Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Great Crayfish Rescue!

Hi Folks!

Welcome back! Thanks for stopping by!

I want to tell you about an interesting experience I had yesterday. We've been having some spring-like temperatures on and off for a couple of weeks, and yesterday was a fine example: the sun was shining, the sky was a brilliant blue, and I was in desperate need of some exercise. I set off for a walk around the neighborhood late in the afternoon.

I usually walk around this area filled with nothing but ranch houses; visually, it's pretty boring. Everyone's inside waiting for warmer weather, so I don't even get the pleasure of a wave or a "hello!" On walks like that, I generally just let my mind wander, paying little or no attention to what's around me. Luckily, though, when the leaf in the street started walking toward me, I had the presence of mind to stop and get a better look.

You may have noticed from pictures on my website that I wear glasses. The prescription is up-to-date, too, so I can't blame my poor vision on old lenses. Personally, I think that wires get crossed in my brain and don't translate things properly, for the "leaf" that I initially saw walking toward me turned out to be a very large crayfish! I haven't seen one of those since I was a kid!

You can imagine my surprise. How on earth did a water-critter end up on the pavement a good mile away from the nearest creek?! I wondered if the over-flowing drains had anything to do with it. Like, maybe the poor thing got swept away by a strong current and ended up being spit out of a drainage grate in the street. It was the only explanation I could come up with.

He looked an awful lot like a spider with all those legs. And I hate spiders. But there was no question of leaving him in the street to be run over. Moving him into someone's yard didn't seem to fit the bill, either. He belonged in a creek, and there just so happens to be one running through the property behind my back yard. Gingerly, I picked the critter up and set him in the palm of my gloved hand. He remained there, immobile, for so long, that I thought I'd killed him. Turned out he was just taking stock of his new situation.

I wasn't terribly keen to cut my walk short so I kept going, crayfish in tow. I must've looked ridiculous, walking down the street staring at my open hand! When I rounded the last corner, changing direction just enough for the sun to shine down on the newly-christened "Bubby," the crayfish seemed to wake up. Now he wanted to walk, too, and I had to keep putting one hand in front of the other as he walked across them in an earnest attempt at escape.

I made a quick stop at my house to grab the camera: I wanted some proof that this rescue really happened because I was fairly certain that even the people who know me wouldn't believe me. I put Bubby in a bowl that he couldn't crawl out of, took a few snaps, then made my way to the creek.

Owing to all the snow we've gotten lately, which is now melting considerably faster than the ground can absorb it, the creek was moving fast and high. I entertained more than a few passing thoughts about the possibility of my falling in and being swept away, and concluded that I really didn't want to go swimming just yet. So I endeavored to be extra careful.

When I told this story to Mandy out at the Healing Barn, she teasingly asked me whether I'd weighed the crayfish's new homesite options, or just tossed him down any old place. It must be said that Mandy relishes every opportunity she can find to zing me, and I handed her this one on a silver platter! I mean, of COURSE I chose his new homesite carefully! Hell, I spent a good ten minutes in a lather of indecision over the area on one side of the bridge, which consisted mainly of broken chunks of pavement, and the other side of the bridge, which was mostly twigs and the usual sort of detritus you find creekside.

Twigs and detritus are, of course, preferable to chunks of pavement. But there was a hitch: the twiggy area could only be got to by first passing through a couple of trees with branches full of thorns longer than my fingers! Once I made it past that obstacle, then there was the loose earth to worry about: I wasn't sure whether I was actually standing on solid ground or just a bunch of sticks that were floating at water's edge.

I know what you're thinking. "Jeez, Kelly, all this fuss over a stupid crayfish! Why bother?" My answer is, "Why not bother?" Where do you draw the line and stop helping? It's o.k. to help dogs and ducks, but the crayfish of the world are on their own?! I swear to you that I don't go looking for these things, but there he was, a critter in need, so I stepped up to the plate and helped. He most surely would've died otherwise, and I didn't want that on my conscience.

So I trod very carefully on the sticks and twigs. I chose a spot where he could rest and take stock first, and then hop in the water when he was ready. I picked him up out of the bowl and gently set him down. Then I crouched there, waiting, to make sure he knew what to do. After considerable assessment on his part, Bubby slowly made his way across the sticks until he found a place he felt comfortable with. Watching for a few more minutes while nothing happened, I concluded that he was indeed where he wanted to be and I carefully made my way back through the obstacle course.

That's where the story ends, folks. I'm hoping that Bubby lives happily ever afer, but I'll never know for sure. Some rescues are like that: you do your best, then you set them free and hope for a good outcome. If nothing else, this story certainly proves that the Critter Lady will rescue just about anything!

