Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Duck In My Tub, Part 6

Hi Folks!

At last, we reach the end of Pretty Boy's adventure in my bathroom.

There were a couple of firsts on the Monday that Pretty Boy was due to be released. For a start, it was the first time I'd ever spent a birthday in the dentist's chair getting a root canal. Hopefully, it will be the last time!

I'd been dealing with an ever-increasing amount of tooth pain for over a week. It had gotten to the point where I couldn't even eat my expensive after-dinner chocolates. This was pure torture: the box of Lily O'Brien's Sticky Toffees sat there on my kitchen counter innocently enough, but I knew from experience that eating so much as one of them would produce the sort of pain that only a shotgun to the head would relieve. By the time I got to the dentist on Monday, I - a life-long needle phobic - was actually looking forward to a shot or two of novocaine.

There was a time limit involved with Monday's root canal: I had to get Pretty Boy to Dr. Susan's in an hour and a half, and I didn't want to miss that appointment. The two dentists at the office conferred for some time before reaching a decision. Since it was my birthday, and since the tooth pain meant that cake was out of the question, my dentist decided to at least start the root canal process in the hopes that I'd get enough initial relief to be able to indulge my sweet tooth. It was a kind thing for him to do and, indeed, I was back to stuffing my face with sticky toffees in a matter of hours!

The dentist finished just under the deadline, leaving me with a temporary filling and another appointment to look forward to, and just enough time to get Pretty Boy to Dr. Susan's. Considering the driving distance involved, I gave serious thought to passing on the check-up and just dropping him back at the pond. But after seven days of duck poop all over my bathroom, and duck bites every time I administered his eye drops, I decided that all our efforts needed official closure.

In truth, I was afraid Dr. Susan would want him to spend a few more days at my place. I just wasn't confident about that eyelid healing well, and I didn't think she'd be, either. I had promised Pretty Boy that on Monday, he was going home, and I meant to keep that promise. At the same time, though, he and I had been through too much together to ruin his chances now by not following through. So we made the trip across town to Dr. Susan's, which brings us to the other first that I mentioned.

You would think that after seven whole days of togetherness - days in which I had to pick Pretty Boy up every time he went in the tub, and pick him up again to get him out of the tub; days in which I had to put him in the carrier, and hold on to him while I gave him the eyedrops; days in which I sat on the toilet lid and talked to him while he splashed around in the water; days in which I conscientiously changed the bathroom lighting from "day" to "evening at a softly-lit pond" via a nightlight; days in which I struggled to find tempting morsels for him to eat - you'd think that after all that, he'd be at least somewhat disposed to a small show of affection from me. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong.

The fact is, Pretty Boy never stopped growling at me until he realized I wasn't kidding about taking him back to the pond. I understood: he was in a strange place, he missed Girlfriend Duck and all his pals, the buffet wasn't up to standard, and I was the instrument by which all this unpleasantness came to pass. I didn't hold the growling against him, but I can tell you this: when Dr. Susan leaned over and kissed Pretty Boy on the head during that check-up, I was speechless, and more than a little indignant. And it wasn't even so much her kiss - it was the fact that he let her do it! That little stinker!

While I was surprised by Pretty Boy's sudden magnanimity, I was more surprised by the turn of events: remember that bit of griping I did a few blogs ago about how Dr. Susan seemed to be immune to Pretty Boy's charms? Apparently, I was wrong. Perhaps the charm incubation period simply took a little longer with her. Once I'd recovered my wits, I confess my first thought was the rather triumphant, "Ha! I was right! No one can resist Pretty Boy!"

The good news was this: Dr. Susan was happy with how Pretty Boy's eyelid had healed, and agreed that he could go back to the pond. She held off removing the stitches, saying he should come back for another check in ten days time. When I told her I wasn't sure he'd let me get near him again that soon, she said that was o.k., that eventually, the stitches would dissolve on their own. Either way, it was time to get him back where he belonged.

I drove him straight to McKinnon's Pond, telling him repeatedly along the way that he'd be seeing, "Pretty Lady, and Big Boy, and Ethel, and Peepers, and Ducky!, and Girlfriend..." Whether he knew the names or not, he was certainly familiar with the tone of voice I used whenever I spoke those names. He sat thoughtfully in the carrier, tilting his head to look up at me and no doubt hoping like hell that I was a human who kept my word.

I set the carrier on the ground and aimed the open door toward the pond. Pretty Boy did what he always does when I release him - he headed for the water; his friends could wait. Once in the pond, he did his usual "I'm home!" dance, in which he paddles back and forth, opening and closing his mouth but uttering not one sound. It's as if he's too thrilled for words. He passed up that day's feed, but I knew he'd rejoin the crowd in no time. Sure enough, there he was the next day, shouldering his way toward the front and gobbling up corn as though the week at my place had never happened.

It was much too quiet at home, then. This was unexpected considering he'd actually made very little noise in the bathroom. Apart from a few minutes of splashing each day, you would never have known a duck was in there. So I didn't understand at first why the place felt so quiet and empty. You'd think I'd be glad to have my bathroom back, with no more slimey green poop, and feathers, and cracked corn all over the place. You'd think that, but all I really felt was a disconcerting void.

I'd experienced this once before, when a terminally ill cat that I'd been caring for night and day for over a year finally died. Once he was gone, so was my purpose, my noble endeavor. I had given that wonderful cat everything I had - money-wise, time- and energy-wise, and certainly more love than I knew I was capable of - and between the two of us, we managed to cheat death for quite a while. After he was gone, though, I no longer felt noble, I just felt empty.

And so it was with Pretty Boy, though he was alive and well with years ahead of him. Once he was back at the pond, I had no place to channel my caring-for-critters energy. I would survive the transition, but first, I spent two very depressed days sleeping until noon. Eventually, I'd drag myself out of bed, get myself together, and head to the pond for the usual feedings.

On Wednesday, it poured with rain. The ducks don't like any sort of rain-deflecting gear (like unbrellas, or even hoods), so there I was, the Crazy-as-usual Critter Lady, hunched down in the rain, cheerfully calling, "Where's Peepers? How ya doin', Lady? There's Ducky!," and enjoying the hell out of things despite the weaher. There may be better ways to spend your time, but offhand, I can't think of them.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. Having no fixed holiday plans, I emailed Bob to find out how vegetarians do Turkey Day, then headed to the pond for a feed. It was probably selfish of me to race down to water's edge when I saw those parents walking their children over to feed the ducks. Well, I'd just done my twelve-minutes-one-way commute, the sky was spitting tiny little ice balls, and I was in no mood for waiting while the little monsters scared the ducks with their too-loud voices and overhand bread tossing (it's not a baseball game, folks, it's nervous animals!).

It's funny how parents think that they're enriching their children's lives with these experiences, but I never hear them take the opportunity to teach the little ones about kindness to animals, or how to behave in their presence.

In any case, I made sure my guys got a goodly portion of healthy food before the children fed them junk, and I lingered a few minutes for good measure, just to show those people what's possible with the ducks if you mind your manners. Pretty Boy came right up to the front of the pack, and his eye looked great. If you didn't know there'd been an injury, you certainly wouldn't be able to tell now. Which made that week in my bathroom pretty damned rewarding.

But I've gotta tell you: I really miss that growling goofus!

That's all for now, folks. I hope you've enjoyed reading about Pretty Boy's adventure in my bathroom. Next time, I want to tell you about my cat, Spanky, who has a low self-esteem problem. In the meantime, please be kind to all the critters!

No comments: