King Augie Pays a Visit to Princess Fritz

I can't say I know a lot of people who are privileged enough to experience a play date with ducks, but there are some duck people out there. When we find another duck person, it's time for a play date.

While visiting my friend M. at a pet store where he works, Phout and I met a woman, C., who has a Pekin pullet named Fritz who was waddling around in the pet room of the pet store without a care in the world. C. and I began chatting about ducks as a curious crowd gathered around Fritz who wore one of C.'s custom designed diaper harnesses. (C. later explained she's been perfecting the duck diaper harness for several months now.) So, even though I don't believe in fate, I still walked out of the pet store that day thinking, "I guess I was meant to go there today in order to meet C. and Fritz."

I soon connected with C. through an online social network where we were also involved in a duck lover's group. Fritz was featured in the group's album, strutting around in her diaper, lying casually on the back of C.'s sofa, and swimming in the lake with C.'s daughters. And, in a few weeks, C. contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in bringing some ducks over for a play date.

The next challenge was deciding who would go. I considered bringing a couple of ducks, but after a lot of thought I decided on Augie Duck. Like Fritz, Augie was heavily imprinted on humans and, after a lot of exposure to other ducks, finally got used to them. C. had informed me that Fritz thinks she's a human and that she's never met another duck.

Augie rode on my lap in his lavender basket. It was lightly raining as Phout decided to pull over and get some coffee. Augie and I remained in the car where he stood in his basket and quacked his hoarse drake quack every time he saw people moving about in the parking lot. Of course the woman who parked next to us had a huge smile on her face as she got out of her car and saw Augie looking through the window at her. He watched the raindrops run down the windshield and fluttered his wings (which I think is a sign of excitement, nervousness, cooling off...and/or all of these).

We drove a few more blocks and pulled up C.'s driveway for the first time. She waved from the window and soon Fritz was ambling down the ramp from the wrap-around porch and Augie was waddling up the ramp toward her. I began videotaping at this point, though nothing much happened. I don't think Fritz knew quite what to do and I think Augie knew enough not to step over his bounds at Fritz's castle.

It was a bit nippy outside, so C. invited us inside where we could watch Fritz and Augie watch each other. After a quick trip of 'ring-around-the-dining-table': Augie chasing after Fritz once around, they both settled and stood next to their humans. At one point Fritz launched herself from in front of C. in a move of dominance, that probably surprised Fritz herself, and landed with her stretched neck across my forearm and lap where she applied pressure. (Ducks are a lot like canines in this respect. They do have a flock hierarchy and at this moment Fritz had placed her neck over my lap/arm to show she was in charge.) However, in this case I am not certain whether Fritz was confused or not. Perhaps she didn't know quite how to react since Augie was the first duck she'd met. She may have thought it was a package deal, that Augie and I were one.

C. offered one of her homemade duck diapers to us to take home and adjust for Augie. We tried it on him, but he hasn't worn a diaper since ducklinghood, so he spent the next ten minutes yanking on it in a clear display of agitation. C. mentioned that she believes ducks can learn to get used to anything and that Augie will soon adjust to the diaper once we've altered it to fit him better. I told her he will be in the house cuddling up to me, watching a movie on my lap just like he did when he was a fuzz duckling.

After Fritz and Augie jumped up for lettuce treats, we returned to the outdoors where the ducks walked about the lawn. I remember the scene where both of their duck butts were facing us as they munched on grass and it reminded me of this field of pot belly pigs I used to pass on my way home from the university and how those pigs looked like a bunch of randomly placed Russett potatoes. And that's random, I know.

We discussed future play dates and who we ought to bring, deciding that, next time, Clyde, Ming, and Emily would have the chance to meet Fritz on a day when it wasn't raining. When we decided to return inside once again, Augie and Fritz followed us. Augie approached the sliding glass door to the kitchen and stretched his neck out long and peaked inside. After some nudging he entered where he was grudgingly forced into his diaper again, but this didn't last long as he fretted so much it was taking away from the enjoyment of his play date. He was set free of his diaper and received a lot of attention from C.'s kids and their friends. (It seems they hadn't seen a black duck before and commented about Augie's green iridescence and his long, sleek body.)

C. explained that she finds dog collars at the dollar store, cuts them, and uses them as the back strap on the duck diaper harnesses. Genius idea! And then we were introduced to Fritz's toy box filled with jangles and stuffed toys. Fritz even has her own Care Bear--she sleeps with it and knows it's hers! Fritz began tugging on the strings of a stuffed ball-like toy and C. explained that Fritz doesn't fetch yet, but she'll chase after her toys if they're thrown for her. Then Phout mentioned that he thinks ducks are a lot like dogs.

Until recently Fritz has enjoyed total freedom wandering about the extended front yard, attracting the attention of neighbors who have looked out for her as she's roamed about during the daylight hours, but Fritz took a longer walk one day which necessitates a secure enclosure to keep her safe when no one's home. At night Fritz sleeps in a corner of the kitchen behind a plastic barrier.

Fritz was born in May. She's the second duckling C. and her family have raised. The first, who had a neurological condition which caused him/her to spin in circles, suffocated when he was around one month old. C. found him lifeless, but was able to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, reviving him, but only for about twenty minutes. Unfortunately, he'd been without oxygen too long and passed away. And now there is happy, healthy, hearty Fritz with her mellow quack and her sturdy orange legs waddling about the yard and house, laying one large egg each day that C. bakes with-- each Fritz egg replaces two chicken eggs for the moistest carrot cake on the planet. Trust me, I enjoyed some!

The Play Date Video:
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