Wanted to share a tale of a couple local kids doing what they do best!
It was the tail end of a real Nor’easter. One of those cold evenings when it feels like it had been dark for 36 hours, and the driving rain and 35 degree temperatures had managed to get you cold and wet to a level that takes days of hot showers to come back up to temperature.
I picked up the phone, my brother answered immediately, I took a deep breath and made my pitch:
“Any chance I can convince you to go for a paddle in the morning?” I asked which was immediately followed up with, “Storm’s messed up all the surf, are you just trying to punish me?” I returned with “Well, the thing is, I have this duckling, and if I can get him through the night, we need to find his fami…” and he cut me off before I could get the words out.
“Well then save the duckling doc!” and he hung up the phone. That was it, no further questions, no details needed, just do your work.
I spent the night caring for the tiny duckling, slowly getting his temperature up, giving fluids and nutritional support, drying his tiny feathers, until finally, he started to perk up.
By first light the duckling had become quite a little character and had taken well to nuzzling in my jacket so I could carry him around. As promised, my brother met me at the boulevard with two SUPs the next morning and we set out paddling around the harbor to where we suspected to find other ducks of the same species.
Immediately, we found a group of adult ducks. We were stoked. We paddled as close as we could without startling them and set the duckling into the water and started to paddle away. Unfortunately, the duckling wouldn’t have it. He kept swimming away from the adult ducks and chasing our paddle boards. Something wasn’t right, and we knew it. I scooped the soaking cold duckling up and put him back into my jacket. We found another group of ducks half a mile away. No luck. The duckling was getting better at swimming and again I turned my board around and scooped up the wet pile of fluff and put him against my body to warm up while we paddled through the rain.
I was about to lose it. Why wouldn’t the ducking go with his group? What had I done wrong? Why wasn’t this working? Was I now the proud owner of a very confused duckling? I was coming undone.
I looked at my brother and he could see the desperation in my face. “If you love what you do,” he yelled to me, “you’ll never work a day in your life” I yelled back. It’s a mantra that was trained in to both of us so much growing up that the saying has become a touchstone to get through any tough day.
Both adults now, both running our own businesses, we grasped the reality and subtle untruth of that motto. We continued to paddle in the rain for another hour with no sign of other adult ducks. While the duckling slept soundly in my jacket, my fingers went numb and our lips turned the slightest shade of purple.
We went back to the beach, loaded the boards and put our fingers in front of the dashboard heaters while we collected our thoughts. “Never work a day!” my brother giggled as he blew on his frozen fingers. He put the truck in drive and said he had one more idea.
We drove to South East harbor and pulled over on the side of the road. We walked the rocky shore line until we saw them. Two adult ducks with at least thirty small ducklings. I squealed knowing that’s what we had been missing, we had been trying to put this duckling with the adults, when we should have been looking for the nursery!
But there was a problem, the waves were crashing on the shoreline and getting a board in didn’t make sense. My brother pulled his wetsuit on and commanded me to give him the duckling. He then ran down the rocks and into the surf with the grace only gained from a lifetime below the tide line. He navigated the shore break, swam past the surf and got the duckling close to the group. I held my breath knowing if the duckling swam back towards us he would be swallowed by the waves. He circled, confused for a long breathless moment, and then he saw them. He swam to the group of duckling and they surrounded him like they had been waiting for his return the whole time.
My brother and I sat on the rocks in wetsuits, finishing our now cold coffee, smiling from ear to ear. If you love what you do, you will work very very hard, but it will always be worth it.
Sarah Hammond owns Tidal Medicine, a house call veterinary practice on the North Shore, and her brother, Dominic, owns Cape Ann SUP + Surf company on Cape Ann. Dr Hammond treats dogs and cats for wellness and integrated veterinary medicine and when he’s not helping her save ducklings, Dom is likely getting people on the water all over Cape Ann.
Dr Hammond and the Tidal Team