I may not have anything else to say except that I saw this today: a white duck waddling on the breakwater in Milwaukee with a little red collar and a red leash held by a mid-thirties-looking woman who was strolling with her husband and three children. The breakwater, which might be called a pier in other towns, is a spot that Milwaukeeans go for a walk on a nice sunny Sunday. The breakwater goes far out into the water so it is possible to see the city from a whole other vantage point and it’s lovely.

So back to the duck lady. Sometimes the woman held the duck like a small, accessory dog and sometimes she walked the duck on a leash as if they’d been to a special duck obedience class. This is a first, I thought. Who walks with a duck on a leash and why?

The duck turned a lot of heads, including ours. Was it an Easter duckling grown? A duck found homeless in the yard? A circus duck? One that performed in shows, maybe was taking a break from a performance at the Performing Arts Center downtown? So many possible scenarios. Bottom line question for me, though, was: How does one not only own a duck but then decide to leash it up and go for a stroll?

Immediately, I felt bad for the duck. Not because he seemed abused in any way, unless you think harnessing fowl to show off in public is cruel. What was sad to me is that the duck had to have seen the free ducks swimming in Lake Michigan, riding the surf, occasionally quacking to each other, dipping around looking for food. But they weren’t white ducks, they were regular, old, dime a dozen brown ducks like you’d see in any run of the mill city pond. Just plain ducks. Still, wouldn’t the white duck want to break the bonds of its oppression and jump off the pier into the dark waters of Lake Michigan? Wasn’t it getting hot on the webbed feet walking along on the concrete pier? Didn’t white duck long to swim?

Then again, I thought, maybe the lake ducks would think being carried around by a nice lady would be preferable to having to stay out of the way of jet skis and motor boats and beating back the competition to score stale bread.

I’m betting, though, that neither duck recognized the other as peer fowl. Maybe that means comparisons weren’t being made and there was no envy. Do animals ever covet the good fortune of other animals? Is there such a thing as creature envy? Is this an opportunity to, once again, learn one of the many lessons of the Animal Kingdom?

I don’t know. How would I know? I was just going for a walk and ran into a white duck on a red leash.


Photo: Boris Smokrovic