Dick van Duck is two weeks old, and becoming an increasingly active and interested member of the household. It is a shame that much of his interest seems to be centred on poor Poppy, and expressed by biting and jabbing at various bits of her anatomy. Her big, shiny brown eyes seem to catch his interest, and he has poked at them so often that you would think he had done adequate research into them by now. Eyebrows and whiskers fascinate him too, and he pulls them quite hard, before stuffing his ever-growing beak in the poor dog’s ear and giving it a nasty peck.
What does the long-suffering dog of the blog do in reaction to this abuse? She lies patiently, letting him do beastly things to her, occasionally shuffling to tuck her paws under her chest to stop him pulling at her toenails, or gently pushing him away with her nose when he attacks the soft skin on the inside of her thighs, tugs at her nipples or bites her tail. The swiftest reaction thus far was when Dick tried to poke his way right up the recumbent pooch’s backside. I have rarely seen Poppy move so fast. I did not see whether it was his beak or his fluff that had made contact, but she shot out of the door onto the roof terrace at lightening speed, leaving dick bowled over by her flailing limbs, squeaking and struggling to right himself, with his flappy orange feet waving in the air.
Once in a while, Poppy will try to pick him up, presumably to put him firmly somewhere else, so she can relax. We watched her with a tiny kitten once, and the same thing happened: she arranged her mouth carefully around him, but did not know what to do next. A tiny duck has no scruff of the neck, so even if Poppy had experience of mothering, she might not be able to fathom this one out. Only yesterday, I turned around to see Dick’s head and half his body disappearing into Poppy’s mouth. Neither of them seemed nearly as concerned as I was. I think my gasp of horror disrupted their train of thought, and Dick toddled off happily as Poppy wagged and grinned at me, as if to say, ‘Yes? Did you want something?’
In truth, it is very unlikely that Poppy would hurt Dick: she has incredible patience with him, and if she had wanted to kill him, I think she has probably had ample opportunity. However, if Dick persists in tormenting her, I pick him up and put him in one of the various makeshift playpens we have for him. I have developed an Extremely Displeased tone of voice, which I use to tell him he must not bite, and Poppy has more or less realised that when I preface a telling off with the word ‘Dick,’ it is not her who is in trouble. As long as I can separate them and give the poor dog a break from Dick’s attentions when it all gets a bit too boisterous, everything should be fine.
I am told that ducks can be trained, although I have been unable to find any definitive guides as to exactly how to go about it. Dick sometimes seems to realise that he has been told off, and will turn his head away from me, guiltily. He will sometimes come when I call him away from demolishing my lettuce seedlings, and seems to poop on me less frequently since I made disgusted noises at him and put him down quickly every time I was anointed. However, he is not at all consistent, and I wonder if I am suffering from proud mum syndrome, and whether any apparent obedience is just a happy coincidence.
As I type, the dog of the blog is out for her morning walk, Boggle is happily munching his breakfast and telling the world he is a pretty baby boy, and Dick is cuddled up to the back of my sandal, only eight times heavier than he was a fortnight ago, and looking adorable and fluffy.
His beak has developed a peculiar tooth type arrangement at the end, great for digging in flower pots and biting, and he is growing quite strong. His voice is showing signs of breaking, and any time now he could start growing proper grown up feathers. By the time he is about ten weeks old he will be fully-grown. Something tells me I must get onto the training business while he is still too small to chase me around the sitting room, pecking at my eyes and pulling my whiskers.