Sunday, November 25, 2012

Operation Duck Rescue

Eight years ago, thanks to the prospect of a new job, a "For Sale" sign went up on the front lawn of our small town house and we soon found ourselves two hours to the south, riding in the back seat of our realtor's minivan, being "chauffeured" from one flawed home to another, trying to find the perfect fit.

Weekend after weekend, that minivan created well-worn tracks in our soon-to-be South Jersey neighborhood, as my husband Bob and I rejected each potential place to lay down our roots.  

Too expensive.  Too old.  Too big.  Too small.  Too many trees.  Not enough trees.  

The list went on.

Finally, Bob and I noticed the brightly colored balloons inviting prospective home owners to check out a single family home on an extremely busy main road.  As we parked the car, I watched the heavy traffic fly past this house at speeds upward of 50 miles per hour.  Is this where I wanted my 6-year old daughter Melissa to grow up?  In fear of her going outside and running straight into oncoming traffic?  


Today I sit in the living room of the very house I refused to consider, thinking about the two reasons why I changed my mind.

1. The kitchen.  Large, open, bright, and airy, this beautiful room beckoned with promises of future, fun-filled family dinners full of love and laughter.

2. The back yard.  Bob and I walked through the sliding glass doors in the kitchen into a back yard utopia.  A finely crafted deck gave way to a classic, kidney shaped, in-ground swimming pool, complete with diving board and slide.  What's more, one merely had to look out past the hedges to view the  beauty of a crystal clear, glistening lake which took its place amid the peaceful landscape of a professional, 18-hole golf course.  The busy, outside world that plagued the front door of this property disappeared when setting foot in the back.   

Bob and I made an offer that same day!

While Melissa took delight in a swimming pool to call her own, for her parents, the thrill quickly began to wane.  The pool, we learned all too soon, could be described as a relic.  Built over 40 years ago, its outdated filter system resulted in hours of backbreaking work to keep the water clean.  To make matters worse, it nearly required a second mortgage to cover the cost of its upkeep.  Since Bob and I worked full-time jobs and Melissa spent the long summer days at a local camp, we figured the few times we actually splashed around in the water cost us at least $200 per dip.  After two summers, we surrendered to our wallets.

Melissa watched in horror as a thick blue tarp, anchored on all sides by a dozen heavy bricks, permanently covered her very own watering hole.  As the months passed, the tarp began to sag, allowing the formation of a rain-filled mini-lake on top of our pool, which played host to an assortment of frogs guessed it, ducks!

The following summer, we sat in our cozy kitchen, enjoying breakfast with my mother-in-law Pearl, who had traveled from North Carolina.   Suddenly, Melissa glanced out the back door and noticed a rather large duck sitting motionless on the edge of the pool.  We watched with curiosity, waiting for this feathered water fowl to do something, anything.  But still she sat, and sat, and sat.

Finally, by lunch time, curiosity got the better of us.  Melissa, Bob, Pearl, and I slowly opened the back door and cautiously crept towards the duck, taking care not to startle the poor thing.  Our efforts at stealth were for naught, for the duck ignored our steady approach and still refused to show any signs of movement.  As we inched ever closer to the edge of the pool, we soon learned the reason for her vigil.

Our eyes feasted on four tiny, yellow, fluffy, baby ducklings splashing innocently in the mini-lake.  Too young to master the art of flying, the ducklings had no way to get out.  Their mother sat helpless, watching her babies.

They were trapped.

The four of us looked at each, and unspoken meaning passed between us.

It was time to put Operation Duck Rescue into action.

My first thought led to the garage where we had stored the pool equipment, including a net attached to a long pole, generally used to remove leaves and other type of clutter from the pool water.  Perhaps we could scoop up the ducklings in the net?

However, after further discussion, that idea was deemed too risky, as mommy duck might misinterpret our good intentions as an attack on her youngsters.

Thankfully, my brilliant Melissa came up with Plan B.  Coax the ducklings to the pool's stairs and have them hop right on out of their lair.  Of course, this meant removing a portion of the tarp so that the duckling could get access to the stairs.  Unfortunately, removing the tarp also required  moving the 3,974 pound bricks that anchored it in place.

