We're Southern Illinoisans in many ways, but we fall way outside the norm when it comes to pets. For most Southern Illinoisans, pets are those animals that show up and hang out in your yard until they run off or get killed by something. People here don't expect to have the same pets for very long, and there are always replacements.
Our cats live in the house. Our dog lives in the house. Even our ducks live in a house. Most Southern Illinoisans wouldn't build a $1000 duck dome ... or even a secure night pen with an enclosed hutch and a fenced area covered in aviary netting. We have both.
We stand out like sore thumbs in the pet department, because we have real Southern Illinoisans for neighbors. You've heard about Al. Now, meet Richard:
This morning there was a knock on our door about 7:00am. It was an older man who introduced himself as the neighbor who lives behind us, on the other side of our tree line. He has a lovely property with a big grass pasture and a pond. He came up to tell me he was missing his ducks.
When we got our ducks I worried that they'd wander off and end up in his pond, and I suspected I might have to explain them to him at some point. I didn't anticipate that we would, in fact, become unwitting ducknappers.
As it turns out, his son gave him a pair of ducks for his pond the other day and they've been wandering up here when we're not home. He comes and retrieves them, but they keep coming back. This morning they were trying desperately to get into the duck enclosure with our ducks. He scooped them up and took them home and told me that our ducks were welcome to come swim on his pond.
A play date! A pond to swim in, instead of a tiny wading pool! Yay!
So I got dressed, let our ducks out, and tried to take them over to the pond. They followed me about halfway across our property and then ran back to their pool. I got behind them and herded them. They turned the corner onto his property and then ran along the tree line and charged back through the brush into our yard again. I gave up and went to work thinking maybe I'd try again this evening.
I obsessively count the ducks to make sure there are eight, alive and well. When I got home from work tonight I counted them ... one, two, three, four ... five ... six, seven, eight ... nine, ten???? Crap. Two extra. I tried to figure out which two were Richard's, since they're also Rouens. I think his are a little darker than ours, but hell ... ducks look very much alike! His are tamer ... or they were tamer this morning when he walked over and picked them up ... but they spent all day with our yard ducks and now they're not very damn tame anymore. I tried to get them to follow me to the pond and they ran back to the wading pool. I tried to herd the whole flock to the pond and they ran in three different directions.
I gave up and went to talk to Richard. I told him his ducks were at our house and he said he knew ... he'd chased them back twice today and finally gave up. I told him I'd put them in our enclosure tonight so they don't hurt themselves trying to get in, and he offered to pay for any feed they eat.
Tomorrow, while Ev and I are both off work, we'll try and herd them to the pond again. Maybe he can at least enjoy seeing them on his pond, since I don't think he's going to get them back. The living is pretty good up here at the Duck Dome and they appear to have settled in. We were short on females anyway.
As it turns out, these are not the first pets Richard has lost to us. He is, apparently, the source of all of our strays. Last year's duck belonged to him, too. I found that out while we were chatting tonight. He said he had a pair of mallards last year but one got killed and one wandered off. Oops. I said, "Um, yeah ... she wandered off to our yard. We fed her for awhile and then she got killed in the road."
Poor Richard looked stricken. Then he said, "I wish that road wasn't so close. My dog got hit on that road last year. She was a black lab ... a really good dog." Oops. "Was Sidney your dog??" I asked him. Sidney was the black lab who adopted us last year ... the one who used to sleep in my convertible if I left the top down ... the one who would sit in the bed of Ev's truck for hours waiting to go for a ride ... the one who is buried in our yard.
Now Richard has a little black lab puppy named Boots. She tried to follow me home.
If there's a Mrs. Richard I hope he doesn't let her wander up here.