During the summer of 1996, we moved to a new home. My father had a pond built with a waterfall, soft sand, and lots of plants. Pong remained the loyal and magnificent Pekin he had always been. He was over 11 pounds in weight, a great swimmer and one big baby! He would chase us across the lawn on warm summer days, and dive after us into the pool! He would then "tag" us with a nip on the toe underwater. When we "tagged" him in return, he would again dunk and swim after us underwater to "tag" us for a victory! He was incredibly special, and more intelligent than I could have ever expected. He could be held on his back and would fall asleep in my arms. He also enjoyed riding in the car and looking out of the window. He had the most sensitive and deep blue eyes, reflecting an intelligence difficult to explain to others. He was a marvelous companion and friend, always friendly and calm. In the fall of 1996, he was the "Shining Star" of my school's Feast of St. Francis "Blessing of the Animals", and was the center of attention as the Priest Blessed him with holy water. He was never afraid of the other animals, and seemed to know how special he truly was. Pong would attend every blessing of the animals annual event, and was featured several times in my year book. The fall of 1996, during a huge and violent windstorm, Ping flew away. We searched and searched the neighboring ponds, to no avail. My father took me to an auction the next weekend, where I bid on a beautiful mixed-breed duck. She stands like a Runner, and quacks like a goose! On the way out of the auction, a man asked me how I intended to "cook her?" I told him she was a PET, and would never be someone's dinner. He apologized, and I realized I had saved her from a terrible fate. She has repaid me with endless love and loyalty. I named her Zong.
On June 23, of 1998, Zong and Pong had their first ducklings! They were so beautiful, a mix of black and white and black and grey! Zong is a fierce and protective proud mother. She loves her babies dearly, and prepares them well for life in the world. We watched them grow, and kept them in the pond area for three months, until we released them into a protected water preserve. They continue to grow and thrive in this area, and we visit them several times per year. Over the next three years, they continued to breed and successfully hatch beautiful ducklings. We nurtured them, and found homes for many. The rest of them we released in various sanctuaries and private ponds. My duck's pond is surrounded by wrought iron fencing and wire, to protect the ducks from the newest addition to our family. He is a big dog, and rather simpleminded. Like "Lenny" in the book "Of Mice And Men" (Lenny is his nickname), he has no idea of his own strength. He has chased our rabbits, and intimidated the ducks when they were together in the yard.
Recently, On January 6 (Epiphany), Mac mauled Pong in the yard. We have no idea how Zong and Pong got into the yard with the dog. I was alerted by the loud and frantic quacking of Zong. I stepped outside to check on the situation, and noticed she was alone without Pong. Zong was never without Pong, and the two were almost inseparable. I called out to Pong, and he stepped from the bushes near the swimming pool. He was covered in his own blood. As I walked near to him, I could see a gaping tear in his chest. I also noticed several deep puncture wounds to the top of his neck. I ran inside and summoned my dad, who ran out and picked-up Pong. He carried him inside and into the shower. He carefully rinsed him, using his hand and keeping the direct flow away from Pong. His injuries appeared grave, but he was alert and standing. His head and neck could move. His beak was warm, and he seemed to be in shock from the apparent trauma he suffered in the yard.
We took him to a local Bird Veterinarian specialist, and he performed surgery on Pong. He stitched his chest and the puncture wounds on his neck. He had bruising on the neck too, and a lot of stitches! We took him home two days later, and gave him pain medicine and antibiotics every 12 hours for the next ten days. He lived inside during this time, and was such a good boy. He took his medicine and was getting better by the day. After one week, we took him into the vet to have his stitches out. They got all of them but one, which was covered by a scab. They recommended we bring him in again after one week for the last stitch to be removed. Pong had a condition prior to this incident known as "bumble foot", where there were growths on the bottom of his feet. We consulted a vet on the issue, and he suggested soaking the feet in Epsom salts and wrapping with an ointment. He also told us the condition could be remedied with surgery. During the emergency surgery, my parents had asked the vet to attempt to remove the growths on his feet (since he was already under/asleep for the surgery). He was unable to perform the surgery, as he said there was too much bleeding and Pong had suffered too much trauma on that day. He suggested we try it in two weeks, after he has recovered from the wounds. During the second trip to the vet, on January 21, 2001, my parents suggested the vet perform the surgery to remove the bumble foot growths. The vet agreed, and said he would remove the stitch and perform the surgery. We thought he was doing the surgery on that day, but he was backed-up with patients. He would not perform the surgery on Pong until the next day, January 22. If I would have known this, I would have never agreed to leave him there awaiting "elective" surgery. I trusted the vet, and his professional determination the surgery could be successfully performed. I asked the vet as I left, "he'll be okay, right?" and he told me yes. Since the other surgery had been uneventful, and Pong made it through such a life-threatening situation, I figured this time would prove no different.
