While I love virtually all animals, I’m not the biggest fan of the Muscovy ducks that live on the farm. Well, I should clarify that: I’m pretty entertained by the ducks themselves, but I’m getting tired of cleaning and dumping the horses’ water troughs because the ducks took a swim in them. They make the water gross, and then the horses don’t want to drink it, of course.
Everyone who knows me will tell you that I’m the biggest fan of the small, different, broken, sad, and scared animals. In other words, if it can be classified as an underdog, I love it even more than usual. I think it’s because I can really identify with having to make adjustments to do what you need to do on a given day or work harder than others to achieve the same results, and sometimes, being underestimated by others.
My first horse, Arti, certainly qualified as an underdog in many ways, and he was probably the first animal that I had that really fit that category. Since then, I’ve had — and still have — quite a few. As a general rule, I don’t look at animal adoption websites. It’s just dangerous. But one day, I broke my own rule and saw a post titled “Blind Kitten” from a local animal shelter. I thought, well, when I was growing up, one of our family cats was deaf, and my horse Arti was blind in one eye, so I’m sure I can handle him. Welcome, Stuart.
I work full-time, so of course I can’t have just one cat. I asked at the shelter who else would be difficult to adopt, and they told me the black kittens or any adult cat. I was intrigued by a young adult who sat in the back of his cage and just watched me, never making a move. He had a sign on his door that said in red letters: “Caution: May Bite.” Naturally, I picked him, and I named him Harvey. He was semi-feral and I’m not sure I saw anything but his eyes peering out from under my bed for at least six weeks, but now he’s incredibly sweet and social, even if he doesn’t love to be held.
Next up was Woody. I’d seen some posts about him on the shelter page (yes, I’d started to follow them on social media after I adopted Stuart and Harvey), and something just tugged me toward him. I put it off for a while, until one day I was just like, I have to go adopt this dog. He was 14 years old, could barely walk due to severe arthritis that had been untreated until he arrived at the shelter, and had lost most of the spark in his eyes from living a lifetime outside.
I took him knowing it would be a hospice adoption, and he had four amazing months here at the farm. With the help of good pain meds, herbal supplements, and my equine bodyworker, Lorinda, who also works on dogs, we even got him to a point where he could usually get up and down and walk around on his own. He wandered the garden and ate tomatoes off the vine and just loved life as long as it lasted.
About six weeks ago, a litter of piglets was born. When I went out to see them, their owner told me, “Hey, let me know what you think of the Karen piglet.”
As soon as I got out there, I knew exactly which piglet had been named after me: She was tiny, clearly the runt, but man, was she a fighter. No bigger sibling was going to push her away from nursing! And then there’s “Under-duck,” as my mom dubbed the young duck with a leg injury. I didn’t know how in the world he’d keep up with his fully mobile friends, but he just plowed on, at first hopping on one leg, then using his bad leg as a crutch, and now walking on it with a slight limp. I’ve morphed his name into Wunder-duck.
It’s truly incredible how adaptable animals are when they need to be. They don’t get frustrated, they just keep going. I love helping and fighting for animals in need, who can’t speak or get help for themselves. Especially with Spotty (yet another underdog in my life), I’ve learned I can use a lot of the tricks I use on myself to help with their various physical ailments, and they remind me on a daily basis to keep my chin up and stay positive. After all, sometimes, with a little time and TLC, an Under-duck can become a Wunder-duck.
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