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A Muscovy Thanksgiving Tale

New guy

A couple of days before Thanksgiving of 2002, I was a mile into driving to an appointment and I saw a white Mercedes Benz hit a gorgeous black and white Muscovy duck.
Unlike most of the injured flying creatures I've encountered, this one wasn’t going anywhere because her wings were badly damaged. The beautiful duck was bleeding from somewhere and her entire left side was crushed, leaving her to hop and drag from her right side.
As if that weren’t heartbreaking enough, by her side was a larger black Muscovy (pictured above) with white tuxedo accents, in such distress that he was actually making a low, but audible honk amid its huffing. I assumed he was the female’s mate, as this was prior to my learning the morsel about their polygamous nature. They were new to me, so I named them Mr. and Mrs. New Guy.
I made a quick u-turn and for a fleeting moment thought about exacting revenge on the driver.
The road was narrow and when I stopped by the right curb there was barely enough room for traffic to pass me. I went to my trunk to get my injured-animal kit that consisted of an old dog leash, a towel, and a box, but upon sizing up Mrs. New Guy I realized the box was too small for the swan-size duck.

I was going to have to put the towel around her and somehow transport her myself.
That proved more difficult that I imagined, as Mr. New Guy was far more formidable than I had anticipated, coming at me in what my husband and I would come to call “the plow,” which was a craned-neck with a low head combined with wings slightly outstretched. He marched toward me in full plow, huffing, and although he couldn’t have been more than twenty pounds, he scared the daylights out of me and I stepped way back to regroup and devise a new strategy.
I didn’t want to humiliate myself by being the first suburban housewife to be killed by a duck, nor did I want Mrs. New Guy to kill herself trying to avoid me, so I let them be and began calling around for help.

I contacted the local humane society, where someone told me that they don’t deal with ducks. You can only appreciate the irony of that when you learn that in front of the humane society building is a large pond that’s home to over one hundred ducks and geese.
I then called the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, where I was informed that Muscovies aren’t native creatures, and they only help native creatures. I then called my vet, who doesn’t treat flying creatures at all, but gave me the name of a vet who did. That guy gave me a long speech about the difference between waterfowl and birds.
With my cell phone battery down to one bar, I called Animal Care and Control again and asked if they could send someone to assess Mrs. New Guy’s condition. I thought that if she had a chance of surviving, I would continue to find someone to help her. But if she didn’t, I wasn’t doing her any good delaying the inevitable.

As I was making all of these calls, one driver after another carefully navigated their way around me, all of whom had to have seen Mrs. New Guy. Of the dozens of cars over the span of an hour, a handful stopped to ask me if I was okay. All saw the duck, and none offered help, a kind word, or even a look remotely expressing sympathy for her.
When the Animal Care worker arrived, she shooed Mr. New Guy away from his mate, which was effective but outrageously insensitive if you ask me. She gave me a bleak diagnosis, saying that not only would no one in town treat the Mrs., but that the purple shading on her belly was a sign that she was bleeding internally, and probably in a lot of pain. She had at least one mutilated leg, one mutilated wing, and internal injuries, and I was having a nervous breakdown because I was so distraught and so late for my appointment that I could do nothing but sob for Mrs. New Guy, Mr. New Guy, and of course, myself.

At my wits’ end, I asked the Animal Control lady to take the injured duck. I inquired how many more stops she had before the duck would get to Animal Care and be euthanized, and she said she didn’t know, and that I should try not to think about it.
Sure. Easy.
No chance.
My sobs turned to hysteria because I had just signed Mrs. New Guy’s death warrant and there was Mr. New Guy looking up at me—practically the executioner— with an expression of desperation and despondence. I swear the creature was communicating to me. It wasn’t a sentence or a long explanation; it was a look that I immediately grasped in all of its complexity. He knew how injured his mate/sibling was, and he was not at all confused about her fate. But his heart was broken and in that moment he was miserable.

Mrs. New Guy was euthanized that day, but the following day was the really extraordinary one. When I woke up in the morning and walked out my door, there, looking up at me, was Mr. New Guy. When I met him he was a solid mile from my house, and somehow he found his way not just to my neighborhood, but to my doorstep.

What did he want?
We'll never know. I choose to believe he was checking up on me and thanking me for my attempt at help. I sat a couple of yards from the lake, and he sat a couple of yards from me. And when the other drakes and hens came around to see who the newcomer was, I introduced them all. After some huffs and coos and harmless pecks, Mr. New Guy became part of the family, and remains so to this day (I check up on them).

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Okay – this story definately has me bawling… Muscovy ducks get such a bad break here in Fl. My neighbor across the street shoots them with a b-b gun – as they poop on their dock. Jeeze – they live on a lake just to enjoy the wildlife and… well never mind.

    About a year ago I encountered a large heron injured by a vehicle… same senario, everyone flying by in their cars with absoultely no concern. My husband and I drove it to the closest vet. I had never held such a large bird before… Its body so warm and weighty – (and bleeding). All it had was an injured leg… but the vet after a few hours called to tell me they had euthanized it. I know I could have given it a better chance on my own… And I will never turn another bird or animal to an unknown again.

    I think it's wonderful that Mr. NewGuy found you… You of all – who would show compassion in the plight of his little world turned upside down… {{{Mary}}}

    November 26, 2008
  2. That is a real tear jerker. I am so very touched.

    November 26, 2008
  3. Eileen #

    This story is very sad. Thank you for doing everything you could to help the duck.

    November 26, 2008
  4. You keep an animal rescue kit in your trunk? Genius! Doesn't sound too complicated either.

    November 27, 2008
  5. Natalie #

    Your story was wonderful, though not such a good ending for one of the birds. I had much the same experience, though the baby black bird was not noticeably injured, he/she was unable to fly, stuck to the line in the middle of the road with cars zooming by. After much riding, pleading, asking for assistance, I found a kind Vet some 25 miles away who took the fledging in to care for and encourage to fly – What a relief. I was crying tears of joy at the baby bird's acceptance – but our Animal Control said they would just throw it into the woods. Yikes…such little help and concern for these little creatures.

    November 27, 2008
  6. Olivia #

    I missed this in 2008, when I wasn't an Animal Person follower, so I'm glad that Stephanie at linked to it this week.

    Reading about the cold indifference expressed by so many toward Mrs. New Guy's plight was as heart-rending to me as was her sad demise.

    But imagine if you hadn't stopped to help, Mary. Not only would Mrs. New Guy have passed away with no one to mourn her but her mate, but he wouldn't have known what to do or where to go after such a loss. Incredible how he understood and appreciated your pure motives to the point of finding your home. I mean, that's more than just a lucky guess! Love and gratitude guided him straight to your door, for sure. And how fortunate you are to see him enjoying his new flock every day.

    This story reminds me of the black bear story, but in this case at least the ending is happy.

    July 26, 2010

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