Friday, August 29, 2008

Pretty Boy's Latest Stay In My Tub

Hi Folks!

Welcome to Kelly's Critter Talk! I'm glad you're here!

Well, Pretty Boy's latest visit went off without a hitch. His eye responded to the antibiotic drops and I took him back to the pond as scheduled. He's always so pleased to be home again that he's developed his own little happy dance: he paddles back and forth in the water, opening and closing his bill as if he's too excited to speak. He searches out Girlfriend Duck, makes sure she's o.k., then zips around the pond some more, like he can't believe his good fortune. It's the same every time.

I used his latest stay in my bathroom as an opportunity to reinforce the idea that he and I would be sharing the space during his visits. Pretty Boy wasn't terribly keen on that, and never really did get used to me walking in and conducting my business. He'd eye me suspiciously while I brushed my teeth/styled my hair/used the toilet, and growled if I came too close. When I'd swab the floor with paper towels - attempting to clean up yet another pile of duck poop - he'd squawk and nudge my hand with his bill as if to say, "I don't like this! Back off!"

I'm convinced that Pretty Boy knows perfectly well who I am: that human who's been feeding him since he was a duckling. Considering that he's about five or six years old now, it's been a lengthy relationship. I've lost track of how many times I've taken him to his various vets. He's been a guest in my bathroom four or five weeks out of the last year alone. In spite of all this, I remain somewhat of a stranger to him, or at least, a danger. I tower over him. I control his day - from when he gets tub time to when he's caged, to when we go outside for exercise. And I dictate what he eats while he's here. For an alpha duck like Pretty Boy, it must be hard to take.

So it should have come as no surprise that as I drove him back to the pond - in our new fashion of carrier in the front seat with the top off so he can stand up and get a look around - Pretty Boy took advantage of every opportunity to chomp my hand. And he can pinch you good, if he's got a mind to! "Pretty Boy," I'd ask him, "what're you doing?!" His answer was always the same: another chomp. I try not to take it personally.

Happily, my favorite duck is back where he belongs, hanging out with Girlfriend Duck and relishing the cooler weather we've been having. For a duck who really enjoyed biting me, he doesn't seem inclined to hold a grudge: he's put himself within grabbing range at every subsequent feed, and eats out of my hand when I offer him a fistful of corn. Clearly, he's developed a measure of trust in me, even if he does resent being imprisoned in my bathroom. I'm just glad that I'm able to help a critter in need.

That's all for now, folks. Thanks for stopping by! I'll be back again soon with more animal adventures to tell you about. In the meantime, please be kind to all the critters!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Favorite Duck

Hi Folks!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you're all having a great summer.

Well, as I write this, Pretty Boy Duck is back in my bathroom yet again. This will be his third eye infection in five months. The good news is that during the cold winter months ahead, it's entirely likely that he won't experience any more infections. The bad news is that next summer will probably be fraught with the same chronic problem that plagued him this summer.

In the interest of convenience, I've tried to streamline the duck-keeping process. Taping plastic drop cloth to the floor really cuts down on clean-up time, while cracking the bathroom door when I'm in the vicinity provides some much-needed ventilation and really cuts down on the duck poop smell.

Despite all the care I put into hosting my favorite duck, Pretty Boy continues to be a biting, growling force to be reckoned with. He's not above trying anything that will make my tasks more unpleasant, and he's not the least bit interested in behaving. When I wrap him in a towel at eyedrop-application time, he bites the towel. When my hand gets in the way, he bites my hand instead. It's my good fortune that he doesn't have any teeth!

I'd given considerable thought to the idea of buying a figure-eight harness - with a view to walking Pretty Boy on a leash in my back yard - but ultimately decided that, since the yard is fenced, letting him have a supervised walk around would be sufficient. My yard is bisected by a picket fence. For whatever reason, a previous owner chose not to continue the picket theme around the rest of the back yard. Instead, they used a nice, tall privacy fence. It's actually one of the reasons I bought the house: because nothing says "go away and leave me alone!" like a nice, tall privacy fence!

While the fence is pretty much duck-proof, I keep a close eye on his movements anyway. Pretty Boy spends his entire time outside looking for the exit. This is so obvious that there's no way I can be accused of anthropomorphism. He pokes his bill at the fence, and cocks an eye at the cracks to see if they might be big enough to squeeze through. He runs through the ivy, across the mulched bed, and around the shrubs. All the while, his head swivels back and forth like a periscope, intent on finding the way out.

We've had a bit of drought, the last couple months, so I've been putting my Playground Monitor time to good use watering some of my plants. When Pretty Boy wanders within range, I've taken to hosing him down as well. Interestingly, he seems to like the showers, and always turns himself to face into the blast. Every now and then, he'll try to catch some water in his mouth. Then he finds a shady spot to do a little preening. So far, he seems to enjoy the twice-daily excursions out into the fresh air and sunshine.

Meanwhile, getting him to eat enough is always a concern. Pretty Boy does eat some of his cracked corn, and picks at the duck pellets, but it's only enough to get by. He doesn't eat nearly as much in my bathroom as he does at my feeds at the pond. I don't suppose he's working up much of an appetite huddled on the floor by my tub.

I always try to supplement Pretty Boy's diet with greens from the grocery store, whether he wants them or not. As I stood before a fairly impressive array of choices yesterday, I recalled what my friend Bob Tarte wrote in Enslaved by Ducks about feeding a sickly goose. Bob said that in his attempts to encourage the bird to eat, he would wander his yard searching for the choicest dandelion greens to offer his pet.

Standing idly in the produce section, my gaze wandered back and forth before it settled on a area marked "dandelion greens." But the rubber-banded bunch of greens on offer didn't look anything like what Bob had pulled from his yard. These greens where huge - the sort of thing you'd expect to find growing in the Chernobyl fallout zone. I bought them anyway, but Pretty Boy doesn't seem the least bit interested in trying them. Indeed, I've seen no evidence at all that he's eaten so much as one chopped-up, bite-sized piece. Figures.

In the meantime, we've got three more days before he's due to go back to the pond. Dr. P. and I agreed that we wanted to treat this infection more aggressively than the last one, so Pretty Boy's getting his eye drops three times a day instead of two, and staying a day longer in my bathroom than he did last time. It's not nearly as much of an inconvenience as you would think. Establishing a routine and sticking to it is the key to maintaining my sanity, and throwing in extras like exercise time in the yard serves to make things more interesting for my favorite duck.

That's all for now, folks. I'll be sure to keep you updated on Pretty Boy's latest stay in my bathroom. Until then, please be kind to all the critters!