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Pets Large & Small

Cher Ami

Dr. Kim Brokaw, DVM

Dealing with unwanted pets is an unfortunate part of veterinary medicine. Vets frequently counsel owners on how to either help mold the pet into a wanted family member or how to find a new home where the pet will be loved. Occasionally, when a more suitable home can't be found, the vet ends up convincing the owner to surrender the animal to the clinic.

Then, the veterinary staff tries to find a suitable home for the pet. Until the new home is found, a member of the veterinary staff keeps the animal as a personal pet. I, like most veterinarians, am a sucker. I keep acquiring additional, unadoptable, pets when their old owners can no longer take care of them or no longer want them. During the two years I have been in Walkersville, I have acquired a duck and four cats.

The first thing I do when I acquire a new pet is to vaccinate, deworm, neuter or spay and re-name my pet. I like to give them unusual names such as Cally Moon Love Shadow and Pnancy (as in pneumonia, the "p" is silent). Cher Ami is a French duck whose parents abandoned him. He was brought into the clinic and I took custody of him. I hoped we would immediately find him a good home, but almost a year has gone by and he is still with me.


His namesake, a famous French World War 1 messenger pigeon, was awarded the Croix de Guerre Medal for delivering a message that helped save the lives of 194 servicemen despite being shot through the breast, leg, and blinded in one eye. I know my duck, who can barely fly, will never do anything that noble, but I like the name, and he is French.

While my pets may have to put up with having strange and unusual names, at least they receive very good care. Truthfully they tend to be spoiled. My own horse (who is not adopted), hears the noise of plastic candy wrappers and comes running. He knows that the sound of candy wrappers means peppermints for him.

Ducks are not supposed to be indoor pets, however, Cher Ami lives inside the house, and during most of the year, swim outside in the pool. In the winter, when the pool is closed, he is relegated to the bathroom, for swims in the bathtub. In the interest of preventing infectious disease, no humans take baths in that bathtub.

Aside from being messy, as he cannot be housebroken and he refuses to wear duck diapers, Cher Ami fits in well with the family. He gets along wonderfully with the dog. They go swimming together, sleep together, watch me eating and beg for handouts together. Aside from "the cheese incident" they get along well.

"The cheese incident" occurred when my sister came up to visit. I made a strawberry baked brie for the occasion. We weren't able to finish it so I decided to put the leftovers on the floor for the duck and dog to finish. While they started off sharing the plate, Cher Ami decided that the cheese in the dog's mouth would be tastier than the cheese on the plate. He inserted his duck bill into the dog's mouth in pursuit of the piece of cheese. Luckily the dog spat him out but not before the duck punctured his bill on one of her teeth. His bill is very vascular and started bleeding. As the duck ran about the kitchen shaking his head, he sent blood flying all over the place. By the time I caught Cher Ami, the kitchen looked liked a scene out of some chainsaw slasher movie.

My sister can't handle the site of blood so while screaming about how the duck was dying she retreated out of the room to vomit or faint. She didn't vomit or faint, and the duck stopped bleeding in a few minutes. After some cleaning of the beak and a dose of oral antibiotics, the wound didn't look bad. Cher Ami was back to his usual pushy duck self by morning. In light of recent events, new dinner time rules have been established. These rules forbid dogs and the duck from sharing the same plate.

About once a month I go home to visit my parents and take all of my pets with me. The horses are very good about getting in the trailer. The dog rides in the back seat of my truck and the duck rides shot gun. Cher Ami sits in a laundry basket in the front passenger seat. I usually leave the laundry basket uncovered so he can look around as I drive down the road.

He is usually very good and just sits in the laundry basket for the entire drive down to VA. Once, he was frightened as a large semi truck drove by, and he jumped out of the basket and into my lap. I managed to get him back into his basket without even swerving out of my lane. A cat carrier should probably be on my list of future travel related purchases.

Living with an assortment of pets who I didn't choose keeps my life interesting. I never would have bought a pet duck. If I could have found a good home for the duck, he would not be a member of my household. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed his company.

This does not mean that I want any additional ducks, cats or other un-adoptable pets. My house is full. I do not want to become like a crazy cat collector lady who has 100 half starved cats because she cannot bear to see unwanted animals euthanized. However, my life has been enriched by my adoptees.

Editor's Note: Kim Brokaw applies her talents and love of animals at the Walkersville Veterinary Clinic.

Read other articles by Dr. Kim Brokaw