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December 13th, 2008


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10:00 pm - Ducks and Moral Dilemmas
We name the ducks, sometimes. At the little park down the street where I live, there are two very small lakes (or very large ponds) which are the habitat of several flocks of ducks and geese. I've been feeding them periodically this year (mostly with sushirob and banshree, but sometimes with other friends), and along the way, some of them have acquired names.

The names aren't always limited to one duck, of course. There are several Baby Ducks, most of whom are this year's crop of duck children. I've watched them grow from fuzzy little chicks to their now-adult size, but they're still somewhat smaller than the other ducks and so, Baby Duck they remain.

There are also several Pretty Ducks, which are a beautiful taupe color. They're the females of a flock containing very interesting black and white ducks that showed up sometime this summer to join the normal mallard-type ducks that usually inhabit the park.

There's Mister Big Duck, a very large duck who will walk right up to you and grab food out of your hand like the Canadian geese do. There's AFLAC, a large, pure white duck that looks exactly like the one in the AFLAC commercials. No idea where he came from, but the poor guy probably lost his job in the recession and ended up in the park. It's obvious that he doesn't have the first clue about park living. (sushirob has referred to him as "Worst. Duck. Ever.") There's Mutant Goose, a Canadian Goose whose neck is white with black spots like a strange goose-dalmation cross. There's even a duck who showed up for the first time the last time we were at the park. She's quite beautiful and totally unlike all the other ducks. I decided call her "Onyxia" because I couldn't remember the name of the Swan Princess.

(Yes, I realize that Onyxia is a giant dragon and is nothing like a duck. Get off my back, man. Tell it to my subconscious!)

There's Tuggy Duck (who is, somewhat confusingly, also a Pretty Duck) who has learned that tugging on a human's jeans leg will get her more bread.

And, of course, Fucked-Up Duck.

Actually, I recently renamed Fucked-Up Duck to Massive Head Trauma Duck because while both names are accurate, we probably could have used Fucked-Up Duck for AFLAC and some of the other less intelligent birds around the park.

We noticed Fucked-Up Duck a few weeks back. He's one of the black-and-white flock, and something had torn a deep gash in his head across the top. His right eye is completely ... well ... fucked up. It's sort of partially hanging out and was looking a bit grey and cloudy when we first saw him. He's obviously blind on that side, and has a little trouble getting around.

Fucked-Up Duck presented me with a sort of moral dilemma. My instinct was to try to help get him as much food as possible, under the theory that he'd been wounded and could use all the strength he could get from the calories. But then I thought, it really looked like a mortal wound. What if by feeding him, I was just prolonging his agony?

It may sound kind of silly to be worried about the ethical ramifications of feeding (or not feeding) a duck in the park, but this is one of those scenarios that sometimes presents itself in life in different manifestations, and which I have a hard time dealing with.

You see, one of my overriding goals in life is to mitigate or prevent suffering wherever possible. And I want to stop suffering NOW, whenever I see it! But there are cases where preventing suffering in the short term could cause more suffering down the road. The old "give a man a fish and he eats for a day" saying partially speaks to this. If you give me a handout without helping me to fend for myself, it would just make me dependent on the handouts, so that when they stopped, I'd be just as bad (or worse) off as I was before. If someone is in pain and wants to die rather than continue to run up medical bills for their children, and you keep giving them morphine, you may be alleviating short-term suffering, but causing more in the longer term. Give an alcoholic gambler money to pay his rent and he's fine to continue drinking and gambling.

There's a lot more to this in my head, actually, and these may not even be good examples. But suffice it to say that I really had to stop and think about what to do regarding my new friend, Massive Head Trauma Duck.

I finally decided to try to feed him as much as I could, gently shooing some of the other ducks out of his way when needed, because ... because I had to.

He was wounded and out in the cold and hungry, but he seemed to want to live. Although blind on one side, he didn't move or act as though he were in pain, and I wanted him to have a chance. Deep down I still believe where there's life, there's hope.

Or I want to believe that.

A week later, he was still alive and his wound seemed to be healing. I just saw him last week and while he's still pretty fucked-up (especially that eye) it didn't seem to stop him from doing all the things that the ducks do.

I hope he makes it. I want to change his name to Survivor Duck.

Someday...

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:xviragox
Date:December 14th, 2008 07:02 am (UTC)
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Knowing you, I'm guessing there is already at least one more chapter to this. But if not, how about a wildlife rescue org? He could at least get someplace warm to sleep for a bit. :)
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[User Picture]
From:photog42
Date:December 14th, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
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A friend of mine is heavily involved with bird rescue, so that popped in my head, too.

I'm glad you went with the feeding route. You may have prevented both short and long-term suffering.

As for the other duck, you should write a children's story: "The Duck Who Thought She Was a Dragon"
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:December 14th, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC)
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Hm. I wouldn't know who to contact, actually. Any starting points? I didn't think any wildlife rescue orgs would care about park ducks.
[User Picture]
From:xviragox
Date:December 14th, 2008 07:17 pm (UTC)
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I dunno...call your local SPCA and ask if they know?
[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:December 14th, 2008 08:23 pm (UTC)
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Hm. Good idea. I tend to associate SPCA with dogs and cats, but maybe they would know. Also, maybe Dept. of Fish & Game. Thanks!
[User Picture]
From:xviragox
Date:December 14th, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC)
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Yeah...my thinking is that SPCA will be interested in helping you find a group that wants to care for the bird. When we tried to get animal control to help a wounded fawn, we got nowhere and the poor thing ended up getting shot by a cop.

Fish & Game might help, but I tend to think a group like that is a bit more realistic. "Is it eating? Does it seem okay? Then it'll be fine." You want the bleeding hearts. :D
From:jasonsacks
Date:December 15th, 2008 03:06 am (UTC)

Parks department?

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Have you thought about calling the Parks Department, explaining the story, and asking what they recommend? They likely have some sort of protocol around this sort of thing, and perhaps a contract with a local vet. You could also call a vet's office near you and ask what they recommend - again, they probably have a protocol for this sort of thing.

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