Goodbye Lester Leroy
Little Lester Leroy came to us from our veterinarian in Seattle in December 2010. He was fully grown and didn’t seem too young, so my guess is he was maybe born in Spring of 2009.
He was a very scared, sick, handicapped but fierce little guy when he arrived.
He didn’t much care for people, including me. But luckily he liked Flapper. Flapper was in his last few months of life and spent much of his time in the house in a playpen by then, as he was old and had heart failure and arthritis. It limited his activities but he was still a happy guy. And they both liked having a buddy around for company.
When Lester first arrived, his damaged, infected leg was stuck in an odd position, making it difficult for him to sit normally, and impossible to stand. The story we heard was that he was dumped a park, attacked by a dog and kept untreated by a family for a week. When they realized he was dying, they dropped him at the Seattle Animal Shelter. The shelter took him to our vet to be euthanized, but our vet tech thought he might be able to be rehabbed, so they called me.
We did daily physical therapy on his leg, stretching and bending it again and again.
Eventually, it did improve enough that he could stand and hobble around quite a bit.
After Flapper passed away, Lester spent a lot of time near the other ducks, but not with them, for his own protection. He was never able to get in and out of a pool on his own, and could never be left unattended with other ducks. When Danny girl came along, he finally had a companion and a girl to love.
And he sure did love her. He loved to protect her from the other boys and be her bodyguard. He loved to talk with her and listen to all of her chatter.
He loved to play in the pool with her too, even if that did require some help from me. They were a wonderful couple and good companions to each other.
Lester’s quality of life was pretty good most of the time, but now and then he’d have a tough time, and we considered euthanizing him several times over the years.
For me, a handicapped duck needs to be able to get themselves around well enough to get food, water and shelter. Even if getting around isn’t easy, and even if we provide a lot of help and simple set up, they need to be able to move a bit to stay comfortable.
They also need to be kept happy, safe, clean and not develop any pressure sores or other problems. And they need to maintain their weight. All of that is mostly my job, but it’s not always easy.
This January, we took Lessie to the vet for a “quality of life” evaluation. He was making a repetitive stress movement that really left him in an unhappy state, and nothing seemed to help. This was a last chance for him. If we couldn’t get him happy, we wouldn’t want to keep him in a stressed out state for very long.
Thankfully, Lessie improved with medication and a change to his pen, and did well for a few more months. But his ability to move and hobble around was declining more and more. By April, he was unable to move himself to food or shelter on his own. We would set up shelter wherever he was, and move the shelter and food around for him if we found him in a new spot. Unfortunately, in his last days and weeks he could only move backwards, and it frustrated him and left him in tough spots when we weren’t around. He wasn’t happy anymore.
It’s never an easy decision to euthanize a duck, even one as handicapped as Lessie. But in the end his passing was very peaceful and felt “right.” He didn’t struggle at all, he wasn’t stressed and he seemed to understand. He doesn’t much care for car rides, but I kept my hand on him during the last ride to the vet and he was calm and relaxed the whole way.
I figure I spent about 20 minutes every day caring for Lester, for nearly every day in the past 4+ years. That’s about 500 hours spent directly caring for Lester, with many more hours watching him with the rest of the flock. Overall I think he had a good quality of life a great deal of the time, in spite of his handicaps.
Lester was a duck’s duck. A very good and faithful gentleman to his Danny girl. A sweet and independent little guy who didn’t take any gruff. We’re so sorry to see him go, but thankful that we had as much time with him as we did, and that we were able to help him peacefully go when it was time. Much love, little Lester. And safe travels. XOXO