During a recent visit to Deer Park on 17th Street, curious people — especially children — enveloped Murray while she let her pet duck swim in the park’s small creek and waddle in the bright green grass. A few adults, as well as toddlers and pre-teens encircled the creature, trying to get closer. Smiles and giggles followed while Murray watched the playful scene with joy.
“They love my duck,” Murray said. “They want to hold him, pet him and feed him.”
Although the duck, named Mister Bo Peep, is wildlife, Murray got a physician’s permission to keep the duck at her home, to help her with emotional issues like anxiety and insomnia.
“I’ve had a cat and a dog,” Murray said, “but I wanted a duck because it follows you around. I wanted something to keep track of. But he keeps track of me.”
“People don’t know how affectionate ducks are,” the pet owner explained. She demonstrated how the duck puts his head on her shoulder, burrows into her chest or “parks his body” next to her. “I cuddle him and he settles down,” she said.
“I keep him indoors. He sleeps on a bed on a plastic white tablecloth,” she continued. “I keep a bucket of water beside the bed and use rubber gloves and wipes to keep clean.”
There’s food and water if the duck, which is part mallard, gall and harlequin, wants to eat or drink during the night. The duck swims when she takes him to a pond or the small pool she bought for him. “He swims like a jet. When he was just a handful in my hand, right away he dove underwater and swam fast — like a jet.”
Murray found the duck through an area trading publication and named it Bo Peep simply because she likes the name. “But, I found out he’s male, so it’s Mister Bo Peep.”
“He’s like a companion,” Murray explained. “I have insomnia and the Lord has given me grace for this. I haven’t slept much. I have a soft blue light going all night. I don’t sleep,so he watches me and I watch him.”
Not that owning a duck is problem-free. “Sometimes, dogs go after my duck. My duck flies and takes off — and he comes back to me.” Also, if Murray sees a dog without a leash, she takes her duck to another place.
The other part of duck ownership that concerns Murray is when Mr. Bo Peep “goes after people’s feet. He pecks and scares people.” Most of the time, however, the bird behaves, although the bird has been taken before. “He flew after a boy on a bicycle...somebody carted him off. A friend made a picture and offered a reward and I posted (the papers) all over the greenway.” The duck was missing for days.
Finally, however, “A girl called on her cell phone and said, ‘I think I found your duck.”
Murray went to pick up her pet, which was with two girls at the Church of God headquarters at 25th and Keith streets. Although the reward offered was small, Murray said she never got to meet the girl who called her, so she couldn’t give her the money. After being lost, the duck “could barely walk. He was exhausted. I was concerned.
Now that the duck is back home, Murray continues to enjoy the companionship of her unique pet, one she says makes different sounds for hunger or when he wants to go into his cage. “At night, it’s almost like he whispers. It’s so cute.”
When she takes the duck outside, her hope is to find other people to enjoy the bird.
“I share my duck,” Murray noted. “I take him to the car show and he steals the show. It’s like a circus when he’s around. I have a blast. He doesn’t require much attention. He gives more than he takes.”
Murray, who works part time at the Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation Center, has resided in Cleveland since 1989 and has no family nearby and “zero communication” with family faraway. “He’s a service animal,” she said. “Isn’t it better to have something to love than nothing?”