New Jersey Jewish News
Be the class pet if you must
The Torah gives us detailed instructions regarding the treatment of animals. To take eggs from a nest, the mother must be sent away, so she doesnt witness her loss. (Deuteronomy 22:16) I appreciate this level of compassion, but theres no advice in the Torah for how non-pet parents can appease pet-loving children.
My husband and I belong in Parents Without Pets, a nonexistent group of well see-ers. We live furless, featherless lives, yet embrace the concept of the weekend or vacation pet from school. With the upcoming Presidents Week break, parents will soon secure cuddling without commitment for their kids by taking home the class pet for an extended visit.
The summer we took home Lucky and Baldy, the first-grade class ducks, I happily envisioned them in our backyard baby pool, flashing full-beaked smiles for the camera. Then the teacher mentioned that she didnt want the ducks back in September. We had to raise them and find them a home in say, a local pond, at summers end. Mazal tov, said my sister-in-law. Youre foster parents!
The first night was unlucky for Lucky. The teacher said the cage could be outside if it wasnt raining. When it started to drizzle, I asked my husband if I should take them inside.
Theyre ducks, he reminded me.
I underestimated the danger lurking in the shrubs of suburbia. A preying animal pulled Lucky from the cage during the night, leaving only traces of him by morning.
I confessed to the teacher, who said that the surviving duck couldnt be raised alone. I tried to give Baldy away, but while folks want to adopt infant ducklings, older ducks are harder to place. Meanwhile my kids were lobbying to keep him, so I got on the adoption treadmill to find him a friend. Did I need a quacker-jack lawyer?
A Sussex County farmer said we could make a shidduch with another duck, although he didnt use that word. The farm was a broken-down house with animals on the loose. The place was so scary none of us got out of the car. Baldy remained brother-less and in our care. Then I found out about the Raptor Trust in Millington. They harbor birds of prey like hawks, eagles, and owls.
If wild ducks dont grow up in the wild, they turn into the village idiot, said a Raptor Trust staff member. They also imprint on the person who feeds them. That would be me. During a walk to the corner a neighbor said, Do you know theres a duck following you?
The Raptor Trust questionnaire included queries like, Is your bird a gosling, chickling, fledgling, or duckling? Duckling sounded good. What was his last meal? Same as his first: duck meal and water. The Trust said that because Baldy was raised by humans, his chances of surviving in the wild were slim.
Where did we go wrong? Baldy needed a rural setting and a splashy lifestyle the suburbs just couldnt provide. The Raptor Trust agreed to take Baldy in but said his future was either right there at the Trust or at a low-key tourist attraction pond.
So if youre ever feeding the ducks at a tourist spot, look for one that acts a little different. That will be no ugly duckling, but our own Baldy. Tell him that wherever he is, hell always be in our hearts. Im just glad hes out of our garage.
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