Sometimes I feel like I live in a zoo.
My roommate Raina’s love of animals has given me a chihuahua dog, a duck, a bird, three frogs, and two little garter snakes as housemates. While the majority of them are low-maintenance, contained, and likely unaware of our existence, the dog and the duck definitely know who we, and they, are.
The duck was originally a duckling, purchased from an agricultural show in Wetaskiwin. As a duckling, he followed us around, flapping his little wings and squeaking excitedly. As a duck, he still follows us around. His webbed feet make a slight slapping sound on the floor as he runs after us. If we leave him alone for even a second, he quacks indignantly.
For years, and before I even came to Sylvan Lake, the dog had no competition for affection. If she wanted to be picked up, she was. If she wanted to play, she was entertained. If she wanted food, it was hers alone.
Problems started soon after the duckling was brought home. As a fluffy, squeaking ball, it was the object of much attention. When we exclaimed over the duckling’s cuteness, the dog barked.
The duckling liked to nip at people’s toes, a behaviour which still continues. The dog was not exempt from this, which did not endear her to the newcomer. Neither did the duck’s increasing attempts to steal her food.
Mealtime is always exciting for both animals. The dog sits down to daintily eat her food, piece by piece. The duck quacks in excitement, rustling his wings, when presented with cooked egg or chopped worms.
If the dog doesn’t finish her food, the duck will sidle up to the dish, steal a piece, and run. When this happens, the dog suddenly becomes very interested in the food she had rejected, and runs defensively to it, growling at the thief.
As we learned, ducks pick up the behaviour of those around them. The duck has bonded to both of us, following us around the house and chattering at me as I cook supper. He has also observed the dog fetching toys, and one day tried to participate. He lost. His webbed feet were no match for the dog, who was much quicker, but that didn’t discourage him.
He still tries to fetch, even becoming so bold as to steal the dog’s toys beside her food dish while she’s eating. The dog did not take kindly to this, and chased the offender away. As she ate, she kept an eye on the duck, who stood nearby.
The duck always wants what the dog has, whether it be food, toys, or attention. While they may never be friends, they can still, however grudgingly, co-exist. Sometimes, that’s good enough.