In other news, Pretty Boy got his last Baytril pill today. His eye infection seems to have cleared up. Dr Susan - who stitched up his torn eyelid last November - said very firmly that in her estimation, birds need two good feet, two good wings, and two good eyes. We already know that Pretty Boy's half a wing short, there, but I take the "two good eyes" part very seriously, so I'll have Dr. Chrys check him out next week, just to be on the safe side.

Well, that's all for now, folks! Thanks so much for stopping in! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

That Troublemaking Duck!

Hi Folks!

Thanks for stopping by again.

Well, I should've known that the next duck problem would involve the same duck who's been at the center of every other problem! Pretty Boy is just prone to bad luck, I guess. I'd been noticing that his eye looked funny, at the last few feeds. His third eyelid was partially covering his eye - the same eye we'd had all that trouble with last November. I couldn't imagine what the problem was, and to be honest with you, I spent a day or two procrastinating before I made an appointment with Dr. Chrys.

It's not that I don't worry about the ducks - you know I do. It's just that taking them to the vet's office is a hassle of epic proportions. First there's the grab 'n go, wherein I scoop up the duck in question, try to wrap my arms around his wings before he can leverage them in an escape attempt, then chuck him into the waiting critter carrier. That's probably the easiest part of the exercise.

On the drive to the animal hospital, Pretty Boy is guaranteed to poop several times in the carrier. In the middle of winter, with all the windows up, it's not the nicest smell I can think of. But Pretty Boy's not a big fan of these forced vet visits, so a puddle or two to underscore his feelings is understandable. He'll go on to leave several souveniers in the exam room, as well.

Because these visits tend to be last-minute, the kind staff at the hospital squeeze us in between several other clients. So once they put us in an exam room, we tend to be there for a good twenty to thirty minutes before Dr. Chrys comes in. I'll let Pretty Boy out of the carrier, and he'll spend some time investigating the room. He always has an uncanny knack for locating the door, but when I opened it, on this latest trip, and offered to let him wander down the hall, he declined. He chose instead to hunker down under the exam table, facing the wall.

He does that out at the pond, too. I have a picture I took of him a year or so ago, during a summer feed. I was sitting on the ground, surrounded by ducks, and when I looked around to take stock of things, I found Pretty Boy about eight feet away, hunkered down on his tummy, with his back to the crowd. It was the funniest thing, like he'd had enough of the all the ducks and just turned his back on us. When I called to him, he refused to look around. That's Pretty Boy: a little wierd but definitely his own duck!

In any case, Dr. Chrys finally came in to have a look at her favorite duck. Some things had changed since she'd seen him last: most notably, his attitude had taken a turn for the worst. During his time in my bathtub, I gave Pretty Boy free reign to express every feeling he had that week - and judging from his comments, all those feelings were distinctly negative! But I understood. After all, I wouldn't want to be held hostage in some strange, stinky place, comepletely alone and worried about my Girlfriend Duck and all the others. So I let him have his say and I didn't try to sweet talk him out of being crabby.

Now, though, he was using his extensive vocabulary of honks and growls on Dr. Chrys! She didn't take it personally - she understood that he wasn't happy about having been rudely yanked away from his pile of corn at the pond. I told her my observations about his third eyelid, and upon close examination, Dr. Chrys agreed that there did seem to be an infection in his eyelid. She said that Dr. Susan's surgery on the torn eyelid had clearly been a success, but that Pretty Boy might now be prone to difficulties related to the original trauma. Rats!

Dr. Chrys administered some eyedrops to get the duck started, then handed me the usual Baytril regimen - half a pill crushed up in some bread chunks once a day, and, if the antibiotic didn't do the trick, she gave me a bottle of eyedrops as well, just in case. Oh, crap! Not another duck in my tub!!! Determined to avoid that at all costs - if for no other reason than that mating season is upon us, and how would his two girlfriends hold up for a week without him? - I found myself having to re-learn how to be smarter than my favorite duck, in order to get those pills down his gullet.

I know what you're thinking: jeez, Kelly, if you're not smarter than the average duck, then you really have problems!!! You'd think that, but I'm here to tell you, sometimes humans are so busy trying to think outside the box, they don't bother to think like the critter they're dealing with. So let's break it down here: I'd just dragged Pretty Boy off to the vet, who man-handled him and put drops in his eye. Once I released him at the pond, he wasn't inclined to get close to me for a while. Which meant that he wouldn't take the proffered bread chunks out of my hand like he ordinarily would. Now what do you do? He's gotta have his crushed up pill every day, so now what do you do?

