ON DOMESTICATED HOUSE PETS VS. WILD WATERFOWL: A COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY AND STUPID COMPARISON

I have written about ducks numerous times in the past year.  At one point, I grew quite attached to a few of them, especially a couple of ducklings, until they went and died on me.  Or at least on my doorstep. Don’t get me wrong, it’s flattering one little fella came to us as his last hope in 105˚ weather after already having been rejected by his mother and his raft, or flotilla or whatever they are called, but who the hell wants to deal with a dead duck?  I like the kind who go off into the woods when they know it’s time, like Huey, the tiny duck with a big heart, celebrated in an earlier post.

I’m not really a “clean up the dead animal” kind of person.  Some people are okay with death and carcasses of all shapes and sizes.  Not me.  Luckily, the second little bastard, let’s call him Dewey, passed peacefully (sadly, I watched his eyes go white and could do nothing about it as he was clearly on the way out and my veterinary skills are nonexistent) on our backdoor mat, so all I had to do was carry the mat elsewhere to stash the carcass until I could contact the proper authorities.

duck
Ducks get cuter the hungrier they are.

Yes, there are proper authorities even for this, like LA Sanitation, who send out a nice man with rubber gloves, a net and a shovel.  You make an appointment online telling them what kind of animal died, where the carcass is located, and if this is your pet or not.  They’ll come for anything except cows and horses, but they can refer you to professionals who specialize in large dead animal removal, which must be unpleasant, expensive, and presumably involves tarps, plastic bags and chainsaws.

There’s a water feature off our patio, over a lawn, and beside it a grouping of large rocks next to a lovely section of faux babbling brook.  I carried Dewey in the welcome mat.  He looked peaceful. I tried to gently dislodge him from the mat into a little clearing amongst the rocks, which was starting to feel like a dignified resting place, but being on a non-slip surface, his little feathers got a bit of traction and I had to shake the mat a bit to slide him to the ground.  This caused him to flip as he fell into the clearing.  My aim was true, but Dewey was belly up.  Little webbed feet and a soft white belly up.  The opposite of dignified. Poor little bastard.

Now, as I mentioned, I’m not a “where do you want this carcass” kind of fellow, so I wasn’t about to worry if the Dewey was face up, down, or otherwise.  Sure, I wouldn’t want to be dead bottom up, I mean, who the hell would want that?  Or to see that?  But Dewey was dead.  He’d never know. (If Dewey was a she, well, she’d never know either.) And besides, ducks are much more sanguine about death than we humans are.

ducksbydoor
Oh sure they look loving and all, but these birds are flat-out mean, especially around food. The big ones just pick up the babies in their bills, shake them and toss them aside to get at the quinoa.

Unfortunately, after Huey hit the dirt with a tiny thud, I saw movement in a nearby window. It was our neighbor’s daughter.  They seem to home school the kids. Either that, or they’re in a cult.  I’m guessing the former.  Although they do take their cats out in back, on leashes.  The cats seem to like it more than you might expect.  Maybe they’re in some cat-worshiping cult with mandatory home schooling.  Maybe the cats are home schooled also?  Wait. Where were we…. Oh yeah, Dewey.

In any event, I’m pretty sure the kid saw me heartlessly dump the dead duck that went flopping over on its back and then, in shock and tears and convinced that she just saw her neighbor murder a baby duck, ran crying to mommy or daddy for comfort and explanation.  Of course, I didn’t hear any crying or actually see her observe the duck dive, so she might not have actually seen it.  On the bright side, if she did, let’s hope this served as a great jumping off point for an honest dialogue with the children, and the cats, about life and death.

Ducks are pretty useless as pets.  They’re not so useful as waterfowl either. In fact, they don’t really do much for human beings except perhaps provide fertilizer and eat garden snails and other pests, which is something, I suppose.  And some of them have lovely plumage, like the mallard and the wood duck.  How much wood would a wood duck duck if a wood duck would duck wood. (Try typing that fast on your phone and see what comes out.)

duckplumage
Beautiful plumage, like the Norwegian Blue

And of course there is a l’orange, which a lot of people like, especially the French, one would assume, given they have a special name for it. People don’t mind eating ducks so much because ducks are kind of mean.  Their babies are cute, but even they can be assholes.  And they crap all over the place.  Which is fine if you live on a farm, but not so good otherwise.

And yes, there are duck eggs, which are quite good. We stayed at an Airbnb in Oregon and the owners had a chicken coop with 7 chickens… and a duck.  She looked a little lost in there. There was a small trough of water, but she was clearly pining for the pond.  Poor thing coped by making believe she was a chicken.  I kid you not. She’d come out and eat and socialize with the hens, and then when they’d go into the roost, why, she’d hop right up there with the other ladies.  So, while ducks are not very intelligent, they are adaptable to their environment and will imitate other fowl to gain social acceptance.

bulldogincar
I don’t know this dog personally, but would gladly let him slobber all over me with his owner’s permission.

Ducks’ lives are stupid.  Or great, depending on your view of things.  All they do is go around looking for food all day. Every day. Interrupted by frequent swims and naps.

Wait.  Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound half bad. If they find an unwitting human to feed them bread or even organic quinoa, they will come back with regularity, sometimes several times a day, and shit all over the place and not even act appreciative, or get friendlier, despite all the plying with foodstuffs.  Remembering where free food can be had and around what time is about where their intelligence ends.

Oh and a couple of times a year, they go completely insane and start copulating like bunny rabbits, including, as has been reported previously in these pages, the occasional threesome.  We have pictures.  I’ll spare you, because you won’t be able to un-see that.

BLOG GAMEBREAK: FIND THE BUNNY! SOLUTION BELOW, DON’T PEAK!

bunnyhiding
Bunnies hide by standing perfectly still and blending in.

