NORMAL – A dewy Sunday morning in July, a ray of sunlight waddled through a Linden Street family’s backyard, finding a new “flock” in a puppy, son and father.
As he was inspecting his yard with a cup of coffee in hand on July 19, Keith Smith noticed his 6-month-old Shih Tzu puppy was concerned about a small ball of down no bigger than his shoe.
Between the barking and the commotion, Smith realized that the dog, Lilly, had found a baby duckling nestled between the blades of grass, a few feet from her back porch.
“He had no parents,” Smith, 57, said in a recent interview with The Pantagraph. “We don’t know where he came from or how he got here.”
Smith ran inside to show his 7-year-old son what he had found.
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Right away, the second grader knew the family had to do something. There are too many animals in their small woodland behind their house. The duckling, long separated from its family, could easily get injured or worse.
After contacting an animal shelter, the family decided to take “Lemon Drop” – named for their bright yellow baby feathers – to Sugar Creek, which runs behind their house.
But after playing in the water, Lemon Drop decided he had found a new herd.
When Lilly, Kaden, and Keith began their journey home, the duckling jumped out of the creek and followed the trio to their garden.
“Kaden and I became mom and dad immediately,” Smith said. “That’s how ducks are. No matter what we did, he followed us.”
Unable to release Lemon Drop into the wild and worrying about other animals roaming the area at night (foxes, possums and raccoons, oh my god!), Kaden decided it was best for the family to take care of them. their new duckling.
Lemon Drop can go when it wants, or when it’s big enough to fly on its own.
“I think it was the right choice because – it’s a little scary – but one time my friend and I were going there and we found the head of a dead opossum cut off, that’s why I I’m afraid to let him go, ”Kaden said.
Now Lemon Drop spends his days running around the yard with Kaden and Lilly the puppy. Between going around in circles and playing hide-and-seek between the trees and the huts, it is enough to wear out even a passer-by.
Every day when Keith Smith returns from work, Lemon Drop follows Kaden, Lilly, and Smith to Sugar Creek for a dip in the water. Two weekends ago the family took a trip to White Oak Lake.
“He got out in the water and swam a bit,” Smith said. “He dived deep a few times and looked like ducks from about 25 feet away, and of course, this is the first time he’s seen another duck.”
When it was time to get home, Lemon Drop “jumped out of the water and followed us to the car,” he said.
It’s not the first time that Kaden and Keith have opened their door and saved an animal.
While sitting outside on the porch one day in March 2020, Smith and Kaden were approached by a young man driving down the street.
Returning to his hometown in Florida after his homes were closed by Illinois State University, the student, who claimed to be a football player, was desperately trying to relocate his two bearded dragons.
“He said, ‘I thought I could bring them back to a pet store and they would take them, they won’t, I’m leaving today and I don’t know what to do,” “Smith said. “He was literally driving down the street looking for someone. It was a beautiful day and we were just sitting on the porch.”
The family took in one of the animals. “I thought if we couldn’t keep him, I would put him on Facebook and try to find a good home for it,” Smith said. “Well, good old Joe’s still in the house.”
When asked what he thought of the small animal shelter his family started, Kaden said he thought it was pretty cool. After all, when he grows up he would like to run a pet store. Or become a veterinarian, he says.
At just 2 months, Lemon Drop begins to grow in its adult feathers. Its yellow down has disappeared, replaced by warm brown and black spots. Beneath his wings is a bright teal, which Smith says could mean he’s a blue-winged teal duck.
Eventually, the hope is that Lemon Drop grows old enough to venture out on its own. (Kaden would prefer this not to happen; he and Lilly would like to keep their playmate.)
“I don’t think it’s sad if he leaves; I think that’s a good thing,” Smith said. “This means that we have managed to keep him from being eaten by other animals so that he can take care of himself.
“He was lucky enough to stop in the right place at the right time for us to find him.”
Photos: DogOlympics 2021
Briannah Trancoso, Aubree Williams and McKayla Trancoso pet Mr. Dexter
Barney is about to pass the tunnel
Jane Kahman holding Hudson
Jane Kahman holding Hudson, Jane Ross
Kathy Schniedwind with Aspen, Elizabeth Crowe, Director of Development for the Humane Society of Central Illinois
Kay Richardson with Miss Diamond, Kathy Schniedwind with Aspen, Elizabeth Crowe
Trey McCormick strokes Barney as Taylor Olomon watches
Carol and Carl Clover with Rusty, Elizabeth Crowe
Laurie, Jack and Larry Law
Carlee Clover with Rusty
Dave Shimmin gives Mr. Dexter a treat
Barney rests before going through the tunnel
Carrie and Amber Melick with Hazel
Rodney Freye Terrell, Jane Ross
Aubree Williams and McKayla Trancoso Pet Twizzle
Mr. Dexter dives into the pool as owner Dave Shimmin watches
Contact Sierra Henry at 309-820-3234. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_sierrahenry.