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Daily Drama 66 – The Chicken in the Bathtub

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Daily Drama 66 – The Chicken in the Bathtub

Little Free Library Charter 38388

The good news is that the wasps have vacated the Little Free Library! I had a big warning sign up and thought no one had come near it for a few weeks. When I took down the BEWARE OF WASPS sign, I noticed that someone had stuffed my library full of great books! As you can see, it is much larger than most Little Free Libraries, and the donator failed to organize them properly: non-fiction on the lower shelf, Children’s books middle shelf right, hardback fiction at the top. By the time I had them all sorted out, I realized there are at least 50% more books in there than what I seeded it with! It isn’t fancy (It’s a discarded china cupboard I found on the corner with a “free” sign on it.) but it is a success!

So here’s the part about the chicken. Conchita is one of three hens dumped at a local feed store back in 2012. Adelita and Conchita survived whatever took Bonita out, and rule the coop over the four other hens who put up with them. Conchita developed a bad habit of hopping over the 4 foot tall chainlink fence that keeps the bully drakes separated from the little white call duck hussy, Ping, and her dimwitted beau, Boxcar. I found Conchita whimpering at the base of the fence with a broken leg and now she lives in my bathtub. What a klutz!

Chicken in a cast.

Conchita and I went to the vet where they confirmed my diagnosis, pinned her broken leg, put on a cast, prescribed antibiotics and pain meds, and sent us home. She went straight into the bathtub, leaving me to contemplate the surprise vet bill.

Chicken in a bathtub

A week later we returned for an x-ray to evaluate her progress. Her leg was healing up dandy, she had finished her course of antibiotics, and only needed pain meds once a day. She was lonely for her friends, and I knew she would eat more heartily with the flock around her, so I took her out to the infirmary in the aviary. We were still having nice summer weather and there is a heated pad out there so it would be an easy transition from indoors. The following vet visit, they removed her cast. Of course, she couldn’t walk yet, but she was much more comfortable. And she was within conversational distance of her friends.

Chicken in the infirmary

The next vet visit was a surprise. It was another surgery to remove the pin. With a fresh wound where the pin came out, she was prescribed another round of antibiotics and pain meds. In addition, I was given a bottle of antiseptic wash to cleanse the wound. I read the post-surgery instructions while they were settling the bill. Anesthesia, lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite, blah blah blah. Medications 1, 2, and 3 blah blah blah, clean wound daily for 10 days.  At the very bottom of the page-> Other Special Instructions: Recheck in one week   Keep Conchita inside to keep wound clean

INSIDE! Really? I was crushed. She had been so unhappy indoors. The Bartender is a good sport, but this is our master bathroom. Okay then. When I considered the daily cleansing, the twice a day meds, how well she was healing . . . it wasn’t a good idea to chuck her back outdoors, even though she would miss her flock while she was back in the bathtub.

Conchita knows it’s med time: that’s as far away from me as she can get.

A bit more serious about her indoor accommodations, I hauled out a stack of old cage blankets so I could freshen up her pen at a moment’s notice. I had noticed that she liked to sleep on her picked-over corn cobs, so I moved in a couple of sausage-shaped toys for pseudo ground perches. Set her up with a Ring For Service bell. Made the all-day trek to IKEA and bought her an abacus (which she loves) and a baby bug mobile (which she ignores). The rest of the crew made out like bandits: Dobby got new rugs to sully and a toy box to knock around. Fat Bonnie the rabbit got stacking cups to knock over and a basket of plushie vegetables to toss. The Guinea pigs got new floor blankets and a plushie pig to abuse. Even the rats got new sleeping bags.

Conchita began to stand on one leg, using the broken one as a crutch for balance. Ever the optimist, she learned to whimper every time we approached the bathtub: “Let me out of here! Please? Anyone?” The twice daily med routine was a groaner for both of us. The cleansing was a quick efficient affair once I cleared a path to the lost laundry tub in the far corner of the cluttered workshop better known as The Dungeon.

Another vet visit, another surprise: out of the wound they pulled an exceptionally clean and solid plug of pus the size of a checker. Then they stapled her, closing the pin hole for good. Whew! All finished! But wait, another round of antibiotics and pain meds. And of course, there would be one more vet visit to remove the shiny new metal staples.

She was very proud of herself for getting up there, but she was happy to get helped down in the morning.

She really started walking around after that visit. Climbing the short flight of stairs to the master bedroom, we began to see a Conchita head pop up as she greeted us. “I gotta get outta here! Please?” I decided to put up a little fence around the tub. It wouldn’t keep her in if she got active, but I hoped it would discourage any escape plans. The very next night at bedtime, we discovered her up on this perch! What do you think? Tall enough fence? Maybe not.

“Dang, that’s a tall fence!”

