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Enslaved by Ducks Paperback – October 1, 2004
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From the Back Cover
Writing as someone who's been ambushed by the way in which animals, even cranky ones, can wend their way into the heart, Bob Tarte reveals the truth of animal ownership—and who really owns whom.
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This book makes a great gift for anybody who loves birds (pet birds, barnyard fowl, or wild birds), and while you're at it, get a copy for yourself - you'll be glad you did.
While those two examples smack of sadness, there are plenty of hilarious stories throughout the book to make the reader look insane while trying—and failing—to stifle outbursts of laughter in airport terminals. For example, dry wit that set me to giggling and fellow passengers to gently moving away is on page 173 of my copy. Tarte shares one of the exchanges with his psychiatrist during which he has an epiphany:
“His words hit me with a powerful insight about pet ownership. Rather than blaming our animals for adding complexity to my life, perhaps I should thank them for simplifying it. After all, they helped reduce the potentially unlimited possibilities of existence to a series of tedious and predictable daily routines....Instead of laying ambitious plans for the future or even building up a healthy clientele for my freelance writing business, I could pack each day to the brim directing ducks in and out of their pens, separating fighting rabbits, and keeping parrot-seed dishes filled. The notion that something other than folly might lie behind my acquisition of nearly countless pets brought me a tingle of joy. I overflowed with gratitude toward Dr. Glaser.”
And then there’s blatant humor with a tinge of cuteness: “Getting the food into the birds presented little problem, since few easier and willing targets exist in nature than the open mouths of hungry starlings.”
For a truly entertaining read, every bird owner will enjoy Tarte’s Enslaved By Ducks. And if you have a spouse who questions your sanity in raising parrots or ducks or doves, give them a copy of this book to read and I bet he or she will understand you—and his or her need to surrender now—better.
Bob Tarte displays a wonderful facility with words and the guy is flat-out funny at times, enough to make me laugh out loud. For example, in the midst of being pitifully perched on the very top of a unbalanced six-foot step ladder, trying to capture a runaway bird sitting on a limb just out of reach, Mr. Tarte looks down and notes the ladder's warning sign: Don't stand on the top step. "Why do they call the top level a step," he thinks splayed out in his convoluted Harold Lloyd position, "when it's not?" If this isn't funny to you, blame me. I'm not portraying the scene well. You'll have to take it on faith that it broke me up.
Tarte's memory for detail is phenomenal and while I found this impressive, after a time, I found it trying. Enough already. The book seems to be about 1/3 too long and it just... ends. No real insight, no real change in... well, anything. I confess to skimming the last 30 pages or so.
The author and his wife Linda obviously love animals, though it is also obvious that in their marriage Linda rules the roost. (Once, just once, I'd like for the author to win an argument over whether to take in a new pet.) Yes, Linda rules her husband, but it is their menagerie that runs their lives rather than the other way around. After a while, even though each animal's personality is painstakingly portrayed and their illnesses and deaths poignantly delineated -- the turkey blinding was especially moving, I thought -- everything began to run together by book's end. After a while, the text reads like a shampoo bottle: Shampoo, rinse, repeat. The reader can easily get the sense that these people, well-intentioned for sure, are in way over their heads.
I see that Mr. Tarte has authored other similar books. I thank him for this one, but one is enough.