We’re in the car, me and my duck, my favorite duck, and my face is wet and my voice wobbles as I tell her to hang in there, don’t worry, we’re almost there, we’re in the home stretch and she’s not making any noise or moving around much and I can see the red speckle on the tip of her bill and some splatters on the bright blue towel she’s bundled in but when we stop at a light, she turns her face toward me as if to say, it’s okay, I’m going to be okay.
It’s not like we didn’t have warnings.
When you take on the pretty ridiculous (come to think of it) job of backyard poultry-raising (free-range), the possibility of losing one/more/all of your flock to predators never goes away. Like window-washers, HAZMAT crews and bridge workers, you know the risks but you can’t think about it or you just can’t function. So unless your birds are caged (and even then), you know chances are that one day or night something hungry will defeat your defenses. I thought this day was that day.
One hawk is still hungry.
“A hawk got my duck. She’s bleeding badly. I’m on my way over.” En route to the vet, I replayed the scene we probably always knew would unfold. Ever since that first hawk duo swooped down on them back in November 2012, I realized my ducks would be tempting targets for a passing raptor. What would I do? Or worse, what if I wasn’t there? Today, I was there.
Even if you’ve never heard it, you recognize the sound immediately. A dull thud followed by an explosion of alarm cries from the rest of the flock. The hawk says nothing. It has to stay intent, fast, undistracted. I needed to distract it–faster. In slippery socks, I skidded to the sliding glass doors where the ducks had been hanging out for days. I figured (wrongly!) that a hawk would not attempt to dive that close to the house with its mishmash of shelter from a patio table and chairs. But autumn brings out the young male Cooper’s. Those claws-with-wings don’t know from reasonable risk. They’re always hungry.
As I shouted through the glass and slid open the heavy door, I could see the hawk still holding Puff (not Puff!) so I screamed louder and lunged and then and only then did he let her go. Birder that I am, I couldn’t help but notice the magnificence of her attacker’s plumage though I didn’t stop to admire his escape flight. Puff immediately got to her feet and waddled toward the house, an unsettling amount of blood spotting the ground behind her. She wasn’t limping and seemed alert but I knew I needed to get her safely stowed in case the hawk returned and I still had three other ducks quacking madly. Of course, today I was alone. (But I was there! I was there!) With no one else to help, I decided to let Puff into the living room then closed the doors behind her. I tried not to look too closely at the red drops that scattered in her wake.
It took several (come on!) painful minutes (hurry!) to get the rest of the girls in the pen. They were too freaked to walk that vulnerable distance, even with my escort. (Can’t say I blame them.) I ended up hand carrying each one, wasting precious moments when Fannie resisted, running past the door and around the outside. I nabbed her. No time for this. Puff needs me! Get in, get in!
So much blood, I kept saying when later I told the tale to anyone who’d listen. Who knew there would be so much blood! Okay, call it shock because I sounded like Lady Macbeth only Puff is a duck not a king and I had no hand in her attack. Or did I? Didn’t I know there was a hawk in the neighborhood? (Yes.) Didn’t I recognize they were upset about something the other day? (Again, yes.) Weren’t they incredibly lucky that I happened to come home minutes before, sitting mere steps from the door? (Yes, and me, too. Me, absolutely too.)
At the vet, they were ready for us. I ran into the quiet lobby and someone took the carrier from my hand and whisked Puff away. I retreated to a chair in the corner and tumbled into tears. So much blood! She seemed alert and calm…too calm? I looked out the window. The rain had turned to sleet.
I know she’s a duck. I mean, I know she’s not human but she’s more than a duck. She’s Puff. She trusts me. She walked right into the house! She knows I’m there to protect her.
And I wasn’t there for Peep.
After Peep’s terrible, sad end, I made a promise to myself that I’d be there when they needed me. Or, at least, really try. Especially at the end.
So, I’d pray. No, not pray, beg. I can’t describe what I whispered in the car as anything but begging. Please St. Anthony. Please don’t let me lose Puff. Why Anthony and not Francis, have no idea. If you drive in the rain with a wounded duck in a cat carrier, waiting forever at stupidly long traffic lights, you’d probably mix up your childhood saints, too.
The vet walked up to the desk where I was borrowing a phone to cancel an appointment I was not going to make. I dropped the phone.
I think he said: “She’s going to be alright.”
Yes? Yes! But the blood, all that blood!
“Blood feathers,” he explained.
Somehow, impossibly, the hawk only managed to scratch her surface. Most of the visible damage came from newly-grown feathers still attached to their blood supply. Puff could replace them. She could live to free-range another day. We could reset the raptor clock.
I paid the bill then drove us home to clean the crime scene in my living room.
Thank you, St. Anthony.
thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you
And a big shout-out to Dr. Pisciotta, Dr. Green and the entire team at
Rye Harrison Veterinary Hospital
Copyright 2014, Lori Fontanes
I’m so glad you had a happy ending.
Me, too!!! 😀 !
Oh my! So scary. So glad it worked out.
Thanks, Annabel! Yes, it’s been a crazy week but she seems to be doing okay. Went back for a recheck yesterday and her wounds are healing very well. Never a dull moment in ducksville!!!
Hurray for Puff!!! I was VERY scared to read this, but thank God, Puff is okay! My husband often stands at the window just enjoying the ducks doing duck things–they bring so much happiness, but why? I did chuckle a little thinking of you breaking down at the vets. So cute.
