Tag Archives: Fabio

An Unremarkable Duck

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An Unremarkable Duck

The last few weeks have been horrendous, and to write about it just now would be emotionally devastating. Dobby is writing about his own gruesome story, so that eases my burden. I will soon be distracted by my own root canal, a little surprise with a price tag to rival the veterinary bills that are stacking up like pancakes so cold and ugly no one will eat them. Unfortunately I can’t just toss the bills to the chickens. So I am left to contemplate the consequences of my decisions, and the random death and destruction at my funny little farm. Why do some survive without effort while for others life is a continual struggle? Life isn’t fair, but death has got to be a lot worse.

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Dobby the capybara, and Norman the goose watch over the Funny Farm Flock. Fabio is at the center. October, 2015

What about the survivors? How about Fabio the duck? Why did he live so long? Why him? Is long life just a random assignment, like good hair, or getting in the fastest checkout line?

Fabio is second from the right. Guinea fowl in the middle. May, 2007

Fabio came in with six other ducks, a term I use loosely, because Miss Goosey was, well, odd. She was probably half Muscovy duck, and certainly had the big feet and obnoxious personality. The others were “Runner Ducks” but in fact they were mutts. Some Rouen, some Khaki Campbell, a bit of Swedish, and then Fabio, with his telltale Powder Puff parentage.

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Fabio, left, young and handsome. Barry on the right.

Destined for the soup pot because they were no longer effective for herd dog training, a friend delivered them to me. From the moment they arrived, the seven moved around the pen as a unit. Obviously they would be no challenge for herding dogs. I also discovered they were all drakes, save for Miss Goosey. That didn’t prevent me from naming two Paris and Nicole (they were inseparable). Barry had an odd marking around his head, so he was named after my son’s teacher who had recently undergone brain surgery. Jose II closely resembled my first drake back in 1984, and Beetle Bailey wore his khaki camo uniform with pride.

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Fabio, Beetle Bailey, Barry, and Jose, L to R, background. Yes, that is baby Dobby, five weeks old. March 21, 2009

Fabio witnessed many changes to the Funny Farm. Twenty doves arrived and a domed cage was built. A couple dozen hens and Muscovy ducks came and went. He saw guinea fowl and quail, rabbits invaded and then a couple tomcats moved in. Paris and Nicole were the first to leave the flock, and then Beetle Bailey. Goosey tried to die once, getting her neck caught in chickenwire I had used to keep her out of my whiskey barrel full of goldfish. She loved to play “pretend nesting” in the rabbit litter box, and then she passed, too, during The Raccoon Massacre of 2010. Barry, Jose, and Fabio flew below the radar and survived winters, summers and The Raccoon Massacre of 2012. Major repairs were made to the aviary, and more Muscovy ducks and hens arrived. Eventually, Jose and Barry passed, leaving Old Fabio with the geese, murderous Shamrock, and the rest.

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Shamrock and Fabio tussle over possession of the “nest.”

Fabio had witnessed the arrival of Dobby and the geese, all six swimming pools, and I recognized how old he had become. He moved more slowly, became even more timid, and spent his Garden Party afternoons quietly observing the others. I thought every winter would be his last, but Old Fabio survived over and over, and managed to limp through another summer.

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In a rare victory, Fabio won.

By now, my flock was all drakes. Females were easier to rehome, but nobody wants drakes, and without the girls, the males fought less. Even so, Old Fabio was fragile, so I set up the bully pen. At first I separated Old Fabio out to keep him safe, but quickly realized he was missing the garden parties during his incarceration. I turned the tables and locked up the bullies, allowing Old Fabio the luxury of his usual space and activities. And he lived on and on and on. Norman the goose, my flock manager was always protective of him. Old Fabio was his elder by many years, and as cruel as fowl can be, they do seem to respect the old ones.

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Demolition crew. They all love to help install the new straw bale steps for Dobby’s swimming pool. Fabio is in the foreground, January, 2011

When Fabio passed, it was no surprise. During his last several years I had been checking for him first thing each morning, always surprised by his continued survival. I feared he would outlive his little legs that had been lamely supporting his limited senior activities. He had moved himself to the barn for sleeping, out of the rain and cold, but distant from his ducky companions. He knew how to survive, that one.

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Fabio, on high alert because I usually bring out lettuce. Vinny and Sal in the background.

