8 min read

Sweetest Duck May Be Different But She'll Never Be Alone

<p> Laura Blackman </p>

When Lemon the duck hatched in my Kindergarten classroom over nine years ago I didn't know much she would change my life, for the better.

Right away the students and I realized that Lemon was different from the other three ducklings. Lemon was born with a neurological disability which prevents her from balancing. Without help, she could only lay on her side. Lemon wasn't in pain, but she couldn't take care of herself or live outdoors like most ducks. The Kindergarten children went into high gear trying to figure out ways to help Lemon stand up and be happy.

One day, I overheard one of my students as he was standing in line, waiting to go out for recess. He told his friends that he was going to find a four-leaf clover to give to Lemon, for good luck. He was convinced this would cure her. That's when I realized that not only did Lemon need her human friends, but they needed her as well. There was such important learning and community building over one tiny little duckling.

Finally, the children did come up with a way to help Lemon stand. A dog life vest was attached to a stand so that Lemon could stand up and move back and forth, on her own.

Her newfound independence delighted her. You could tell she was very proud and felt part of the class; part of her human flock.

The kindergarten students came up with a dog life vest and stand so Lemon can muck around in the grass on her own. Photo: Laura Backman

There was no looking back. Soon, this feisty little pekin wanted to walk! A family friend made her a walker (The Lemobile) using simple materials from a hardware store.

I created a website: LemonTheDuck.com so that people could see her pictures and videos. I also wrote a children's book about Lemon entitled, "Lemon the Duck."

Cover of "Lemon the Duck"

This book was a way for me to honor the loss of my father who had passed away due to complications from MS the year before and to share the message that children are very powerful people. They have the power to make a difference in the life of others. I wanted those who read her story or met Lemon to understand that all life is precious, no matter what your challenges may be, sometimes you need just a little help from your friends.

I donate the proceeds of Lemon's book to the MS Society, The Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary and Little Heirloom Farm and Preserve. Over the years Lemon has visited thousands of children and adults in classrooms, libraries, and other venues. She's had one-on-one visits with people with challenges, and has been part of many celebrations, such as her yearly visit to the Advocates in Action, RI conference (which helps people with developmental disabilities learn to advocate for themselves) and March into Reading on Aquidneck Island (a yearly celebration of authors and illustrators). She has also attended animal therapy training with me. Lemon has appeared in magazines and newspapers in the New England area and abroad.

Lemon in the Saco River, NH. She enjoys looking for minnows and chases them around. You can see her spunky attitude. She looks right at the camera as if to say, "Let's swim!" Photo: Laura Backman

Lemon connects with everyone. She's imprinted on people so she treats them as part of her flock. She's highly intelligent and has her own unique personality. Over the years, Lemon and I have learned each other's language. When Lemon is not visiting friends, she's swimming, going for outings with the family, or zooming around in her Lemobile. She even likes having her picture taken. She's quite the ham.

People often tell me that Lemon is lucky to have me, but really I'm the lucky one. I've experienced and learned so much about people, animals, and how to help those with challenges, from Lemon. She's a whole lot of duck in one little package and she's one quacktastic friend!

Check out this video of Lemon in NH with her cousins, playing under the sprinkler. She has a quacktastic time. You can hear her quacking (girls are louder) to get the kids to play - and also quacking and rubbing her head, since water gets her into "preening mode"! She also likes to "bop" like she's in a bird bath. Our friend Serenity is always there to help her when she needs it, whether it's to help her lift her head back up, to be sure she's safe or for a snuggle. She loves being part of everything!

Top photo: Lemon zooming around in her Lemobile.