CAN’T FIND HER YET?  HERE YOU GO!

bunnycircle2
If you can’t find the bunny now, please seek professional help.

Dogs on the other hand, are beloved, and for good reason. Or at least that’s what dog lovers say. And I love dogs, though I’m not so fond of cleaning dog poop.  Some people actually can’t stand them. These people can’t be trusted.

I’m between dogs right now, so I bother — I mean borrow — other people’s. Dogs, that is.  Sometimes I’ll play with a completely strange dog if the owner is okay with it.  We have one place we like to go, this winery tasting room, where the owner’s very happy and friendly dogs run in and out.  It’s like a dog-petting therapy clinic.  All pet, and no poop.

rorylicking
Granddog inlaw likes me. Or at least licks me.

Dogs are cute, loyal, often cuddly, and great listeners, even if they often have bad breath and offer lousy advice, especially on investing and fine dining.

Dogs are very smart.  In fact, one might infer from ample evidence that they are the ones in charge, not their owners.  What do dogs provide, exactly? Home security? Sure, some of them bark at intruders, but a lot of my friends tell me their dogs just look up at them when the doorbell rings, as if to say “are you going to get that?”  And they provide companionship.  And affection.  Cuddles.  And they act like they’re excited when you get home. Kind of like perpetual children.  But at what cost?

Roryinback
Sometimes, when borrowing a dog, or dog-sitting, one must deal with poop bags.

 

Just by being lovable and cute, dogs have trained people to take care of everything for them.  Food.  Shelter. Medical care. Treats.  Walks. Taking away of the poop.  Grooming.  Petting. Belly rubs. Acupuncture.  Oncologists.  Natural healers. Psychologists.  Nutritionists.  Trainers. Dog sitters.  Let’s face it, rightfully or not, dogs are treated basically like large, hairy babies, and they have manipulated the situation so they are fully in charge.  It only appears that they are being led around on a leash.

rory
Rory is very photogenic, and knows it. Good eyebrows.

By comparison, even though ducks give us very little in return except being kind of cool to look at and having cute babies, they cost nothing, unless you feed them. If you don’t feed them regularly, they won’t bother you much, or shit all over your patio, and you won’t have to do anything except look at the little bastards.  And it is fun to quack at them.  If you get good at it, they will quack back at you.  And best of all, when they die, you just dump ’em next to a rock and call Sanitation.

Dogs, well, they have pretty much worked their way into the human family, which is fair as they do offer something in return for being fed and so forth, but again, at what cost? Picking up doody? In a little bag?  What about when it’s all mushy and yellow and in the grass?  Disgusting! But you have to do it anyway!  At least when someone is watching.  Where did all the dog shit go before everyone was picking it up?  Honestly, the dog doo pick-up thing has put a whole new level of responsibility on dog ownership.

(IMHO? Don’t get a dog unless you have a fenced in yard. Dog gets to run around, dig holes, bark at pedestrians and poop at will, and you get to pick up they doody with a rake and a shovel.  Much more civilized.)

franco
My good friend Franco Biscotti Cantillon-Ross posing for the camera. He’s very cuddly and a great dog to borrow. He has a yard.

And what about trying to get them to take a pill?  I had to do that with my sister’s dog, Nicky a few times.  I love that dog, but what a bitch! Seriously, I hide the damn pill deep in the food, but she eats right around it and then hides the evidence.  The old stuff-it-in-the-throat-and-hold-snout (which seems fairly inhumane to begin with)? No good.  She hides it in her cheek like Jack Nicholson’s character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Which makes me like Nurse Ratched, I guess? But I digress.

nicky
Nicky is a labradoodle. Not sure which part is labra and which is doodle, but the whole package works, dog-wise.  And what is with all these dogs posing on couches? Shouldn’t the people be on the couch?

My grand-dog in-law, Rory does it also.  They make all these smart dogs these days.  It’s important that we try to make sure that we’re still a bit smarter than them, isn’t it?  If we make them much smarter, they’ll start asking to borrow the car.

Questions for discussion-

  1. Cats: smart ducks with fur?

  2. Bunnies: as cute as ducks, but domesticable? (Is that a word?  Well, anyway, I hear that bunnies are very tame and pretty easy to care for, and even affectionate pets.  Seems like their poop is easier to clean up too. Just wanted to give them a shout out. Plus, I’m a big Bugs Bunny fan.)

Dogs are also very photogenic.  Some dogs actually pose for pictures, like babies and kids do.  They’ll smile at the camera, or look cute or funny.  They’re kind of attention whores, no?  You can dress them up in suits or costumes like superheroes.  They like to wear glasses and hats. Well some of them.  And some will pose with a treat on their nose.  How cute!

bunnyhiding
Bunnies hide by standing perfectly still and blending in.

Ducks are terrible photo subjects. They don’t stop moving. They won’t look at the camera (or phone, who uses a camera anymore?).  You basically take a ton of pictures hoping to get one where it looks like they’re posing for the camera.  And then they crap all over the place.  In fact, that is the one constant with ducks: crapping all over the place. That is the only thing upon which they can be relied.  Boy I really went out of my way to not end that last sentence with a preposition.

bunnycircle2
Here’s help if you can’t find the bunny.

So what have we learned?  I have to say, this week probably not much.  That dogs are better pets than ducks?  You knew that.  This wasn’t really a teachable moment kind of post.  Maybe that ducks die and there is a service for that?  Sure.  If you’re the kind of person who needs to learn something all the time, that’ll have to do.

No pets in Smoking in Bed.  And I’m working on a new book that takes place in Civil War times, so most of the “pets” are horses.  So I’m kind of learning a little about horses. At least I know who to call if I need to have a dead one removed.  I don’t think they had that back then.  Or chainsaws.

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