Despite a ninety-year sports rivalry between the OSU Beavers and the Oregon Ducks, doctors and staff at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital are committed to saving the lives of all animals, even ducks. And especially when a badly injured duck belongs to a young girl who is very fond of her pet.
April Merton has a small, urban farm on the outskirts of Corvallis. There, she and her two daughters have eighteen goats, numerous rabbits and chickens, and seven ducks. Ten-year-old Meredith Merton likes the ducks best. “They are nicer than chickens,” she says. Her favorite duck is Issanah because she is “friendliest with people.”
Last month, they found Issanah bleeding from multiple throat lacerations. April Merton thinks she may have been mauled by a racoon. “We’ve had problems with raccoons,” she says. “They opened the latch on the hen house and killed some chicks.” Meredith was very upset and asked her dad if they could take Issanah to a veterinarian. He agreed and they rushed her to the OSU veterinary hospital.
Usually, the hospital refers avian medical cases to a private practice veterinarian. But when the Mertons showed up with Issanah, Dr. Jorge Vanegas made an exception because the duck’s injuries were severe, including a lacerated esophagus and fractured right wing. He sedated Issanah and sewed up her neck with dozens of small stitches. “It was difficult,” he says, “because there is so little skin and muscle in a duck’s neck.” Then he set the wing with two tongue depressors for a splint.
Fortunately, student Katelyn Hollars was on duty that day and was familiar with raising ducks. “She was very helpful,” says Dr. Vanegas. “She helped calculate the medication dosage and wrapped the repaired wing next to the duck’s body.” He sent the Mertons home with an antibiotic to add to Issanah’s water, and instructions to keep her quiet and confined to a small area.
Meredith took extra good care Issanah, but one small hole in her throat was not healing well, so Dr. Vanegas added more stitches on a follow-up visit. That did the trick. “I wasn’t sure if she would make it, but I guess ducks are tough,” he says.
Now Issanah is doing great, scurrying around the farmyard with the other ducks in their little family group. “She went right back to laying eggs,” says April Merton, who now has an incubator with eggs from two ducks; the white ones with brown speckles look just like their mom Issanah.