I admit it. A duck runs my life---and I love it!
At the quack of dawn, Lemon demands her bath and in the summer she insists I take her swimming in the river behind my house. Her egg-citement is unmistakable. She wags her tail feathers and quacks at the sight of water, urging me to hurry and catch up. How do I know all this? Over the years I’ve become fluent in “Pekin duck.”
In many ways Lemon is like other ducks, but she’s also very different. In 2006, she hatched in my Kindergarten classroom with neurological symptoms similar to my father’s Multiple Sclerosis.
Lemon is unable to balance or waddle like her other feathered friends, but this duck doesn’t let her disability keep her down. Named for her soft yellow down that reminded me of my grandmother's lemon meringue pie, Lemon has always had a spunkiness about her and a desire to live life to the fullest, no matter what the challenges may be.
Lemon lives with me in my house and comes to school with me each day. As a duckling I kept her snuggly warm in a fanny pack, her little head poking out ,watching my students. Lemon imprinted on me and the children. Today, she thinks of me as her “mate” and children as her ducklings.
You might wonder, what kind of life could a disabled duck have? Well, Lemon is loving life. She oozes spunk and zestiness. Yes, she needs a lot of help, but she’s far from helpless. Caring for my dad taught me that being disabled does not mean misery. It’s allowed me to “tune in” and give Lemon the highest quality of life possible---the life she deserves.
It’s important to me that my little duck has a happy, stimulating life. I take Lemon just about everywhere. When we go for walks, she rides in a baby carriage so she can see everything.
Some people do a double take and ask, “Is that a real duck?”
“Of course!” I tell them, “A fake duck in a baby stroller would just be silly.”
Determined to do things her way, Lemon uses any leverage she can to try and stand. When she does prop herself up, a few seconds later she’s down again. But it’s never stopped her from trying.
How do you get a duck to stand up? It’s not easy. But we found a way with a dog life vest and a homemade stand. With her feet firmly on the ground, her body language said it all--This is egg-cellent! She could preen her feathers, muck around in the grass, and strengthen her legs.
Soon, standing wasn’t enough. She wanted to walk. A duck scooter is what she needed, but no one makes wheels for ducks. We made our own: PVC piping, coaster wheels, a mesh sling, and suddenly, Voila! You’ve got yourself a Lemobile! Now, Lemon zooms around and demands attention from her human flock, all on her own. She’s a ducky Diva.
Out of respect for people with disabilities, children are often encouraged not to stare or ask questions. Lemon provides a safe way for kids to explore and talk about what they might not understand; to connect with someone (even a duck) with a disability. Lemon shows those around her that we’re all unique and special in our own way and we all deserve to have the highest quality of life possible---no matter what our challenges may be.
Lemon’s interest in people is what first catches their attention, not her disability. They get right down on the floor next to her in her Lemobile. They talk to her and gently stroke her feathers. She tilts her head, softly quacks her replies. She peers right into their eyes as if she understands. Lemon is even a natural for pet assisted therapy.
My children’s book, Lemon the Duck, allows me to share Lemon’s story and honor my father, in my own way. Lemon the Duck is dedicated to him. I donate all of my proceeds to the MS Society and Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary.
Lemon’s neurological disorder is progressive, like my father’s MS. There is no cure. Someday she won’t be able to swim on her own and I’ll need to hold her in the water. But as long as Lemon’s willing, so am I.
I often hear, “Lemon is lucky to have you.” And yes, she’s alive and happy, in part because of me. But truly I’m the lucky one to have her in my life. I get to see how just by being herself Lemon touches people’s lives and inspires them.
We’ve met thousands of people, many with special needs of their own. Lemon connects with every one of them. We visited with one child who was born without arms. I held Lemon up to his cheek so he could feel her fluffy feathers, then he petted Lemon with his bare feet.
There are numerous occations where Lemon has touched the lives of thoose she meets. I’ve gotten to experienced all those amazing little moments---all because of a little duck, named Lemon.
You can learn more about Ellen on the following sites:
Lemon The Duck
Lemon on Youtube
Lemon on Facebook
You can even listen to Lemon the Duck read aloud.
Oskar & I think that Lemon & Laura are some super cool peeps. Stop by Lemon The Duck to learn more.
If you have a guest post that you are interested sharing with the Pet Blogs United audience, drop me a line at PBU at comcast dot net.