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August 17, 2007

Say Goodbye To Peepers.

Howard first came to my back yard begging for food, late this past year. As ducks go he was enormous, and I first dubbed him 'Duckzilla'. I had never seen a Muskovy duck before, so when he first came swimming up I thought he was some kind of battle-droid duck. I could tell he wasn't a goose, mind you. I can't describe it, but there are subtle differences in the body shape beween the two and I knew this beast was a duck. A big ass duck, to be precise. And being almost as big as me, he had nothing to fear. The first time he came to visit, he had no problem walking right up and taking bread from my hand. When I tried to pet him, he bit me with his flat duck-beak, which pinched a bit but didn't really hurt. As soon as I stopped, he went back to munching bread without a care inthe world. Howard began to make his rounds each evening as the sun was setting. And if I wasn't out there with bread in hand waiting for him, he's have no problem walking right up tot he pool cage and having a look in. Even Ike didn't know what to think of this enormous fowl. Yes, he was a special duck. I soon named him Howard, as in Howard the Duck.

And being the macho duck that he is, it came to no surprise when a few months ago, Howard starting bring a duck-bitch with him. Yeah, Howard the Duck became Howard The Pimp. The female Muscovy was not quite as brave as Howard; she'd come right up to me as long as Howard was there but wouldn't take anything from my hand. But still as wild ducks go, she was pretty cool. Howard's girlfriend began to accompany him on his nightly dinner runs and she soon became as familiar a beak as he was. About a week ago, the girlfriend made an appearance sans Howard. In his place were eight fuzzy little yellow and grey ducklings! She of course remembered where her bread was buttered and had no problem coming up to me for some chow. I never even got close to seeing if she'd feed by hand, since the little ducks couldn't make their way up the rocks too well and she was reluctant to leave them. I tossed breadcrumbs their way, and all was right with the world.

Two days ago, Mom Duck made a return run, only this time, her following numbers had dropped from eight to five. Yeah, there's a lot of turtles in that pond behind my house. Anyway, the babies had better mobility now and she allowed them to venture up with her for nightly begging run. The ducklings even got into it, although I had to break the bread up extra small. I gave them enough to quiet their peep'ing, but not enough so as they could become dependent upon humans for food.

Yesterday morning, I found Mom Duck on the edge of the pond; apparently she had camped there all night which I found strange since that wasn't her nest. When she saw me, she stood up and began to walk over. Below her were a few wiggling shapes, but not as many as I expected. One duckling up and about right off the bat. The second just sat there, moving his head around with a palsy-like trembling. And that was it. Two. I went back inside, got a little bread and came back out. Mom eats. Up-And-Around Duck eats. Palsy duck just stays there. I slowly approach Palsy duck. Mom faces me and opens her mouth as if to say, "I'm watchin you bitch," but lets me go. Palsy duck is not doing well. He's trembling. He's cold. He's weak. Palsy Duck is not going to make it without some intervention. I look around on the rocks and see another baby duck-like form. Very sprawled out. Very still. I pick him up expecting dead duck, but instead he opens his little eyes at me.

Now I'm all about letting the mother do her thing and letting nature take its course. But you know, I'm an old softie. And they're baby ducks. And some hungry turtles were already swarming at the water's edge. I actually had to stand up and chase one away as he was coming in for a Duck McMuffin. So okay, Palsy Duck and Limp Duck come inside with me. Mom duck watches with intent curiosity, but since she's kind of used to seeing her clutch's numbers dwindle doesn't raise too much of a fuss.

I get em inside and into a makeshift nest. Put something warm in there with em, cover em up and give em 20 minutes to come around. Much to my surprise, Limp duck came around first. "Peep! Peep! Peep!" says he. Many times. I bust out warm milk and bread and a eyedropper. He eats a little bit, but not much. Mostly just drank the liquid. But that's okay. His name isn't Limp Duck anymore, it's Peepers. Palsy duck has stopped shaking, but won't eat or drink. I decide to let them continue to warm up (hey I was trying to get the website update out at the time).

After a few hours, things are looking somewhat better. Peepers came around and kept peeping. Was having a big challenge with his balance, and kept cocking his neck all the way back and laying the top of his head on his back. Weird. But other than that, seemed somewhat better. Kept peeping. So I carried him back outside and set him down right next to Mom Duck, who was waiting patiently outside. He waddled towards her and I stepped back. There was no miraculous Hallmark moment where they threw their wings around each other and cried, but seemed okay. I went back inside to trend with Former-Palsy Duck.

Once he was flying solo, Former-Palsy Duck really came around. With a little coaxing He started eating milk-soaked bread. And then before you knew it, he was peeping too. But since I already had one Peepers, I named him Quackers instead. I feed Quackers and then content with a full belly, he drifts off to sleep. I decide to go back out and check on Peepers. I find mom duck with Up-And-Around Duck in tow. But no Peepers. "Peepers?" "Peepers?" - but no Peepers. I walked up and down my yard. I checked down by the rocks. I checked up near the bushes. No Peepers. It wasn't until my second runthat I spotted his little grey and yellow fuzz in the little trench that serves as the edging of the lawn. Peepers wasn't moving very much. So I scooped him back up and back into the house we go to rejoin his sibling. Peepers and Quackers, together again.

Well, I won't make this long and drawn out, but Peepers only made it a few hours more. Back in the pseudo-nest he cuddled back in and althought he came back around somewhat, did more weird head-back things until he fell over. Every time I'd right him, he's sit still for a few minutes and then kick and squirm himself over sideways. One time I went to right him, and he didn't move. Literally there one minute, and gone the next. But Peepers passed gently, inside where he was nice and warm and not sprawled out on some cold rocks and ready to be devoured by turtles. I buried Peepers under some plants by the pond where I found him. So long Peepers, we hardly knew ye.

Quackers on the other hand, is doing swimmingly. Eating good. Peeping loud. Doing bird crap all over my towel. he even trying to crawl outside of the nest a couple of times. I probably would have either reunited him with Mom Duck or if that failed, raised him myself. But in the end I decided I didn't have the supplies that I'd need and so it would be best if I brought him to CROW for some professional care. You see I noticed one of his eyes was a little swollen and he was slow to open it sometimes. That plus a tiny bit clear discharge from his little nostrils made me guess he has some illness setting in, hence why he was so weak that the morning. I'll give a call on Monday and see how he's doing.

I wonder if it's bird flu? If there's no update this weekend, it's because I'm dead.


ERNIE CAM

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