ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) - It's a story of good old hometown hospitality - and one of love, too.
Limestone County residents were fortunate enough to dodge heavy snowfall and treacherous road conditions some of our fellow Alabamians further south were plagued with Tuesday, but nevertheless, local crews remained on standby ready to respond to any potential mishaps due to extreme cold.
Officials, however, never expected an emergency involving water-logged feathers and webbed feet.
As some residents flocked to local facilities designated as warming centers, a duck named Lovey waddled to the Athens-Limestone Tourism Office in dire straits. Lovey, one of the ducks who adds to the serenity and beauty of the pond at downtown Athens' Big Spring Memorial Park with her mere presence, was boasting feathers encapsulated in frozen water.
The protective oils that help insulate the duck's feathers and allow them to dive for food had stopped secreting due to extreme cold and possibly stress. The ducks at the park also have fewer places to seek shelter from the cold these days.
Lynne Hart, executive coordinator with Keep Athens Beautiful explains the construction in the area and the resulting noise from heavy equipment was 'freaking' the ducks out, causing them to stay in the water and clear of growling machinery.
"And it's very cold," Hart shivered. "And although ducks are protected from that we had one duck whose oil glands stopped working and it was drenched down to the skin and it was freezing to death."
The good people of Athens certainly weren't going to let that happen to Lovey, the lovely lily-white Muscovy duck. Tourism officials immediately called the mayor's office but it was residents who really came to the rescue.
Teresa Akins Todd, President/CEO at Athens-Limestone County Tourism issued a plea on Facebook and Twitter, asking for donations of straw or hay for bedding. After Lovey was captured, she was taken to the nearby offices of Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful, which is housed in a restored service station that is a museum, and placed in an area lined with hay.
"It was an ordeal," says Todd. "We had people from Facebook respond like you wouldn't believe."
One man called to say while he didn't have any hay, he'd be willing brave the bitter cold to rake his yard for the pine needles.
But Lovey got way more than hay - she got her best friend.
She is partnered with a gray Muscovy duck named Beautiful. He was also caught and brought along to help keep Lovey company in her temporary home.
Local veterinarian Robert Pitman says the rescue came just in the nick of time for Lovey, who should now be just fine, he says.
"Even if they find shelter under a bush and protect themselves, they'll do fine because the natural protective oils will regenerate from the skin within two to three weeks," Pitman explains.
But Lovey and her loving partner Beautiful will do much better than shrubbery.
Sometime today, a kind-hearted chicken farmer with a heated pond is expected to pick up the ducks and take them to her farm for rehabilitation.
The lovebirds will recuperate in the coop and be released to their pond home when Lovey is healthy enough.