The bond between languishing duck and its nurturers has grown over time.
On a recent afternoon, Emilie meandered around the courtyard surrounding the koi pond. But as soon as Clark and Luttge came outside, it waddled over like a dog whose master had just come home from work.
Luttge had a bag full of nightcrawlers, a tub full of mealworms and a calcium supplement — all the protein and nutrients Emilie needs to have her wing feathers grow back so that she can fly again.
As the two women dangled earthworms in the air, Emilie jumped to gobble them up — major progress compared to her state just a few months ago, Luttge said.
Emilie is now fed in the morning and afternoon — a feeding schedule that has required an investment of hundreds of dollars on the part of Luttge and Clark, who have also been kept busy gathering food stock from Scales N' Tails in Burbank and from the sporting goods section at the Walmart near Clark's home in Simi Valley.
Luttge said she even comes in on the weekends to make sure Emilie gets her slimy snacks, and is planning to ramp up the feedings to three times a day.
"I live close by, so I come and I feed her and sit with her," she said. "She quacks when I come — she's lonely, you can tell she wants to go home."
Luttge said she had consulted with an expert from a duck rescue organization who told her that it would take until August for Emilie to fully recover, at which point she will be able to locate her family on her own.
But Emilie isn't the sole beneficiary in this arrangement. Mary Ann Madden, a marketing coordinator at the hospital, said that for the families of long-term patients, having a feathered friend to pass the time with is "really soothing and healing."
On Tuesday, as Dr. Mike Neskovic happened by, he voiced his agreement while crouching down to get a photo of Emilie as she foraged in the bushes.
"This is really great psychotherapy," he said.
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