Poor Conchita, the next day I switched out her little fence for this big ex-pen. She hasn’t been up on the perch since. To tell you the truth, I absolutely cringe at the thought of her jumping up and down from anywhere. She did hop up there today when I cleaned her blankets, but she always waits for me to lift her back down. Even that night when she slept up there she didn’t get down until I lifted her gently down in the morning.

Chicken peek-a-boo

So this is what we see every time we climb the stars to the bedroom. “Please! I’m begging you, let me outta here!” She has a vet appointment tomorrow afternoon (those staples), and even though they might say it’s okay to put her back outside, I’m not sure I’m ready to do it. We’re going to miss having her inside. It’s kind of fun having a chicken in the bathtub.

Stevie Ray, still handsome

Little old Stevie Ray will be my next challenge. He used to be big and fat, but in April, the vet discovered an abdominal mass, undoubtedly the cause of his weight loss. At his age, surgery isn’t an option. She said he probably had another three months, and we discussed what that would mean for his buddy, Squirrel.

Stevie Ray still tussles with Squirrel for his salad.

At seven years old, Stevie Ray can look a bit rough, but he cleans up nicely after a warm bath, shampoo, and blow dry. It has been five months now since he saw the vet, and he even gained a little weight over the summer. Now, he’s starting to have some old-age problems, and he’s losing weight again, but his appetite is great and he doesn’t seem to be uncomfortable.

Cookie and Brutus have finally learned to share.

Brutus and the Cookie Monster are young girls that came my way shortly after Stevie Ray’s depressing diagnosis. They graciously donated the ex-pen you see here to the chicken. In return, they have Conchita’s lower grid fence. They managed to escape the ex-pen once, so I’m anxiously awaiting their escape from the short, lightweight fence. If they work together, I’m sure they could shove it around. Maybe they’ll push it near enough that blue Thomas the Tank Engine step (with the IKEA pig on it) so that they can make a flying leap escape. I’ll let you know.

Spitfire is so subtle.

Meanwhile, I have this great new blog helper. Spitfire the budgie is very inspirational if you like mirrors, paper clips, pieces of string, and seeds all over your keyboard. Oops! She just flew across the room. That’s how I know I’m at the end of a blog! Bye!

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Daily Drama 59

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Daily Drama 59

Dobby’s diving video is featured on Bored Panda! He also made the front page of reddit yesterday! Woohoo! It isn’t quite the same as The New Yorker magazine announcing his candidacy for the 2016 presidential contest, but it is still pretty cool! That didn’t go so well, anyway.

A little bit of the Amazon River, right here in my backyard, complete with indigenous species!


Stacy’s Funny Farm is a non-profit pet sanctuary. You can read more about it here.

Daily Drama 57

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Daily Drama 57

Blogging is not a priority for me this month. Dobby is participating in NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. The Prince has decided to write his autobiography. You might think this has nothing to do with me, but it has resulted in a lot of encouragement, research, consultation, and plain old butt-kicking from ye olde Farm Manager. He wants to do this very much, but he hasn’t the discipline or skills to go it alone.

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Sonya’s sketchbook

Fortunately, my illustrator, Sonya Reasor has stepped in to help Dobby on this worthy project. It’s inspiring to see Dobby come to life on someone else’s sketch pad for a change. 

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Breakfast is served! At the bowl: Carmen, Emilio, and Tony. Beyond: Ping, Shamrock, and Sal.

My mornings are busy, and in addition to the usual chores, leaves are falling onto the wire netting that secures the roof of the aviary. If I don’t pick those before it snows, the weight of snow+leaves=broken roof. We had temperatures down to freezing night before last, so I will soon be winterizing the swimming pool pump and packing away all of the freeze-sensitive accoutrements around here. Time to switch Dobby to his heavier blankets, ratchet up his heater, increase his corn ration.

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Dobby is thrilled about his new hens (in the background.)

The three new four-year-old Golden Laced Wyandotte hens have already moved from the bully pen out to the general population. I guess they have never had a roosting perch, because they roost in a huddled pile-up next to the cat food dishes. Not a big hit with the cats, but they are sweet old traditional hens. They remind me of the hens in Chicken Run. (One of the best movies ever made, BTW.) Frieda, in particular is a friendly old gal, curious about everything I do.

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Frieda watches Windy and Eartha take dust baths in the barn. They are all molting.

Princess Blur is one of a kind, and I have known quite a few chickens. She befriended my old handicapped hen, Lula, and I have to carry them everywhere together. Blur is the only hen who doesn’t go home to roost, unlike the old adage. Oh, no, she flies up into the apple tree at dusk. Fortunately she prefers a low branch where I can pluck her down and carry her to her Official, if not preferred, roost in the safe and dry barn, near her beloved Lula.

