“Not many people would stop and do what you did,” the employee at the animal hospital told Chris and Alan Beck, after they tried to save the life of a coot — a small black duck — that had been lying on the middle of Soft Winds Drive, a street in the Desert Shores section of Las Vegas.
What the veterinary employee at South Shores Animal Hospital didn’t have to say is that hit-and-run drivers in Las Vegas often take off after similar encounters with humans — even after hitting small children.
But he commended the Becks for their humanitarian deed. The duck had just been hit by a car, while its mate waited patiently along the shoulder of the road, perhaps unable to understand why its friend could not continue waddling across, Chris explained during an interview. That was several days after she emailed me to describe the incident.
“My husband and I came along maybe a minute or so after the duck had been hit,” Chris explained in the email. “We didn’t see the car that hit the duck, but we pulled over and I shooed the waiting duck over to the grass, toward the lake. My husband cautiously approached the duck lying in the middle of the road. He picked up the duck, which didn’t try to squirm, and we took it to the veterinarian, just a few blocks away.
“It was still alive, but during the short drive, we could tell it was dying. Its head started tilting. I dropped Alan off in front of the vet’s office while I parked. By the time I walked up to the door, my husband was coming out. A wet spot was on his shirt where some liquid had leaked out of the duck’s mouth,” Chris continued.
During the interview, Alan said he explained the situation to the veterinary employee. “He told me they would probably have to euthanize the duck, which was still alive, but barely. Truthfully, I didn’t think anything could be done to save it, but Chris and I are staunch animal lovers, and we tried our best,” he said.
“The people in the animal hospital thanked us for bringing in the duck, and they refused to charge us anything for putting it to sleep,” Alan added.
So why was this story referred to me?
“Remembering your article, I had to write and say thank you for trying to educate and make people aware of what happens in neighborhoods that have these beautiful creatures,” Chris had emailed me.
Her reference was to my Jan. 7 column, in which I detailed a series of criminal acts that had left a number of swans and other ducks dead and nest eggs destroyed in different sections of Desert Shores.
The community is a tranquil sector of 3,350 homes that sits in northwest Las Vegas, at the edge of Summerlin. The earlier intentional killings of feathered animals in Desert Shores remain under investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department, although at least one teenager was arrested recently in connection with the case.
As a result of the four man-made lakes that were carved into the community when it was developed 28 years ago, ducks, swans, herons, geese and other small wildlife migrated to Desert Shores early on and have found a permanent home.
Generally, motorists know to drive slowly along the lakesides, where waterfowl tend to gather. That’s because these creatures are known to waddle or strut across streets, moving slowly, often from one lake to another. As a result, it’s common to find vehicles idling on a street while feathered friends march across, sometimes in great number.
Chris retired after 35 years as a federal government employee, but Alan is still employed in a pyro-tech capacity at the Excalibur. “Our ‘kids’, so to speak, are a cat, a love bird and a tortoise,” Chris said.
The Becks described a similar act of animal kindness several years ago when Alan brought home a stray dog. They ran newspaper ads in an effort to find the owner, who showed up four months later. In between, the Becks paid a veterinarian to remove life-threatening tumors from the dog.
Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.