It is often said that in this world there are “cat” people and “dog” people. According to some prominent conspiracy theorists there are even lizard people, but that’s a story for another time. Just in case you are remotely interested, I very definitely fall on the side of the dog people. It isn’t that I particularly dislike cats, I have just never really had a lot to do with them and the vast majority of those who I have met, have left me feeling slightly used and very patronised. It’s probably worth pointing out that I am also allergic to cats so that probably doesn’t help their case either.
Conversely, almost all of the dogs I have had anything to do with, have been attentive, to the point of being nuisance, and are very affectionate. They are always really pleased to see me, and display great interest in my crotch. No wonder they are called man’s best friend.
My preference for canines, was reinforced last weekend when I saw a jet black moggy, stalking a duckling. Around this time of year, our neighbourhood gets ducklings in such vast quantities that, if they were less cute they’d be described as a plague. There must be thousands of them, and they are most inconsiderate.
Their favourite trick is to cross the road at the most inconvenient possible moment and when confronted by a car, waddle with no sense of haste directly into your path. I am absolutely certain that they conspire with the traffic lights whenever I am running a bit late.
Despite this, the really little ducklings are very, very sweet indeed and so when I saw this little baby down in the gutter with the cat just about ready to pounce, I decided to intervene. I had a good look around, but there was no sign of a mother duck or any siblings so I picked the duckling up and took it home. I realise that this is not a very sensible plan of attack, but really it was going to stand a far better chance of surviving if it came back to our place than if I left it to fight it out with the hungry looking feline!
It was only about two minutes to our house, but in those 120 seconds I had imagined a whole new life for the duckling. He would become Team Fun’s mascot and we would happily take him everywhere with us.
Sadly, Mrs L. had other ideas, and I was told to return him to the wild, (and certain death). I had tactically shown the little chap to Fraboo before her mother, and so with she and I begging Mrs L. to let us keep him, it was a war of attrition which we were always going to win.
Being a gentleman, I conceded the argument, saying that it was too late to do anything about it now, but we would contact a local bird rescue organisation in the morning. In the meantime we made a little home for the duckling, a box with a dishcloth in the bottom and a little pot of water. All the time I was hoping that overnight, Mrs L. would fall in love with the little bird, and she would relent. To start the ball rolling, I suggested that we think of a name for it. Fraboo, Boy Boy, Mrs L. and I each made a suggestion. I chose Ducky, whilst Fraboo went for Donald. These were both quickly ignored. Boy Boy thought that Silly Old Duck was a great name, as did I, but the clear winner, was Mrs L. with Dinky.
We did some research to find out what ducklings like to eat, and apparently it isn’t old bits of bread (shocking, I know), but worms and bugs. Fraboo enthusiastically disappeared into the garden with a spade (to dig up sizeable portions of the lawn, I later discovered), and reappeared with several worms, which she put in Dinky’s little home.
Fraboo’s maternal instincts are already quite well developed, and this gave her the perfect opportunity to play Mummy. She was so obsessed with Dinky that it was even more difficult to get her into bed than usual, but eventually she did go to sleep.
At the start of the evening, Dinky seemed quite chirpy (please excuse the terrible pun), but as the evening progressed, it became apparent that he wasn’t fairing too well.
We were woken up the following morning by an excited Fraboo telling us that she had been busy making a teddy bear for Dinky. “He’s still asleep,” she told us. Unfortunately poor Dinky had died during the night. Fraboo seemed quite upset and so we decided that later on that day we would have a service of commemoration for him. She perked up quite quickly after that, offering to help dig the hole in the garden, and collecting flowers to scatter on his grave.
Rather than have a dreary funeral, we decided that this should be a celebration of Dinky’s life, and so we sang some songs together in the garden, as we laid the little chap to rest.
I thought that this would be the end of it but it seems to have made quite an impact in her young life. A week later, Fraboo is still talking about the “dead duck”, and it has been a topic for her to discuss in her “class news” and even merited a painting. Don’t worry, she isn’t moping around the house like an emo whose lost their hair dye. She’s her normal chipper self, and it doesn’t seem to constantly occupy her mind. However, it has clearly added another, darker shade to the spectrum through which she views the world.
I shouldn’t be so surprised though. This has been her first encounter with death. As an adult it is easy to be cavalier about situations such as this. I knew that there was a very real chance that Dinky wouldn’t make it through the night, and perhaps I should have explained that to Fraboo, but being a coward, I didn’t want to a) upset her and b) destroy that innocent part of her. So while, to my mind, Dinky hadn’t even quite made it to the esteemed position of family pet, in retrospect, I can see that Fraboo had invested a lot of love in the little creature.
This is the way that she treats everyone though, totally accepting, and with more love than I would have thought was possible for a child of her age. In the future, perhaps she will end up getting hurt a lot, and it is our job as parents to teach her how to deal with that disappointment. I hope though, that as she becomes an adult she maintains those qualities. But if not, for now I can just enjoy my precious daughter’s beautiful character.