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Petite Princess Blur. Not a good climate for feathered legs, she carries a bit of mud on her slippers.

Princess Blur is so funny and tiny. My other hens don’t know what to make of her.

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Look! You can see shadows! Enjoying the sun, Blur, Conchita, Jello, and Adelita.

Dobby is waiting patiently for me to take him to the front yard. The grass is nearly gone, but he still finds greens here and there. The bamboo is spreading like wildfire, but he eats it all winter long.

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Dobby looks a little shaggy this season.


We walk through this storage area when we go to the front yard. We have had record rainfall and the ground is saturated. My entire yard is a mudhole, and there is an inch of standing water over most of the front lawn.

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Dobby stops in a mud puddle to scratch on his way to the front yard.

Dobby wants everyone to see his feet.

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That’s good organic mud, black and gooey like crude oil.

Dobby’s preference is to have his grazing catered so that he can enjoy a snack with his friends. I used to provide a cracked corn snack in the afternoons, but a gang of mallards keep crashing the party. Seriously, 30-40 mallards fly over, land in Dobby’s pool, and present vouchers for drinks and bar snacks as if they were entitled. I have been weaning them of this indulgence, but there is still a core group of half a dozen mallards who know their way around here and go into the aviary where the real duck food is available. Scoundrels.

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A round of cracked corn and bamboo-in-a-bucket. Carmen, Norman, Boondock, Boxcar, Cubicle, Dobby, and Ping.

For some reason, I cannot take a decent photograph of my silly little white duck, Ping. Today she sat and gave me the stinkeye while I administered medication to a dove. Yesterday, Norman and the flock was antsy at the end of the day. Turns out Ping forgot how to come around the apple tree fence, and was left behind, frantically pacing when Norman brought everyone else into the aviary for the night.

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Ping keeps an eye on me.

It isn’t much different indoors. Rats, it turns out, are little beggars. Fortunately, they are eternally grateful even for stale graham crackers.

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Yuki will eat almost anything, though she balks a bit at carrots.

We are all devastated at the death of our little old guinea pig, Carl Sagan. No one felt the loss more than Stevie Ray, who kept vigil in his special observation post long beyond necessity. He gazed longingly at the former location of Carl’s cuddle cup, and rather ignored snack time unless I handed him the treats. Fortunately, Squirrel was ready to be introduced into Stevie Ray’s spacious cage, and after nightly floor time on neutral territory, the big day arrived.

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Squirrel the maniac, and Stevie Ray, a sadder but wiser gentleman pig.

During the Monday Mayhem otherwise known as Guinea Pig Cage Cleaning Day, Squirrel moved in. He was so, well, squirrely, that I wasn’t convinced it would work, but poor Stevie Ray was so despondent, that even rambunctious Squirrel was a welcome respite. The two boars are getting along nicely. Stevie Ray is eating normally again and as long as the carrots keep coming, Squirrel will be happy!

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Fat Bonnie snuggles up to a plush piglet.

Dobby goes out to sleep in his night pen every night. Fat Bonnie takes advantage of this and hops around to his side of the wall where we set up toys and treats for her. She would like it better if we didn’t also let the birds out for an evening flight. They like to land on her blanket and tease her. It’s not nice to tease dummies, but she is smarter than I thought! Not only does she “stand up for a cookie” but she also “turns around for a blueberry!” I never thought I’d see the day when Bonnie could do a trick!

Daily Drama 56

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Since my last post, I have welcomed two incoming farm residents, heard of a surprising demise, racked up expenses for several veterinary visits, and I am considering renaming Carl Sagan the Guinea pig “Methuselah.” The new washer has astonishing capacity, making Dobby’s daily washing a breeze, and his gigantic blankets drop into it like the Enterprise entering a black hole.

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Squirrel, the nutty Guinea Pig

Squirrel is my new Guinea pig, and working him into the Dude Ranch is exciting. He came from a nearby rescue and had not found a permanent home. Until his well-pet check, he lived quietly in his own cage. He’s a friendly boar, leaning out of the cage, interested in anything coming in through the door. Digging through his vegetable dish, he runs off with the carrots. Eventually he tastes everything and then the dish is empty and he’s back to begging.

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Squirrel, foreground, in his isolation cage. Dude Ranch behind, Carl barely visible in a pigloo.

The veterinarian agreed with my age estimate of 2-3 years, well under the 5 years I was quoted. This means he is still young enough to neuter, and that little surgery took place last week. He’s so over it, raring to go again. Because, you see, this one is a maniac. I don’t know where that quiet one went that I adopted, but I don’t think he’s coming back.

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“You’re going to surgically remove my WHAT?”