Believe it or not, it took me a couple hours of anxious examination of the problem before I came up with the solution. Pretty Boy wasn't going to take the bread chunks out of my hand no matter what. That left the one thing I knew he would do: eat them in the water. I could toss the chunks to him one at a time, and the greedy little stinker would eat them right up. Which is exactly what he did. Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the hardest ones to find, don't you think?

In any case, we're still in the middle of the Baytril regimen, so it's early days yet, but I'm cautiously optimistic that his eye is clearing up and the swelling is going down. In the event that I'm wrong, I'm absolutely prepared to bring him home and do the whole bathtub-and-eyedrops routine again - although this time, I think I'd bring along Girlfriend Duck to keep him company. I'd hate for her to worry about where he'd gotten to.

That's all for now, folks. I'll keep you posted on that silly duck's latest medical issue. Here's hoping he heals up just fine without another visit to my bathroom! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Hi Folks!

Thanks for joining me today! I know it's been a while since I posted my last blog - I've been stuck in the grip of the winter doldrums. Heck, just about everyone here in Northwest Ohio has had enough of winter. I bet you have, too! The good news is that spring is on the way.

You may well be skeptical about this, given the massive dumping of snow the entire midwest endured recently. I think some areas got four inches. That's the least amount of snow that fell. Here in Whoville, it was more like eight or nine inches, with blowing and drifting winds.

I was so disheartened by winter's insistence on sticking around that I laid down on the couch, put my head on my boyfriend's lap, and slept an entire afternoon away. He didn't mind too much because the remote was nearby and some Nascar race was on t.v. Even so, that's a good four hours of my life that I'll never have back again!

In any case, the temperature outside has been creeping up ever so slowly, the past few days, and there's finally a promise of spring in the air: some of the summer songbirds are back already, waking me up too early with their cheerful music; the air itself smells of the rich, damp earth and hints at the blooming season to come; I can finally stop wearing my coat with the 800 geese-worth of down in it. But none of these things confirms that spring is coming quite like my ducks do.

As critters of the wild, they see and hear and feel unknown-to-me signs of the changing seasons. Maybe they, too, smell something in the air, but they clearly operate on a different timetable, a different schedule, than we humans. Indeed, all animals seem to know things that we don't. For instance, I've noticed that some years, the horses at the Healing Barn grow their wooly winter coats earlier than other years. And sometimes those coats are extra-shaggy, too. I always assume that they know something about the winter to come that we humans don't.

So I've been mindful of the fact that while winter seems to not want to let go anytime soon, the ducks are behaving as though spring is already here: Freckle Duck, who enjoyed a certain amount of independence during the cold months, is again being shadowed by the three optimists who staked their claims to her last year. Where she goes, those three big drakes always follow - a thing that never fails to amuse me: it's nice to see that she's got a fan base!

Pretty Boy and Girlfriend Duck spent the whole winter hanging around together, but now Ducky has joined them. I'm not sure why, though it's possible that Ducky is vying for Pretty Boy's attention. And while some of the other Domestics may not have paired off yet, they've begun the spring ritual of dividing up the turf nonetheless.

I assume this has to do with staking a claim to a nesting site. Everyone wants their own bit of property, and eventually, there will be nests hidden all around the far side of the pond. The Ethels will nest close to each other over by the fence near the interstate. Pretty Boy and Girlfriend Duck like the shrubbery under the "McKinnon's Pond" sign near the parking strip. Pretty Lady likes the shrubs under the apartment building windows. Freckle Duck likes the clump of wild bushes growing right next to the water.

Once Officer Jeff showed me how to find the nests, last spring, I faithfully made the rounds five days a week, picking up all the Domestic duck eggs and disposing of them in a respectful fashion. Since the Domestics are all prolific egg-layers, it was the only way to control the population. I picked up eggs every week day for three months!

Since the ducks have already begun to pair off, I've been wondering how soon I'll need to start the routine again. This year, though, in an effort to keep the ducks from going off in search of better nesting sites (that I won't be able to find!), I've decided to try replacing their fertile eggs with fresh-from-the-store chicken eggs.

My understanding is that the ducks won't know the difference, and will eventually give up on the eggs when they fail to hatch. This approach makes more sense than simply removing the duck eggs, which just encouraged the ducks to lay more eggs. I'll let you know how the experiment turns out!

Anyway, even though the weather may still be dicey where you are - and the forecast here for the next few days is promising increasing cold - know that the most important signs of spring are well in hand and already happening, even if your thermometer says otherwise! I'll trust my ducks over the local weatherman any day!

That's all for now, Folks. Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!