A just ducky tale of love, unconditional compassion

  • By Linda Bryant Smith Herald Columnist
  • Thursday, December 4, 2008 2:14pm
  • Life

Lord love a duck. Pop diva Britney Spears, 27, says she feels “old and boring.”

“I do go to bed like at 9:30 every night and I don’t go out or anything. You know what I mean?” Spears told a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine.

Let the pity party begin.

Lest we feel pangs of empathy for Spears, I’m detouring here to the tender love story of Tony the one-footed duck.

This begins with a trip to Salt Lake City for a wedding reception honoring my newest granddaughter, Lecia, 25.

She came to us fully grown when her dad married my daughter earlier this year.

After a family dinner, we heard about Tony.

Some 20 months ago, Lecia and her mom were at a feed store buying food for a pot-bellied pig (rescued after being abandoned at an animal shelter) when Lecia encountered a large box filled to the brim with day-old ducklings.

On the bottom, pecked and trampled, was a little guy with a mangled foot. When Lecia pointed out his condition, the clerk told her they’d take care of it when the store closed. They’d wring its neck.

“You can’t just kill him,” Lecia pleaded. “You have to help him.”

The clerk’s response was that crippling injuries occasionally happened to baby chicks and ducks. The policy was to kill them and if Lecia wanted a different outcome, she should take the duckling home with her.

And so she did.

She fashioned a tiny sling to carry the hatchling on her shoulder near her heart. She kept him there night and day the first week.

She fed him water and mashed grain with an eye dropper. She cleaned up after him, spreading sheets (washed daily) around her bedroom so he could learn to move on his own.

The withered foot swelled, a hideous color signaling rampant infection. A vet told her the foot needed to go, but it would be better if that happened without surgery. Antibiotics helped with the infection. Tony began to gain weight. Every day he seemed a little bigger — and a little messier.

When the withered foot fell off, Lecia and her mom, Kara, made makeshift support systems for the remaining stump, first with Q-tips, then with Popsicle sticks attached by tape.

“We tried just about everything we could think of to help him walk,” Lecia said.

She put him in a baby bathtub in the sink so he could try swimming. At first, he just swam in a circle, but then he adjusted his single paddle foot to a more central belly location and learned to control direction day by day.

The larger Tony became, the more serious the problem of duck poop. Lecia searched online and found a source for duck and goose “diapers.” It was a harness with appropriate coverage. She cut up disposable diapers to fit in the “catch” area.

As the weeks passed, Tony’s stump became thicker and stronger than a typical duck leg so that he was able to hobble. At first, his weight made him fall over backward. Again, as in the early swimming lesson, he found a way to adjust his center of gravity.

By summer he was outside in the yard, where a large pond had been created for his daily swims. It has a special shelf that enables him to go in and out easily despite his handicap. The three large dogs (also rescued animals) who share the yard with him are all his friends.

But Lecia is, now and forever, his mom. Since he could not move with her to the small home in the city she shares with Collin, they built him an extra-­special house.

It has a large Plexiglas window that provides ample daylight in the winter and can be removed to let in a breeze when summer sun bakes the yard. His sleeping area at the rear has a heating pad for cold nights.

When his “mom” comes for a visit, Tony raises a quackin’ racket until she appears to give him ducky love, essential to his happiness.

“You can’t imagine how sweet the smell is when you bury your nose in the thick, soft down on his breast,” she told me. “It’s perfect.”

Oh, this granddaughter’s a keeper. She knows love given unconditionally always returns in joyous full measure.

With such joy, life is never boring.

Pop diva Spears should give it try.

Linda Bryant Smith writes about growing older and surviving the golden years with a little sass and a generous helping of attitude. You can reach her at ljbryantsmtih@yahoo.com.

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