Why you might not want a duck (Part II)
[continued from Part I] So, as you’ll recall, we had just deposited Kennery and Rose Petal on the shores of the Nature Center pond to begin their lives of freedom. But strangely, they didn’t seem to want to stay there. Hmm, I thought, maybe they just need a little encouragement? They have feathers and should be able to fly by now, so let’s give them a hand with the transition off the ground and into the air.
Imagined As we gently lift Kennery and Rose Petal into the air and let go, they float for a few transcendent moments, suspended between earth and sky, captivity and freedom, the human and animal worlds, recognizing their mythological significance since the dawn of history: the ultimate symbols of freedom. They are quickly overcome by their own powerful instincts (not unlike a Charismatic fit of the Holy Spirit), take flight across the pond, and settle in among their wild compatriots to a life of purpose and opportunity. Sun beams burst forth, Born Free can be heard in the distance.
Real We gently lift Kennery and Rose Petal into the air and let go. They fall into the water like dead weight, swim to shore, and stand quacking next to us. Believing that they perhaps hadn’t received enough momentum to encourage flight the first time, we try again, tossing them with added vigor. Again, they fall like torpedoes into the water, swim back to shore, and rejoin us with more devotion than ever.
In a panic and unable to contemplate why the ducks’ wings and instincts aren’t working, we try to run away. They follow. Then, someone who appears to work at the Nature Center approaches us and asks what we’re doing in the restricted area. I say I didn’t realize we were in restricted territory and we were actually trying to leave but some ducks were following us, I didn’t know why. I point and look confused. I believe I hear the cock crow three times. I can tell the woman is suspicious but never actually accuses me of lying. Oh, what the heck, I say, I guess we’ll let the ducks follow us… and off we walk back to the truck, the four of us.
Feeling sad, guilty, and out of options, we sit for a while in the truck before the next idea hits me like a skeet shot out of the air: Wildlife Rescue! I knew about of Wildlife Rescue. They cared for injured and abandoned birds and other animals until they could be released back into the wild. And their drop-off place just happened to be at the Rio Grande Nature Center! Perfect.
Of course, our ducks were not exactly wild, so this plan would entail a creative interpretation of events. I counsel Isabella on how to be an effective liar; yes, an important lesson for a nine-year-old, especially if you’ve just taught her how to trespass and smuggle contraband.
We enter Wildlife Rescue with our “wild” ducks and explain to the intake person that a friend had found them as ducklings (Mallards?) at the river and gave them to us because we have a pond. Even though we knew nothing about ducks, we had agreed to let them live in our pond but now they had outgrown it. No, they are not pets (as Isabella squeals, “Their names are Rose Petal and Kennery!!!”). The intake woman is very sympathetic and takes the ducks as I place several large bills in the Donations jar. She says the ducks will be safe in the outdoor habitat until they are full-grown, and then they’ll be released. Whew!! We left the Nature Center bathed in an indescribable peace, feeling 56 pounds lighter.
Fast Forward 5 years Isabella decided that for her service project this semester, she would volunteer at Wildlife Rescue because she thought it would be fun to work with birds. There were two trainings before her service began. The trainer told the class how important it is not to talk to, or pet the birds, or encourage them in any way to bond with you.
To illustrate her point, the trainer told a story about how four or five years ago, someone brought in two male Mallards that seemed to have bonded with humans. In fact, they refused to leave even after they were fully grown and released. She said the ducks socialized with wild ducks, but would come back and stand outside the building, looking in the windows. This went on for four months until finally, with a little encouragement in the form of tapered-off feedings, the two ducks settled permanently among their compatriots and embraced their wild lives of purpose and opportunity.