Thanks!!! We duck folks gotta stick together, right? I’ve had easier weeks but all’s well that ends well. *big sigh*
Reblogged this on Raising Milk and Honey and commented:
Here’s what happens when you fall in love with DUCKS!!!! Lori is a great storyteller and duck owner 🙂
Thanks so much, Adrienne! They ducks do *all* the hard work!!!
Sweet photo and glad it all ended well!!
Thanks so much! She’s a really sweet duck, too!
And doncha know it, the darn thing came back for another look-see yesterday! The girls are safe & sound in their pen but *still*. *sigh* This is gonna be a loooong winter, I can tell.
Wow. I’m glad that Puff is okay, Lori. What a frightening time for you and Puff.
Hard to tell which of us was more scared! Longest drive to the vet *ever*!
Wow, it’s good to hear that Puff is OK and that the story had a happy ending!
I know! A miracle! (You know hawks so you know how easily this could have had a different ending…)
That was scary to read. I can only imagine what you were feeling. So happy everyone is ok! 🙂
I’m sorry! I don’t usually tell scary stories (only once in a while!) I hope the truth at its center outweighed the discomfort of the suspense. 🙂
What a harrowing ordeal for all of you, so glad Puff is alright. ❤
Me, too!!! I’ve got two rescue cats and now I guess I have a rescue duck! 🙂
Puff 1, Hawk 0. Glad to hear your happy ending 🙂
Well put!!! Thanks!!!
Oh thank God! I’m SO glad your Puff is okay. I get so attached to my animals. They aren’t just cats (or ducks in this case). They are part of the family.
I know, right?!!! Thanks for your kind words! Almost a week later she seems to be doing well. 🙂
I’m happy Puff is all right! Puff may be just a duck, but she’s still a living being like us who feels and have emotions — and deserves to be loved and treated humanely as well. You have a huge heart for loving her and taking care of her, as well as the other ducks. Thank you for that. 🙂 I’m glad it was a happy ending!
Angie, thank you for your very kind message of support! I do indeed think of my ducks (and my cats) as creatures with a right to be treated with compassion. I didn’t think about it when we got started with poultry but ducks have turned out to be at least as smart and definitely as personable as any traditional “pet” in my life. And, no, I don’t eat duck anymore. Just can’t!
Feel for ya kid, well done…… and well written.
Thanks, Terry! From you that praise feels double so thanks (again)! 🙂
Oh NO! Bless her little heart. OMP – I know you must have be so very scared my friend. You need me to come up and offer my services of Pig Protection? I can be on my way … with the help of dad’s credit card 🙂 Please give Puff a hog and snout kiss from this little oinker. XOXO – Bacon
And P.S. What a Christmas miracle!
I know, right?!!! Miracles happen, for sure! PS, I might have to take you up on the PP offer. Most folks have guard dogs but how boring…a smart little piggy would much more fun! 😉
Certainly I would be loads of fun! You just say the word my friend. XOXO – Bacon
awww…lori, I missed this post. I have not been on my computer as much after I post…you had me in tears towards the end.. You brought some fresh emotions to surface for me today-.we lost our middle dog this summer ( june 29th) Schatze to cancer:-( I felt your panic + upset + oh…tears are + were, in my eyes…I raced through the end of your post on pins and needles hoping she was okay–and she was…..I totally get your love for your ducks…I felt that way for my dog this summer…I cried for days after. She was here and gone in 24 hours( with no warning) + we had to put her to sleep for she was filled with a ruptured tumor that filled her insides……I am so glad your story was not a bad ending…..animals are like family + you can love them as much…I totally get it….
Dear Robbie, you poor thing! I know all too well how tough those days are when you’ve lost a dear pet friend!!!
it also makes me realize how precious time with those you love animal or human:-)
so true, so true!
…is..sorry I forgot that…., just your post was well done-it kept me on the edge of my chair-which you do often + it is nice to know there is another animal lover out there that feels so deeply for them when they are hurting….+ can respect the beauty of the one that tried to capture….
Robbie, you have given me the highest compliment–connecting to others is really the best reason to tell stories–it’s great to hear how much you were touched by this one–thanks!!! 😀 !
Lori-you have made me laugh + cry:-) in a good way:-)
Wow, riveting read–so happy your Puff was okay after that!
Thanks, fellow duck writer! 🙂 And best of all, she seems none the worse for her adventure, more than two weeks on.
Love this post! What a scary time for you, glad all worked out and Puff was Ok. 🙂
Thanks!!! Yes, Puff is great & we’ve been keeping a low profile during winter hawk season. No reason to tempt fate! 🙂
Oh thank goodness! This is the first post I’ve read on your blog and I had no idea who Puff was but immediately became invested in her surviving the hawk attack. I love birds and feed a number of wild ones in the garden. Even though they aren’t mine and I don’t share the bond with them that you do with Puff I still feel upset when a sparrow hawk appears and takes one in the blink of an eye. So, I can only imagine the roller coaster of emotions you went through with Puff: panic, determination, upset, relief. This was also really well written, I like how you put in your thoughts while you were trying to rush the rest of the ducks inside. Vuhuu for Puff! Hope they’re still doing well.
Arbie, thanks so much for the day-brightener! (It’s quite gloomy here, today–think we’re pretty sick of winter at this point!) Happy to report that thanks to the ice & snow, the girls have been mostly kept penned up so they’ve been less vulnerable to any passing hawks. And they are *still* around, believe me! *sigh*
So glad there was a happy ending 🙂
Me, too!!! And the ducks five–or at that time–four–and now, oh, nevahmind… 😉