Soon after we got here, almost 8 years ago, we got our first ducks. Just some little ducklings from the rural store. Of course we knew nothing about ducks and some of them drowned in the washing up bowl of water we had given them to swim in. Two survived. They were Muscovies and as they grew with their red beaks and crowns we decided we wanted prettier ducks so we went online and bought Peking ducklings. Little bundles of yellow which Phoenix happily herded around the yard in awe and wonder.
One was called Ping after the little yellow duck on the Yangtze River in the story of the same name that I loved and treasured as a child. Ping & Pong were the favourites of 6. They grew into gorgeous glowing white bundles of feather with glossy golden beaks. Waddling from the house paddock to the river where they bathed, primped and preened before gliding over the river below us. They huddled down at night in front of the tie rail and it was from there over a serious of nights that 4 were taken by a wild dog creeping right into the house paddock night after night. Such brazen thievery deserved the death penalty which Ged duly delivered when he was home. We do not tolerate predators who treat us and our animals as an all you can eat buffet.
And then there were two. Ping and Pong remained. We were given an Indian Runner x Peking and the girls had a boyfriend. A happy trio. Always a joy to see on land or water and very noisy at feeding time when they waddled to the feed shed and demanded to be fed. Not long after Brave (Ged’s horse) came to live with us we found Ping in a terrible state with a broken leg and broken wing. We can only conjecture what happened but my feeling is that Brave, young, cheeky and a bit wild and excitable probably kicked her.
Sometimes we have to make cost-efficiency calls about sick animals. We were unlikely to take Ping to the vet. So we amputated half the wing (secateurs) and splinted the leg with paddle pop (lolly) sticks. We dosed her up with antibiotics (wing was infected) and Flower Remedies and Homeopathics, our go to staples for physical, psychological and all other ailments. We kept her on the verandah for about 10 days, every morning expecting her to have died overnight, every night exhorting her to live.
It was a miracle that she recovered. But she did. And she has lived a lovely happy life. Only stressed by the visitations of the sea eagles which have shown me what duck diving really is! But she has slowed down a lot over the last year. Presumably with arthritis in that broken leg which never set completely straight having broken right above the knee joint. Ged and I have watched her and known that at some time we were going to have to do the right thing by her and end her life. But who wants to end the life of such a true and trusted friend who has delighted us so much over so many years? Not I. Not Ged.
But that decision has thankfully been taken from us. She is gone. Ben woke us up yelling at us one morning ‘the sea eagle, the sea eagle’. And since then we have not seen Ping. Ben has said he saw the sea eagle low and carrying something white. Whether that is true or not we will never know. But we know that Ping is gone. Vale, friend, thank you for all the joy you gave us. I hope the end was quick. We will never forget you, always remember you with great love.