It was near the end of his stay here when I bought Mazuri waterfowl food, again. It comes in GIGANTIC bags, 50 inefficient pounds of expensive food, especially if they refuse to eat it. And refuse to eat it they had, at least three times previous. “We hate it!” But it is supposed to be the best, right? Old Fabio was so feeble, I decided to try, one more time, to try to get them to eat it. The flock turned up their noses nares and walked away. Fabio, shy old codger, walked up and took a bite. And loved it! For a few weeks, he was the only one who ate it. Eventually, the others caught on, though they always deferred to him and ate second. And so he taught them to eat proper duck food. And I’m glad it comes in such big bags, because now they are pretty hysterical about it, lining up and waiting turns until it is gone.

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Last summer he was looking a bit rough, moving slowly and with caution. He spent more time in solitude. I kept an eye on him, but he managed pretty well, and marched out the the garden with the others most days.

Reminiscing about Fabio I realized how I had always taken him for granted. Months later I miss looking for him, checking on my shy old drake, morning and night. He was my old pal. 

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My Old Fabio, July 2015

Fabio was stand-offish, painfully shy. He wasn’t aggressive, not submissive, either. He was an unremarkable drake. I looked through nine years of photos and while he was in some of the group photos, he was usually in the background, or even behind another duck. I began to realize this was how he had managed to survive. He blended in with the flock, never drawing attention to himself, quiet and discrete. For nine years. Yet he led them to proper nutrition.

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Fabio on the left, still joining the Garden Party in the afternoon, about a month before he died, almost 10 years old. October, 2015

I try not to play favorites with my animals, and yet I do have preferences. I tend to like the bad animals. Not necessarily the bullies, but the naughty ones. The insubordinate, the asshats who are a constant challenge. They nip and chew and destroy. I am not much of a disciplinarian, so they wreak havoc and I live with their supposed dominance. Yet these frisky ones never seem to live as long as the Fabios. Their risk taking, their aggression, seems to put them on the front line. Shall we all take a moment to appreciate the quiet ones, the unremarkable pets who bide their time? Without them it would be nothing but mayhem, so thank you, little shy ones.

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Garden Party, Fabio in the center. Note the wild mallards, foreground.

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Daily Drama 46

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Daily Drama 46

More dramas actually mean fewer blogs. My dance card is full, but thankfully, my mother was right. She said “You always worry about the wrong thing.” The Koi/Goldfish Rodeo hasn’t occurred yet, for various reasons. Leonard the koi is still in his home pond. It is a bit like waiting for the other shoe to drop. The Three French Hens had a Happy Story at last notice. Their owner has sold her condo and bought a house where she can keep her hens! That is the best kind of story, isn’t it?

I am currently helping to rehome a sweet bunny whose foster mother is moving this month. Honey is a young male with meticulous litter box habits and he is available now, so if you are interested, please contact me! (Seattle)

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Honey the bunny

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Honey is a friendly, relaxed rabbit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No blog is complete without Prince Dobalob. (We’ll skip the guinea pigs, too. They have had their 15 minutes of fame.) Here is the Dobster, so we can get that over with, and we can move on to more obscure residents.

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Prince Dobalob, stealing the show

Like this dwarf African frog. There are two in a tank in Dobby’s Kitchen. The outdoor turtles are hibernating, by the way. We can no longer hope for any pleasant weather before spring.

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Bonnie Bunny is adjusting to indoor life. She isn’t one of those cuddly types, and she isn’t very adventurous, but it sure is fun to see her skid around on the slippery wood floors.

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Bonnie checks out Dobby’s kitchen area.

Bonnie enjoys a romp in Dobby’s territory once he has gone out for the evening.

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Bird’s eye view of a melted rabbit

She is getting very relaxed indoors.

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Peg-legged Pirate

The Pirate gets out in the evening, too. She has a special kitchen “nest” and a landing strip of her own but prefers to buzz my head to get attention.

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Vincent the cockatiel

My elderly cockatiels  seem to like having a rabbit in the house again. They have been wandering around more since she came inside. Spike, the Puny Green Thing, invades their cage as soon as they fly down to the floor.

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Jorge and Vincent go for a walk.

Wild mallards have invaded, as if to make up for the sleeping turtles. Feederwatch observations started up last weekend, but only 7 of these 24 ducks showed up on my count. I had a Kingfisher late last summer, and I’m hoping he’ll swing through on one of my count days.

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24 mallards in Dobby’s pool

My little flock is adjusting to the recent loss of an elder gentleman duck, Fabio. He is center back in the photo below.

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“Where’s our snack?”

He had a nice summer, but he was walking like a stiff old man and the other ducks were very deferential to him. Even Dobby seemed to acknowledge his frailty, though I doubt Fabio appreciated his nudges of encouragement.

