Around 8pm on January 16, 2018, I received an email from Q’s veterinarian letting me know the animal hospital had a Muscovy duckling with no place to go… she asked if I still wanted another duck. Yes! We made arrangements for me to pick up the duckling the next evening. Q was going to have a Muscovy friend after all. It was too early to disclose this good news to my husband (he would probably not share my enthusiasm ). Better to wait on that. I told Bob I had to run an errand, and headed up to the animal hospital by myself.
After I arrived and checked-in, the front desk manager went to a back room for ten minutes, and returned with a small pencil-holed cardboard box that was ready for transport. I asked if we could open the box to take a look. Yes . The top flaps of the box were pulled apart. Inside the container was a tiny, fluffy, yellow and brown duckling peering up and peeping at us. He had that singular brown stripe extending behind each of his eyes letting us know he was a “Scovy.” We reviewed his paperwork: the duckling was brought in for a possible leg injury. The hospital had him under observation for a couple of days but could not find anything wrong. And here was the kicker: the uninjured duckling couldn’t go back to his family because Florida law prohibited releasing him back into nature (once you take Muscovies out of Florida habitat, you cannot put them back), so if the hospital couldn’t find a human caretaker, he would need to be euthanized. There weren’t any local animal rescues taking Muscovies at that time. Tonight, this little guy was being released to me in exchange for a quick signature and a thank you. I carried him in his cardboard box to the car, and we headed towards home.
Forty minutes later, we arrived at the house and it was time for the big reveal. Hey Bob, you’ll never guess… look what I brought! Diogi had already met me at the front door as part of her canine greeting protocol and wanted to see exactly what was in that box. Bob came over and I popped the lid. Peeping. Cuteness. Excited dog jumping up trying to see; thinking I brought her a squeaky toy. Not so excited husband. “Lucy, you got some splainin’ to do .”
The why part of the explanation was followed by the where were we going to put him. We had a baby play pen in the living room to use for Q since we were getting Diogi used to being alone with Q while we were in other parts of the house. Q was over on the couch in his bed box right now watching us. I put a clean doggy pee pad at the bottom of the empty pen and placed the little guy inside. He started running around and testing his escape plan with the mesh walls. He actually climbed up the inside wall and jumped over the top onto the living room carpet. I blocked our excited dog and scooped up the duckling. This tot was crazy nimble like Spiderman and couldn’t be contained in that pen. I thought about the next option. I could make a night pen for him using the bathtub in the spare bathroom. He couldn’t climb the tub walls. I safety-proofed the tub by closing and blocking the drain, made a bed out of pine shavings at one end, and left little dishes of food and water for him at the other end. Night light. Door closed. Peeping. Louder peeping the further away I got from the bathroom. We waited for him to finally go to sleep.
The next morning, I went to check on the little guy and I was already his new Mom. Imprinting happens quickly. I would need to keep him close to me or the peeping alarm would go off. The further away I was, the louder he got. And if he could get out of his enclosure, he would come find me. Once I spotted him running down the hall towards me as I was putting away laundry. Ducklings need the constant proximity of Mom. I had to make sure he had someone around during waking hours so he wouldn’t get stressed. I decided to try putting him together with Q. Well, Q was annoyed for the first three days, but adjusted and those two actually became good buddies while they were growing up.
It also took a few days to come up with the right name for this duckling. Bob and I tried a few ideas but none of them really fit. And no, I was not naming him Spidey. My friend Deanna came up with the better moniker: Gabby. Because he peeped or chattered almost all the time. If he was a boy, we could switch his name to Gabe or something like that. Gabby stole our hearts, just like Q and Diogi. No regrets with these three kiddos!
This completes our real-life tale of how two ducks ended up living in a townhouse . But there are many more stories to tell. Keep an eye out for our weekly blog posts and feel free to comment or ask questions! I would love to hear from you
Post Script: Although we wouldn’t be certain until Gabby reached duck puberty, his behavior as a duckling hinted that he was probably a boy. Boys are more risk takers than girls in the duck world. Also, once Gabby was a month old, Diogi was fine with him… she no longer thought he was a squeaky toy.