Once Squirrel was deemed healthy, I took the next step of partitioning the Dude Ranch in order to introduce him to the herd. Ancient Carl is too fragile to live with anyone new, but eventually, Stevie Ray will appreciate a companion. They can live side-by-side until I am certain they will get along. So I put little Squirrel into his side of the Ranch, and he went wild! He grabbed the partition with his teeth and shook it until all the water sloshed in the bottles and food started to fly from the food bins! Wow! Stevie Ray and Carl both came over to investigate, and I realized how close their tender little ears were to the toothy fury that was their new neighbor! Out Squirrel went, back to his old cage. It was quiet again.

I put a double divider in, a space between them, a demilitarized zone, so to speak. Squirrel went back in, the fury ensued, the cage shook, the boys came to investigate, and Squirrel was airlifted into his old cage. Wow! I continue to maintain that I am smarter than a Guinea pig, smarter than a capybara, even. Because if I’m not, I can’t do this. So I thought about it overnight and the next day I implemented my solution: I lifted the wire cage top off of Squirrel’s cage, plopped it into the dude ranch, thrust him in with his food dish and hay box, and stood back. He calmly walked around his familiar territory and started begging for vegetables.

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Squirrel is in the white cage-within-a-cage at the far end of The Ranch.

The Bartender glanced in as he passed by.

“He’s in jail!”

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I’m still smarter than a Guinea Pig. Squirrel completely calmed down within his familiar enclosure.

Yes, I suppose so. A couple days later I lifted his wire cage jail out of the Ranch, and Squirrel barely noticed.

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“It’s all cool, man.”

I left the demilitarized zone in place, though. Carl is now too fragile for even indirect contact, even though Squirrel has calmed down a bit.

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Stevie Ray and Carl are still safely separated from the maniac, though Squirrel hardly ever rattles the divider any more.

Blur the banty hen came to me as the result of a failed backyard chicken experiment. Her buddy was taken by a raccoon and her owners threw in the towel. She was too noisy: lonely for chicken friends. She is absolutely minuscule, about the size of a pigeon, and I can hardly wait to see her eggs. To tell you the truth, when I saw her I was concerned that my bigger hens might not accept her, or that the cats might take an unhealthy interest in her. I put her in the infirmary with my handicapped hen, Lula, and they have bonded and are nearly inseparable. While Ping (the tiny new duck) was sequestered in the bully pen, they spent their days with her. They shared the safety of the apple tree pen during the afternoon garden parties. Now that Ping has been integrated with the other ducks, Blur and Lula continue their friendship wherever they are. Princess Blur seems to feel she is in charge, and knowing the routine runs over to be picked up when we are changing venues. She can walk, but Lula can’t, so they both have to be carried everywhere.

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Lula (black) and Ping (white), Dobby the capybara, and tiny Blur just behind him, in the apple tree pen.

“Honestly, if ever I was tempted to bring a hen indoors, it would be little Blur.”

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Princess Blur, the banty Mille Fleur hen. She might be 6″ tall.

The Bartender looked a bit panicky when I said that out loud, so I won’t mention it again and we’ll see what happens.

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Ping the duck and Cubicle the goose are friends. Shamrock is just beyond the top swimming pool step, and Carmen Miranda the muscovy is beyond him.

Ping, the little white duck, has settled in with the flock and follows the drakes everywhere. I’m not sure why they haven’t noticed how cute she is. She and my goose, Cubicle, have long amicable conversations, and I think she is getting some good advice. Or maybe she’s hoping to interest Ping in Shamrock, the relentless drake who shamelessly follows Cubicle everywhere, to the annoyance of her mate, Norman.

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Dobby plays hide and seek in the front yard.

Romeo, who went to the most fabulous pond imaginable, had a good month there and then suddenly wasted away before there was time to see the vet and he’s gone. Our ten cent diagnosis is hardware disease, a peril I have lost several Muscovies to. I feel badly that he probably ate some ugly junk here only to die of it at his new home. We will never know, but I guess it’s time to sweep the farm with my magnets again.

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Pouffy Man. We’re working on a new trick. Do you think he can get pouffy on command?

Carl Sagan (Methuselah) has again made it to his birthday month of October. Born in 2006, that makes him – YIKES! -ten years old! Sadly, he looks all of his ten years, and he is fading fast, but his appetite is youthful! He is my last goodnight, and the little pet I check on first thing every morning. In Guinea Pig years, he’s about 100. You are a champ, Carl!

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Stevie Ray and Carl Sagan. Ha ha, can you tell which end is which?

In other news, Dobby’s presidential campaign has stalled somewhat. He is bitterly disappointed that he wasn’t invited to the first debate, but is now complaining that he was unable to prepare due to an unexpected nap computer glitch. Maybe he’ll get off his throne and do some campaigning, maybe not. We’ll see.

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Dobby takes a selfie.

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.