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Little Lula

Lula has been on Metacam forever and settles on a lower roost these nights, but she is much improved from a year ago. The cats like to walk past and swat at her tail.

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I have known Jorge for 15 years, but he was probably about 5 years old when I met him.

Here is Jorge again, just because. I am his third owner, at least, but I think he is older than I originally guessed. He’s pretty frail, too, and his cage is lined with soft blankets because he falls off his perch. The Funny Farm is becoming an assisted living facility for elderly pets.

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Classic Combo: capybara and amethyst

How about me? I failed at retirement and started a new career as a paraeducator at the elementary school where I have been volunteering for the past four years. I’m also designing new jewelry for Georgia Dee’s Gift Shop, in my spare time, of course. You’ll be seeing that here in about a week. I have plenty more to write about my trip to Paris, too, but this is not the time. It seems to me I was writing a book, too, or three . . .

Daily Drama 40

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Daily Drama 40

‘Tis the season, and the origin of the term “pecking order” is in full Demo mode. I now have six drakes in the bully pen and only three drakes remain in the common yard with the geese. Emilio is the worst and picks on Vinny and Sal (V&S). Tony can protect them against Boxcar and Boondock (B&B), but not Emilio. Tony picks on poor old Fabio. When I put Tony away, B&B relentlessly chase V&S up onto a brushpile supported by a stump.

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The brushpile also conceals illicit activity of a more devious variety: Carmen Miranda is sitting on a nest. I yank a couple eggs every time I see her off the nest. The last thing I need is more Muscovies.

Shamrock is in the bully pen because he is a jerk. He joins in every fracas and encourages any kind of aggression, like a puny feathered cheerleader. Plus he follows Cubicle, my female goose, around everywhere, which annoys the heck out of Norman. Romeo, the gigantic Muscovy drake is in time out because he is after my hens. I think earlier this spring he actually murdered my older hen, Penguin, but no one’s talking.

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Shamrock the Terrible

They behave themselves in the garden. I’ve been letting Romeo out for a couple hours in the afternoon, mostly to give the rest of the bullies a break.

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Cubicle, Romeo, and Madonna. You can see that Romeo has got his eye on the hen.

It’s much quieter in the aviary with everyone locked up. Norman still takes his job as flock manager very seriously. There’s not much to manage, though.

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Norman on patrol, Cubicle swimming. Grover at the fence, Kitty Hawk hanging back, Winky blending in behind.

Vinny and Sal are still shy about venturing beyond their brushpile, and they won’t go out to the yard with the hens. Once their confidence is restored in the aviary common yard, I’ll let the bullies back out, one at a time. Maybe.

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Sal and Vinny, checking out the pond. Jello the hen in the distant yard. And that’s Norman’s neck and head, mid-photo.

Dang it. Time to lock up Romeo. He’s huge, but surprisingly easy to grab. Muscovies have really sharp toenails, so it’s all about technique.

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Sal averts his eyes as Romeo attacks Madonna the hen.

This is when I threw down the camera and made things right. Darn you, Romeo!

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Romeo, professional thug

It‘s really no surprise that the meekest of the ducks are shy about reclaiming their territory. Old Fabio, named for his head pouf, has been here since late 2006. He’s at least nine years old, and walks like your grandpa. His head pouf disappeared about when he lost his curly drake feather. He’s always been scared to death of me, and now that the six ducks he came in with are gone, he’s kind of lonely. B&B are very protective of him, but they attack V&S so they are locked up. For now, Norman looks after him.

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Fabio, Vinny, and Sal hanging out near their friends in the bully pen, just out of the photo, stage left.

The other drama queen is Lula, my poor little hen. We aren’t certain what her problem is, but it has been going on now since spring 2014. She’s on Metacam daily, and while she walks like your grandma, she is walking again. She has a hard time getting up to her roost at night, so I have been helping her up if she asks politely. Tonight she did. Other times I discover her up there already.

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Lurking Lula

One problem is that we can’t eat her eggs because of the Metacam (meloxicam). She is a very sweet hen, and comes over to get her medicine when I call her.

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“Don’t eat my egg!”

So I went back inside for the evening and I think I’m through dealing with bullies. But, NO! Here is tiny Spike the Budgie, terrorizing The Pirate, my handicapped dove. She put up with his pacing and haranguing, and then she suddenly lunged at him! He took off, flew to the kitchen via the dining room, landed right in his own cage! Nice flying, Spike!

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“BACK OFF, puny green thing!”