The four of us got to work.

After several minutes and lots of sweat, we pulled back the tarp to reveal the four steps that allowed entry into, or in this case, exit out of the pool.  Instinctively, mommy duck correctly interpreted our good intentions.  She jumped back into the mini-lake to guide her offspring out of the pool.

We watched in quiet fascination as the four ducklings gathered in a single file line and followed their mother to the stairs, where their exit sat ready and waiting.  We watched in quiet fascination as mommy duck hopped skillfully onto step number one, step number two, step number three, step number four, and out onto solid ground.

Uh oh.

The steps were too high.  Try as they may, the babies just could not hop as well as their mother, who now realized that the plan had failed and jumped back into the pool.

Time for Plan C.

We needed to put something on top of each step so that the babies didn't have to jump so high to reach their goal.  

The Bricks!

Once again, the four of us heaved four, 3,974 pound concrete blocks onto each step, wiped the sweat from our brow, watched, and waited.

Once again, mommy duck understood our intentions, and once again, she led her brood across the water to the steps.  With fingers crossed, this time we prayed our exit strategy would, indeed, be successful.

Mommy duck hopped onto step number one, and baby duckling number one followed.

Mommy duck hopped onto steps two, three, four, and out, while, baby duckling number one followed.

Hooray!  We could now celebrate the escape of at least one of our new found feathered friends.

But wait.

Baby ducklings two, three, and four were still struggling to get from step one to step two.  Mommy duck, seeing them in distress, jumped back into the pool.......aaannnndddd, baby duckling number one instinctively followed.

Four ducklings were still in the pool.  We were back to square one.

Unable to devise a brilliant Plan D, we simply watched, and waited.

Mommy duck again hopped from step to step with ease, as her offspring struggled to emulate her skillful moves.  We held our breath as each duckling fought their way from step to step, some making it to new heights, while others reaching a milestone only to fall backwards to their starting point.  Finally, after what seemed like hours, all four of our feathered friends now stood on solid ground!

Mission Accomplished!

We watched once again in quiet fascination as the four ducklings fell into place in a single file line behind their mother, who led them out of the back gate, onto the golf course, and towards the glistening lake which beckoned them home. 


  1. Hi Lisa,
    Amazing! Never thought of a backyard pool as a duck trap before, wow!
    What a workout, and what a wonderful rescue! It is so nice to hear of good stories, and leave the bad behind.
    Thank you for sharing your stories with us!

  2. Lisa, I predict that our friend Chris Dean will LOVE this story. Saving wildlife is not something everyone would do, but you are my kind of friend - one with compassion and empathy and caring to do such things. :0)

    1. Hi Cindy, you were right, she loved it!! And thank you for your kind words. They were just so cute, we couldn't leave them.

  3. Great story, Lisa! I'm so glad that you saved the baby ducks! It's always nice to read stories like this that warm your heart, especially when it's a gloomy and never-ending Monday.

    1. I agree Kate, we all need a little uplifting on a Monday!

  4. cute story lia. i don't get over her often enough. i change that. i have a guest post about one of our cows over at terri blog i love for you to check it out

  5. What a great story! It's impossible to resist the cuteness of baby ducks and I'm glad that you guys discovered them before something else (something hungry :|) did!

    1. Yes Nate, it was The Weinstein's to the rescue!!! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Smiles! Besides be a well told story, you've created a heck of a memory for the family. One day your own will be weaving this into their own stories.

  7. Awwww! All we have in the tarp-o-water that covers our above-ground pool is, in spring, pollywogs. Husband wrangles them and takes them to a nearby creek. Not nearly as fun as ducks!

  8.! Ha, i was sitting here like "go duckies!" while my dog is looking at me with his head tilted like i'm crazy. Animals are so amazing & i'm glad she didn't get mad at you guys, some duckies are meanies!

    I'm stopping by from Voicebok & i hope you and your family are having a great Saturday!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Nikki! It was truly amazing how the mommy duck just instinctively knew we were going to help her! Nature is just fascinating!