Webster the duck10/3/2018
ARL TheraPet duck provides companionship.
Like many pets, Webster’s favorite activity is riding in a car and sitting on laps. He doesn’t mind a leash or being doused with water. In fact, the more water, the better to dunk his head. These facts may not seem unusual for most pets, but for this pet? It’s a duck.
Webster is a therapy duck. His owner, Phillip Blanchard, trained him with Animal Rescue League’s TheraPets program.
When Webster was a furry duckling, Phillip noticed Webster didn’t mind being picked up and wasn’t afraid of people.
“We suddenly realized he likes people,” he said. “So we trained him with the ARL to make visits for pet therapy.”
As a joke, Phillip put a blue diaper on him (yes, duck diapers do exist) and keeps it on during indoor visits.
Phillip takes him to nursing homes, daycares, schools and more. CITYVIEW recently accompanied Phillip and Webster as they visited Manor Care in West Des Moines.
Phillip walked in and set Webster down on the floor. With a leash around his body, Webster settled in and ruffled his wings while activities director Valerie Witt welcomed them. Webster waddled down the hallway confidently, as if on a mission to spread joy. Phillip then picked up Webster and placed him on the lap of a resident seated in a wheelchair.
“Ooh, Webster,” exclaimed the elderly woman. “I’m so happy to see you.”
She stroked him with her thin hands, while he sat patiently on her lap. A huge smile spread across her face. When asked why she likes Webster, she replied, “He’s so soft and cute. I just love him. I never get to pet a duck.”
Valerie said their facility hosts cat and dog visits, but Webster is special.
“This is their favorite animal,” said Valerie. “The residents are very excited when he comes and always look forward to his visit.”
Phillip loves animals, and his family’s home consists of cats, dogs and other ducks. However, Webster is more “human” than his other pets. “He sits on my lap more than any of my cats do,” he said.
Yet once Webster gets home with the other ducks, he fits right in.
“Back home, he acts like a normal duck,” he says.
Webster may soon have some competition, as a new duckling is in training. Phillip acclimated him, holding and attempting to put a leash on him. “Webster has agreed to share the spotlight,” said Phillip.
Phillip volunteers several days a week and enjoys spending time helping others.
“I’m lucky with my work schedule. I can fit it in,” he said. “I volunteer because I enjoy seeing people smile and cheering them up when they meet Webster.” ♦