I was sitting on the sofa when the call came from the vet's office. The assistant was frantic, and her voice was shaking. She told me Pong was in cardiac arrest, and the doctor was performing CPR on him. She then had to hang-up to assist the doctor. My world crashed-in on me. How could this be happening? My Pong, who had survived a vicious dog-mauling and surgery, in cardiac arrest for an elective operation? I was so upset with myself, as Pong's condition was NOT life threatening. I should have never permitted the vet to make such a decision concerning the welfare of my beloved duck. I could go on and on second-guessing myself with all the "ifs" of that day. All the events leading to this day seem to linger and haunt me. I hope with time, they will fade and my mind will be kind (remembering how Pong lived, not died). I rode with my mom to the vet's office. He was so sorry, as was the assistant. There, on the notice board in the waiting room was a big color photo of Pong after surgery. He had a green towel draped around his neck like a boxer after a fight. It was a testament to his strength and tenacity. Next to the photo, was a thank-you card I mailed to the doctor after surgery, and another photo of Pong on Santa's lap at the SPCA for the annual Santa Paws fund raiser. I was literally in a state of shock. I'm only fourteen, and have shared 7 precious years of my life with Pong. The doctor brought us into a room, and then brought Pong in and laid him upon the table. He looked like he was sleeping. The doctor phoned my father, who was in Nevada on business. My dad was distraught, and so upset it occurred during this elective surgery. My dad said he could have lived with the bumble foot, and been fine. Now, he was gone. I cried until I hurt, and asked my mom to drive to St. Francis Church. I carried Pong wrapped in a towel like a baby, and asked the priest to administer last rites and bless my beloved companion. He remembered Pong well, and spoke fondly of him and his antics during the blessing of the animals. He then tenderly blessed Pong, reminding me not to find fault with myself for his death. He told me God had decided this was his time. He added it would be confusing to understand, as the deep love and need for Pong would cloud my reasoning ability. All I knew was that Pong was now gone, and he was only 7 years old. I also knew he left a mate (Zong) behind, and I would have to get myself together for her sake. I held him in the back seat of the car on the ride home. The next day, my father constructed a beautiful white casket. He spray painted the letters spelling PONG on the lid. He carefully dug a hole in the duck pond area, and we held a ceremony for our family member, our friend, Pong. My dad also painted a beautiful big flat rock with gold spray paint, and the name PONG in deep blue. Above his name it reads, "beloved friend and companion, loved by all." Below his name is the date of his birth and death.
It was a beautiful and moving ceremony, and each of us wrote letters to Pong. We read them aloud, and placed them inside the casket before sealing and lowering it into the ground. In life, Pong was too big to fly. It never stopped him from trying, and sometimes I would carefully hold him and walk fast with him flapping his wings (so he could feel he was flying)! Now, in death, he has an extra pair of wings. He is finally able to truly FLY. This ordeal was traumatic for me to deal with, but was helped by the kindness of Mr. John Metzer of Metzer Farms. My mom called him after Pong's tragic death. She told him she was willing to drive to the hatchery and obtain a "new addition" to our family. He was so helpful and nice, informing her of every detail including the date of the hatching and the full costs attributed to this acquisition. I'm so excited about our impending journey, and the first time I lay eyes upon the "baby" jumbo show pekin. I have narrowed down the names, and will make the final decision when I see him in "person" (or duck)! I am grateful for the services of Metzer Farms and the availability of the beautiful and quality waterfowl they are dedicated to producing. Some people may have trouble understanding the amount of dedication and love I exhibit towards my animals, including my ducks. I believe all animals are worthy and deserving of love. In return, I have received 100 times more than I have ever given. I am grateful for the time I had with Pong, and look forward to the time I will share with my new duckling from Metzer Farms.