I am a simple creature. My habits are the guardrails guiding my life forward. Every morning I wake up at 6a. Day off. Vacation. Doesn’t matter. My body wakes up. I shower, shave, and spend some time with Jesus in prayer and Bible reading. Then I head downstairs to let the dog out. Sonny gets out of her crate and goes outside to the bathroom. The final piece of my morning routine is to take the dog out on a walk. It has been really good for me. We go out and I listen to some solid preaching or maybe a History Podcast. By the time I get home, the wife and kids are up and getting ready for school.
Well, on Saturday we were out for our walk and Charlie Meeks was bringing the fire from his Chicago pulpit when my day went off the rails.
We were turning onto Linwood to make our way back home when I noticed a family of ducks walking on the sidewalk before us. The chicks were really little. They were still super fuzzy and ultra cute. There were seven of them waddling behind their mother like they were coming home from a field trip. Sonny was immediately at attention. We don’t know what kind of dog she is. We tried to get some DNA thing from the vet. It told us she was 30% supermutt. Whatever she is, I think there is some bird dog within her. She is always chasing birds. In the yard she will point at every Robin or Jay that comes within our fence. As soon as I saw these ducks I tightened my grip upon the leash. I didn’t want Sonny’s primal instinct to bring an end to all these sweet little ducklings.
Turns out my default walking pace is faster than a duck’s waddle. This meant I began to catch up to Mama Duck. I imagined telling this story to the kids and wanted a visual to help them see what I saw. So I grabbed a quick picture.
At the corner me and Sonny were turning left to go home while Mama Duck led her progeny across the street and towards Gilkey Creek. At the turn Sonny got real close to the duck family. She was within 2 feet of the entire crew. Mama Duck came behind her chicks and began to slap her wings against the pavement. The slap was surprisingly loud. Sonny wasn’t deterred. She continued to point and pull against the leash.
I had to stoop down to get Sonny untangled. She was going round and round in her desperation to hunt. I got her rear leg loosed from the leash and allowed Mama Duck to get her chicks to safety. I stood up a good man. I stood up a man who loved his dog, loved his family, and protected God’s creation. Sonny, feeling that she was free from entanglement ran full strength towards the end of her leash. I felt bad for her. I knew it was going to snap her back when she ran out of rope. I thought she had learned that his behavior only brought discomfort. I tightened my grip and flexed my arm to catch the weight of my running pup. The moment came when the leash ran out and the dog should yelp against the strong stop. Only it didn’t. The moment passed. I felt the force of her pull for a moment before it all went away. A whirring noise filled the air. Something hit my hand hard and stung. And Sonny was bolting away from me, heading straight for Mama Duck and her babies.
The leash had broken. The whirring was the fabric retracting into the handle. The sting on my hand was when the last piece of fabric whipped back before being forever drawn away. It all happened so fast. By the time I realized what had happened, Sonny was upon them. There was nothing I could do. I didn’t even speak her name before it happened.
Thankfully, I was not the only line of defense. Mama Duck saw the oncoming puppy. And she sprang into action. Her place in the world was between her chicks and the dog who would harm them. She did not run to protect herself. She did not save one and offer the rest as sacrifice to natural selection. Instead she put them all at risk. She would face this dog or die trying. And if she did die, her little chicks would stand no chance in the big bad world. They would be picked off by birds of prey, dogs, and foxes.
Regardless, Mama Duck stood in that place against the oncoming horde. She honked loud and true, drawing Sonny’s attention fully to herself. She put out her wings wide to make herself the primary target. Thankfully Sonny is not a lion seeking the weak one of the herd. Sonny was hunting not for meat but for sport. So she was drawn to Mama Duck’s brilliant and dangerous ploy.
Mama Duck began strafing to her left, leading Sonny away from the chicks. I watched all this in fascinated horror. When Sonny was almost upon her she jumped up into the air. She flapped her wings and held herself up but not too high. She had to keep this pup on a different kind of leash. She was literally playing hard to get. And she had to keep this dog in the chase. Sonny jumped up to grab Mama Duck but she was agile. She dodged his snapping teeth. Mamma duck began flying backward, honking and making all kinds of noise. Sonny was enraptured. Sonny was in the hunt and lost any interest in the babies. Mama Duck retreated over a hill and Sonny followed. I could hear Sonny’s bark and Mama Duck’s quacks as they faded out of earshot.
I walked over slowly, still holding the useless handle, staring off to where dog and duck had gone. I looked down and standing next to me were seven ducklings who had no mother to follow. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do. If I called Sonny back, she would come over that hill to find much easier prey. And that was a massacre I didn’t want to witness. So I began shooing them up into the Knapps’ yard. I got them all up near the shed and then came back to the sidewalk. I cleared my throat and used my able voice to call upon her name. One time, loud and clear. “Sonny!” I waited. Would it be enough?
After a moment Sonny came trotting over the hill. Her tongue hung out from her mouth, and she looked as pleased as Sunday morning pancakes. She came over and I patted her head. I played it cool. “Let’s go home girl.” I walked and she followed. I didn’t even look over at the ducklings who hid just 20 feet away. They weren’t chirping, and Sonny seemed to be all hunted out. We got home, I opened the door, and she went right in.
Little Nesto was awake, so we jumped in the truck and went looking for signs of a battle. Sonny had no feather or blood in her mouth. We drove to where dog and duck had disappeared, and found no signs of death. We went back to where I left the ducklings and they were all gone. Here is the story I tell myself: Mama Duck led Sonny far away, putting herself in danger to save her babies. When the big bad dog was gone, she went and got her babies and they finished their journey to the creek, where they are this very day paddling along without a care in the world. Yeah. I can live with that.
Did you know Ernesto wrote a book. You can buy it now by clicking the green button!