SUSANNAH LOVEGROVE AND RONNIE THE DUCK
Wheelchair-using duck nursed back to health after a near-fatal fox attack brings joy and companionship to his family.
Ronnie, a three-year-old black Cayuga duck, was the sole survivor of a fox attack that killed his best friend Reggie and girlfriend Cagney. He suffered two broken ribs and spine damage, leaving him unable to walk. His devastated owner Susannah Lovegrove, who pulled him from the fox’s jaws, was advised that he might have to be euthanised.
But determined to give her beloved pet a second chance, Susannah pulled out all the stops in a bid to save him, taking him to a physio and building him a specially adapted wheelchair. Ronnie even has his own yoga mat for his daily exercise.
“Ronnie means so much to me,” explains Susannah, who lives with her patient husband Giles and three children in Oxfordshire. “I hatched him and his brother Reggie under a hen. They grew up quite naughty ducks, chasing the other chickens and the dog. So we got them some wives. I was totally devastated when Reggie, and one of the girls, were killed in the fox attack, so I was determined to save Ronnie in any way I could.
“After the attack, I did think it would be a case of having him put to sleep which was heartbreaking. But we wanted to give him every chance, and the vet agreed to give it a couple of days to see what happened. Thankfully some feeling did come back in his legs and feet and so we agreed to give him pain relief and get him some physio.
“The animal physiotherapist had never seen a duck before, and tried electro-magnetic therapy for his ribs and when he regained his strength he got on a treadmill a few times which showed that he could do a stepping motion.
“We have had numerous vet visits over the last few months, we do daily exercises on his yoga mat, he has daily swimming sessions in the bath, and he has massage on his feet and legs to help nerve repair. I even built him his own set of wheels, it's basically a sling on wheels, which you can push around. It simulates the treadmill, and also gives him support when he is eating, washing and preening himself. It also gives him social time with the other ducks without them trampling on him.
“Making the wheelchair was quite a challenge, I have only just got it to a point where the wheels don’t fall off every time it moves. But he seems to like it and often has a little doze in it. He can’t push himself along yet, although he can go backwards. But it really is good for supporting him when his legs are tired.”
Due to his complex needs Susannah has had to take Ronnie with her on trips as far away as Cornwall and Bedfordshire and he sleeps every night in the kitchen with the family dog.
“It’s been a long road to recovery,” adds Susannah. “The attack left him seriously injured but he has done amazingly well, and defied the odds. I love him so very much, even though he often bites me. He is a little hero, and this is an amazing achievement for him and a real honour. He captured my heart a long time ago and it’s just lovely that he captured the hearts of the nation too.”