Book Review: Enslaved by Ducks

Enslaved by Ducks Book Cover


by, Bob Tarte

From talking starlings to terrorizing turkeys, Tarte’s book demonstrates how our pets play an extraordinarily wonderful part in our lives.

Our pets have amazing power over us; they also have an intimate and essential place, as writer Bob Tarte discovers in his book “Enslaved by Ducks.” It started with an innocent move the Michigan countryside. Tarte and wife Linda were looking for a peaceful life away of the hustle and bustle of Grand Rapids. After the move another seemingly innocent purchase of a pet rabbit resulted in a flood of animals Tarte is unable to hold back.  

Tarte noticed anecdotes about parakeet dramas and rabbit riots began slipping into the music column he writes for “The Beat” magazine. Realizing that the subject was not relevant in any way to music, Tarte, who wanted to get the stories on paper, wrote his first book, “Enslaved by Ducks.”

A cute little dwarf Dutch rabbit was Tarte and Linda’s first experiment in rabbit ownership. Unknown to the Tartes, dwarf Dutch rabbits are not known to be overly affectionate and Binky, as the rabbit was named, was no exception. He didn’t like to be touched and would go to great lengths to make sure no human hand sullied his soft fur, including hiding in inaccessible places around the Tarte home. The Tartes were undaunted by their new unfriendly fur ball, especially Linda.

Their second acquisition made by the Tartes was an orange-chin pocket parrot named Ollie, with an affinity for attacks on unsuspecting fingers, toes, faces, etc. Though the tiny green parrot was suppose to be a gift for Tartes, the little bird turns out to be a pain in the derrière. A precocious African grey parrot comes next and along with several more rabbits and a handful of parakeets.

Tarte soon finds himself constructing ducks and geese pens, nursing sick turkeys, saving starling chicks, clipping rabbit teeth, fostering baby birds and much, much more. Despite the craziness of his animal-controlled existence, Tarte finds the happiness he has been seeking his entire life.

Though I seldom laughed out loud, the book is filled with endearing and sometimes humorous episodes. Tarte has a strong ability to describe a scene or incident in a truly unique manner, as this line from the chapter involving a sick goose named Liza, aptly proves:

 “Dr. Fuller greeted me in the examination room, then led me through secret doorway and into the inner recesses of the clinic. Guided by flickering torchlight, we trudged through miles of winding corridors before ending up in a squeaky-clean hospital area where hard-luck cases received constant care. Liza trumpeted a hello before I spotted her in the second tier of a shiny aluminum-sided high-rise of pens that somehow reminded me of restaurant ovens. I half expected to find our goose resting on a bed of wild rice.”

 Occasionally Tarte comes across as a whiny and slightly pathetic individual; I believe this is his attempt at humor through self-deprecation however it becomes slightly overplayed. There are also several occurrences where Tarte’s story gets a bit perplexing. For instance, he makes reference to his wife Linda’s 11 year old sons encounter with a raccoon; it is obvious that it is not his son and that the raccoon incident happened long before Tarte married Linda, but the son is never again mentioned, leaving the reader to await the son’s reintroduction or explanation to no avail.

In spite of these pitfalls, “Enslaved by Ducks” is an entertaining read for the animal lover. Tarte not only captures the essence of pet ownership, but also the crippling sense of loss we feel when a pet dies. I recommend it to anyone who has voluntarily become enslaved by their pets    

To see photographs of the Tarte family pets and to learn more about the book visit Tarte’s second book, “Fowl Weather” has recently been released.  

Originally appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.

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