledge and experience in these matters. What he told me was that ducks were easy to care for, though quite messy. Sounds pretty innocuous, doesn't it? In fact, "quite messy" was an understatement.

What I found out the hard way is that ducks seem to poop on an every-twelve-minutes schedule, and they'll do it wherever they are at the time. Bob's misrepresentation of the facts should in no way imply a lack of expertise; far from it. Bob knows his ducks and he's pretty darn generous about sharing what he knows with you. It's possible, though, that he was exacting revenge for some perceived slight, or interview-hogging on my part.

In any case, I was almost home before I realized that the house I'd just bought had an extra half bathroom. Initially, I had dismissed it as an unnecessary room that I didn't need and didn't want to have to clean. So I parked my bike in there for the winter, closed the door and completely forgot about it. What a relief to suddenly remember it! So I grabbed up all my necessities and put them in the half bath, then tried to make the full bathroom as duck-friendly as possible. In leiu of more suitable bedding, I tossed down a few handfuls of leaves courtesy of the big tree in my front yard. I filled the tub with cold water, opened the window, and put out food and water. It would have to do.

A routine quickly fell into place: First thing in the morning, I'd put Pretty Boy in the carrier, then set him out on the back patio to take the air while I cleaned up the tub and floor before I showered. After I was clean, I put him in the tub for his morning bath. How happy he was to dip his head underwater, flap his wings, and tend to his feathers! That morning bath was my favorite time of day with Pretty Boy, and I'd sit on the toilet and laugh as he paddled about in the tub.

Pretty Boy got an hour's-worth of tub time two or three times a day. Remember, Domestic Ducks are meant to live on farms, with barns and pastures, and maybe a creek or mud puddle for bathing. It's not like wild Mallards, who spend a great deal of time in the water. Pretty Boy and his fellows at the pond actually spend a goodly portion of their days on dry land. So I felt that his time in the tub was sufficient and indeed, he bathed and preened much more than I thought he would.

He adapted quite well to his circumstances, though I left him alone for a large part of the day. I had to - he made me feel completely unwelcome in my own bathroom. Every time I went in, he lowered his head and growled at me. The experts call it "hissing," but I mean to tell you, it's a growl! Talk about ungrateful! "Pretty Boy, you big doofus," I'd say to him, "I've known you since you were an egg!" He didn't care. He just wanted to let me know that he didn't appreciate this duck-in-the-bathroom business at all.

Meanwhile, I managed to get those daggone drops in his eye like I was supposed to. He didn't like that, either. I'd put him in the carrier to make the process easier. When I give one of my cats a pill, I crouch down on the floor and trap them between my legs. But you can't do that with a duck because they have air sacs under their wings, and if you squish their wings together, they feel like they're suffocating. So into the carrier he'd go, flapping his wings, protesting and muttering, "duck, duck, duck," like he does. And every time I tried to steer his head in an advantageous direction, Pretty Boy bit me!

I know what you're thinking: "That's ridiculous, Kelly, ducks don't have teeth!" You're right, they don't. But it doesn't stop them from clamping that bill down on you if they've a mind to, and believe it or not, they can grip you pretty firmly. So while I was kneeling there trying to help this goofus maintain his eyesight, I was getting pinched by a pissed off duck. "Pretty Boy, what're you doing?" I'd ask. That only made him bite harder, which was, evidently, a direct response to my question.

That's all for now, but stay tuned - we've still got five more days to go! In the meantime, please be kind to all the critters!

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