Some people might not take too kindly to being called crazy, however, Kelly Meister, aka the Crazy Critter Lady, thinks the moniker is just ducky.
Meister, of Walbridge, is a writer, photographer and potter. She’s passionate – make that crazy - about critters of all kinds, including her five cats, lost frogs, injured squirrels and any other animal in need that happens to find her. She is affiliated with a number of animal charities and volunteers on Saturdays at The Healing Barn horse rescue in Millbury.
For eight years, Kelly’s “pet project” has been caring for a baker’s dozen of ducks that she has taken under her wing.
A survivor of childhood abuse, Kelly has found animals to be instrumental in her recovery. “When you come from an abusive family, you don’t know anything about unconditional love because your parents don’t know how to give it,” she said. “That’s the one thing that animals are really good at - they will love you no matter what. As long as you treat them well, they will be your devoted friends for life.
“That’s a really powerful thing,” she said. “I don’t think I’m really the only one who has found animal therapy to be helpful.”
Her passion for rescuing and rehabilitating animals really resulted from the death of her cat. “He was terminally ill and expected to live only three months,” Kelly said. “He ended up lasting a year.
“Caring for him was a really intense experience,” she said. “After he died, I had a lot of pent up energy and nowhere to put it.”
She started with volunteering her services with the Toledo Humane Society. “Things just snowballed from there,” she said.
In 2000, when Kelly was living in an apartment near Simmons Pond in the Three Meadows area of Perrysburg, she found herself walking down to the pond just about every day to get a little exercise and fresh air.
That’s when she became familiar with the population of white Pekin ducks (think the Aflac duck) that had been apparently dumped at the pond.
She did a little online research and found that the Pekins, along with the Rouens (large ducks that look like Mallards on steroids) and Blue Swedes at the pond are domestic ducks. “They belong on farms - they can’t fly, they don’t migrate and they don’t have scrounging and feeding instincts like wild ducks,” she said.
“People get them for pets then realize they can’t care for them, so they dump them at a pond,” she said. “The thing is, the ducks are terrible parents with their own ducklings, they’re not going to take any other strange ones in and look after them.”
She took over the care and feeding of the ducks, paying for their food and veterinary care, when necessary. Even though she moved to Walbridge, three mornings a week, she makes the trip to the pond to feed and interact with the ducks. A volunteer has offered to take care of the weekend feeding.
“I know them and they know me,” she said. “I’m able to get close, and when I have to, I can even to pick most of them up to take them to the vet if they are sick or injured.”
Last week, one of the ducks made the trip to Kelly’s house for a little rehab, which included medication and some “tub time.”
“He had a leg injury and is now becoming arthritic,” Kelly said. “The vet decided that he could not spend winters on the pond any more, so he’s going to spend the winter in a Perrysburg couple’s garage.”
In the last eight years, Kelly has seen ducklings born and grow up on Simmons Pond, she said. “We probably have three or four generations of ducks on the pond who’ve known me since they were born.”
And although the Simmons Pond ducks seemed to have adapted to the cold winters, probably because they’re fed regularly, the goal is to keep the population stable, Kelly said.
Toward that end, she is working with animal control on an effort she calls, “Planned Duckhood.”
“Every spring, the animal control officer helps me find the nests and I go around and replace all the duck eggs with chicken eggs that don’t hatch,” Kelly said. “The ducks can lay 12 to 15 eggs a piece, so the population would just explode in no time if we did not do this.” The eggs of the wild ducks are left undisturbed.
“Eventually, there will be a natural die off of the domestic ducks,” she said. “But unless they get sick or predators get them, the ducks can live 20 years or so.”
Among the predators that pose a danger to the ducks are raccoons, neighborhood dogs and cats, and for the ducklings, snapping turtles and even hawks.
“Human children are probably the worst - they can be really cruel,” Kelly said. “I don’t know why that is – they throw rocks and torment the ducks.”
And because the ducks can’t fly to get away from danger, they’re – well, sitting ducks.
Though Perrysburg animal control will help with the costs if one of the ducks has to be euthanized for medical reasons, Kelly has assumed the cost of the veterinary care and food for her brood.
“The vets in the area have been wonderfully generous when I’ve asked them to give me a little help with the bill,” she said.
Those who want to help subsidize the cost of the food can donate to the “Luckey Duck Fund,” established through Luckey Farmers in Perrysburg. “People who want to help can buy a bag of cracked corn, which I mix with duck pellets,” Kelly said. “The ducks like the mixture and they supplement by eating snails and things they find in the water.”
To see photos of Kelly’s ducks and other animal friends, or to learn more about the animal charities she supports, visit www.crazycritterlady.com.