My Mighty Miss Duck
The Arrival of Miss Duck
Ducks like to fly in formation with their friends. Once in a while they can become separated from their party. Sometimes they even choose to become separated. I had one individual little duck like that who was flying over my backyard one day and spotted me. He circled and landed twenty feet from me. He quack-quacked his introductions to me and asked if I happened to have any duck food to share with him. I told him I did not, but I had some wild bird seed which I was sprinkling in this corner of the yard for my various Arizona feathered friends including a flock of lovebirds which always visited. I told him he was welcome to help himself. He asked if he could also have some cold fresh water. I was quite happy to oblige him by showing him where the water bowl stood by the patio. He followed me to the bowl and mentioned that the water felt very warm, even hot. I agreed and refilled the bowl with cold tap water from the kitchen sink.
And so began our friendship.
I called him Miss Duck because at the time I didn't have a clue that he was a male. He was a beautiful male mallard.
As the weeks passed, Miss Duck dropped by to visit my backyard and food supplies several times, but not every day. Whenever he did come to visit, though, he circled in the air above our house, honking loudly, "Incoming, incoming" before gliding in for a perfect landing. I always enjoyed his visits. If I was in the house when he landed on the back lawn, he would waddle forward to the sliding patio doors and stand there quacking until he could see me walking through the dining room toward him.
There are several man-made lakes in the Mesa and Gilbert area of Greater Phoenix where we lived, so I imagined Miss Duck often flew to the nearby community lakes to socialize when he wasn't in my neighborhood.
It was about a month after I'd first met Miss Duck that I adopted a frightened little Pomeranian from the local dog shelter. I visited the dog a couple times before I decided for sure I wanted to adopt her. By then, unfortunately, several other people decided they wanted to adopt her. A raffle was held. I won.
On the day I brought Shadow home from the dog pound, I parked in our garage, carried Shadow through the house in my arms, opened the back sliding door of the house and set her down on the back patio to wait for me there in the fenced yard. I closed the sliding glass patio door and went into the garage to unload the car. I heard my little dog begin to bark. I planned on joining her in the backyard as soon as I got her newly purchased bed and food into the house. I knew she would take awhile to feel safe and calm in the new environment.
Suddenly, I heard the barking escalate to frenzied yelps. The image of Miss Duck flashed through my mind. I ran to the patio door, flung it open and looked incredulously at this little dog straddled across a very dead-looking duck on the grass.
I yelled. I chased little Shadow away and cried my way to the sorry little feathery body.
My eyesight is not good without my reading glasses and I didn't have my glasses on. But I watched and blinked and watched some more, thinking I had possibly seen a slight movement. Could the duck be playing dead?
I quickly telephoned Norma, the lady who lived behind us. She was known as a bird expert. I asked her if she could come over. I explained to her what had happened. She arrived within three minutes at the front door and in a no-nonsense manner, walked straight through the house (on my white carpet) to the backyard. She picked up Miss Duck.
"No, he's not dead. He's just in safe mode. He's okay. If he was dead, his neck would be drooping."
Miss Duck was a boy and was not a member of Norma's flock.
I followed suit with the use of the masculine pronoun and I asked Norma if he was one of hers. She had over two hundred birds on her property. Norma is 'grandfathered' into the area with her property rights so she is allowed to keep her hobby farm beside the subdivision where there are rules about how many animals are allowed on each property. She knew all of her birds. She said this one wasn't one of hers, but he had come to visit her ducks a couple of times.
Norma offered to take Miss Duck home and make sure he was fed and happy before nightfall. She told me this duck probably wouldn't risk flying in to visit me anymore. I knew that was best since I wasn't about to give up my sweet new dog, but still I felt a tug at my heart when I realized I might not see Miss Duck again. But I knew the duck needed to stay away for his own sake.
An Ode to Miss Duck
A few weeks later while I was taking my usual daily walk along the canal behind the subdivision, I had a stunning surprise. When I got home a half hour later, I wrote this set of anguished thoughts.
There you are
Below the hydro electric tower
Along the unsightly canal.
Elegant in death as in life.
Body facing upward, neck and head turned backwards,
Eye half-open. Yet still regal.
Your purple patch as beautiful today as yesterday.
Did you suffer long?
I lean closer to be certain your breast is still.
My eyesight is poor.
My heart quickens.
Miss Duck, might you be playing dead again?
You are gone.
Why is my heart breaking?
Now you fly with millions of your kind
Beyond this earthly veil.
Surely a place so near -- yet unseen by human sight.
You are homeward bound,
Beautiful male duck.
Soar high and free.
Upon the sand at this canal lay the lifeless duck.
Wondering How I Knew it was Miss Duck?
You might be wondering how I knew it was my Miss Duck?
Well, I didn't know really. I just assumed because he hadn't come back to visit again. He was the only duck in my little world.
The following week Norma was on her property adjacent to mine and was out among her pear trees while I was out in my back yard. She called to me and we walked toward each other to meet and speak at the fence. Arizona, as you may know, is comprised mostly of sand. The fences in Arizona, generally are usually six-feet tall and made of solid sand-bricks. Therefore, Norma and I couldn't see each other due to the height of the bricks, but we conversed.
Norma said, “Your buddy has been flying in for meals here every couple of days. He's doing well and gets along with all the ducks in my flock. He might even head north with them, you never know.”
I blinked back tears.
I said, “No, I think he died. I saw him at the canal, dead.”
Norma laughed. “Oh, you silly girl. He's not dead. He's standing here, right behind me. Follows me everywhere.”
Ain't Life Grand?
Instantly I was happy. The duck with the broken neck on the sand along the canal was not the duck I knew and liked so well. And yet just as instantly, my heart knew that the duck who fell lifeless there or any duck by any other name than Miss Duck -- is equally as important as the duck I had come to like so well.
Loved, actually. I knew and loved Miss Duck.
A duck or any animal we have known personally – even if we knew them very briefly – can affect our heart tremendously and sometimes even be the reason we feel pain in our heart, figuratively speaking. But more often it is just the meeting of our eyes with an animal's eyes, just a fleeting glance which then brings both souls to look again at one another and to feel something. We might not be able to adopt every animal or every bird needing help, but we feel something. If it were not so, there would not be the impetus required by some people which enables those same people to go forward with hope and faith to create, to organize and to incorporate animal shelters and bird sanctuaries in your state and mine.
That feeling -- that something -- is love. Life is all about love.
And hope. And faith.
The Miss Duck I knew was brave and mighty -- and male.
I Wish You Lunch, Beautiful Male Duck, but not an alive lunch, please.
And more than this-- I Wish You Love.
Love a Duck
Do you have a favorite kind of duck?
© 2014 Pamela Dapples