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Duck with broken leg flies to York County vet

These dedicated veterinarians and animal lovers have bandaged beavers and beagles. They have splinted spaniels and setters. They have performed pulmonary pushes on pigs and fixed fractured femurs on felines.

Always, the owners of those animals hauled in the patients - howling and hissing, baying and barking, whimpering and whining - in crates and cages and carts.

But never before last week, out in farm country in rural McConnells in southwestern York County at Palmetto Veterinary Medicine & Surgery, did Dr. James Love have occasion to save a duck.

More, a wild duck.

The duck was not brought in by a duck lover or duck hunter or duck raiser, quacking to beat the band in a duck cage.

"We were outside after an emergency on a dog that was bit by a snake, about 7:30 at night, and the duck just flew right into the front yard," said Melissa McCloud, the animal clinic's office manager and top collector of stray animals, from deer to sheep.

"It landed right here, in the front grass of the vet, where we take care of animals. Any other night, nobody would have been here."

Love was right there, too.

And his first words were exactly what a Clemson man whose football team is undefeated would say when a duck flies right up to his feet at dusk on a Tuesday night when he has worked all day saving anything with two feet or four feet, fur or feathers.

"What the...?" Love said that night. "Ducks don't fly toward people. Ducks fly away from people."

McCloud, the rescuer extraordinaire, walked right up to the duck.

"Quack," said the duck.

"Really, she quacked once then was quiet," McCloud recalled.

"A quack," said Love. "Then quiet."

McCloud then knew there was no reason for this duck to be there, other than divine intervention and duck sense to fly to the only veterinarian's yard within 10 miles of the place.

So she picked up the duck and took it inside. Love knew there was no stopping McCloud at this point, so he followed. Both examined the duck.

"By this time she is quacking all over the place," said Love. "No wonder. She had a broken leg."

The duck quacked for all she was worth, and did all over the room what else ducks do when nervous - which comes out the other end of the duck. The duo decided to give the duck drugs to ease the duck pain.

"She wasn't the easiest duck to get to take her medication," said Love. "But then again, I never had to give a duck pain meds before."

The duck quieted down and was placed inside a cage along a wall, underneath the cats. The duck was placed on a Clemson blanket, for good luck.

Early the next morning, the duck - a regular mallard, a full-grown female otherwise in good health, Love figured from his medical training - was sedated so X-rays could be taken.

There it was, clear as day on the X-ray - a clean break in the duck shin.

"Broken tibiotarsus," exclaimed McCloud.

"Surgery," declared Love. "Immediately."

Then it hit Love - he had never done surgery on a duck.

"I pressed on," he said. "There was no duck class in veterinary school. Figured I would do the best I could do for the duck."

Love's best was better than a long shot. Feathers were plucked around the broken leg.

"You pluck, not shave," said Love. "A duck, feathers."

Love's best effort became insertion of a steel rod, three inches long, into the leg. The rod will foster the fusion of the two pieces of broken duck tibiotarsus in about a month's time.

He stitched up the duck skin and handed the duck over to McCloud, who put the duck back atop the Clemson blanket.

"We want her leg to be straight so she doesn't fly sideways," said Love, demonstrating with his own long, flapping arms what a sideways duck would flap like. "We want a healed duck."

In the past week, customers have come in to look at the duck. The other workers stop to look at the duck.

The duck - named "Hedy" by McCloud because she likes comedian Mitch Hedberg - has become the star of a convalescence room filled with cats and dogs.

McCloud feeds Hedy corn, and Hedy nips McCloud on the finger. McCloud cradles Hedy up in front of her, and Hedy nips McCloud where nurses are not supposed to be nipped.

"In a month, we will release her back into the wild," said McCloud. "She should be ready."

But the wonder remains.

Not that Love could save the duck, because he saves animals all the time. Not that McCloud would immediately grab the animal, as she saves things that fly or run or crawl all the time.

But the miracle is that the duck would land in the front yard of a veterinary surgeon's practice, at night when the place is usually deserted, when the surgeon and his top office manager stood a few feet away.

The duck landed in maybe the only place where it would not be eaten by a fox or racoon or anything else that hunts in the night.

"God," called out the office staff.

"What else could be the explanation?" McCloud asked. "There isn't one."

For a week, Hedy has been tight-beaked, doing nothing but hissing at anyone who comes close, nipping at McCloud, eating cracked corn.

Love - the Clemson man, whose football team is undefeated so nothing could possibly ruin his week, who has been cracking duck jokes for a week - said maybe the reason Hedy showed up is she is a football fan.

"An Oregon Duck, maybe," Love said. "But I do not worry about why. I just fixed up my first duck."

Video of Hedy below

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