Friday, September 3, 2010

Donnie the Duckling

Oh, I'm one proud mom. The duckling my husband, Edgar, and I found while walking along the Walnutport Canal last Sunday is in love with his new mommy. And I love him back.
The more I think of it the more I believe someone may have dropped Donnie off at the canal with the best intentions: so that he could be free and cavort with other ducks. Perhaps someone who was passing by the "duck stand" at Tractor Farm and Supply decided to liberate one of the many baby ducks for sale, but the savior didn't realize that Donnie would need a mother for protection, warmth, and lessons in survival. Late summer is not the right time of year for ducklings: Donnie's presence was an aberration.
But he's safe with us.

Each time I've raised a wild creature, I've come away from the experience a more fulfilled, more energetic, more thoughtful person. I regain perspective on life and what really matters, as well a things that don't: not the gorgeous shoes at Bloomingdale's, not the Cache dress, and not the lip-smacking Southwest cheesesteak at River Walck Saloon, though it is very tasty. When people and animals spend time together, all the other, man-made, unreal stuff pales in comparison. Time spent with an animal reinstills values like trust, honesty, and self-appreciation. My pets love me for myself; therfore, I love myself.

I am so lucky to have found Donnie. He is the ducky equivalent of Li'l Ralphie, who we found in his most needy moment, too. As we have saved Li'l Ralphie and Donnie, so the kitten and the duck have saved a part of me. We have buoyed each other. They are both alive and thriving because of us, and I, at least, have another dimension, another perspective, to my already multi-faceted personality.

This duck adoption has afforded me another talent: I can speak duck language. I'm a duck whisperer. How do I know I can communicate with ducks? Well, Donnie eyes me intently when I stoop down to offer him food, which he doesn't take unless I begin to tap on the floor where the grain lies. Tap, tap, tap--my finger stumps the newspapers beside him. "Come on, Donnie," I say in a ducky whisper, and I tap some more.
He regards me, head bent to the side, concentrating. And not a second or two later, he is pecking alongside my finger. "Good boy," I say in a soft whispy voice.
In the swimming pool I act like a mother duck would: hunker down with only my head above water so that, in case he needs me, I'm right there. And, like a human kid, he swims away briefly but always, within seconds, checks in with his human to ensure that his world is okay. Then, away he goes, but never more than a foot away, and then he returns to the mother ship again.
Today when we went to the pool, I taught him how to catch dead bugs on the water's surface. Donnie has keen eyesight, for sure. I set him down about a foot from me, with the floating bug between us. Frantically, Donnie paddled back to him hu-mom, but he couldn't help noticing the bug. BAM! he hit it just like that, and then it disappeared down his throat.
"Good boy!" I whispered to him. I was so excited, but I didn't want to frighten him with loud cheering and applause. So, the afternoon we spent together in the pool-- Donnie a bit above water level standing on my right shoulder with me gliding slowly around the pool looking for dead insects.
Donnie is amazing: he's intellligent, he's fast, and he trusts me to do the right thing for him. It's pretty enlightening how, in less than a week, my own life has grown because of this little duck. Leave it to an animal to restore self-worth, trust, honesty, and goodness just when human fellowship has tried to rend these qualities worthess. Nothing refurbishes a battered soul like the uncritical friendship of an animal.

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