As he was leaving the house, his mind was going through the usual motions: get the door keys; lock the front door. Suddenly, though, his train of thought was interrupted by an unusual noise coming from somewhere close by. And when he eventually found the source of the sound, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
On February 14, 2017, a young man uploaded a heart-warming story to his social media page. It started as just an ordinary day for Justin Nickles, whose screen name on the image-sharing site imgur is DedcelDesigns. Nickles resides in northeastern Pennsylvania, where he works as a designer.
In particular, Nickles has a keen interest in digital art and graphic design. And Deadcel Designs isn’t just one of his social media tags; it’s also the name of his graphic design company. However, that isn’t the only presence Nickles has in the art world.
Since 2016 he has also been a part-owner of an online Etsy store called TheHungryMushroom. With the help of his partner Deanna, Nickles sells handmade jewelry crafted from semi-precious gemstones. And Deanna has revealed the process behind their creations on their joint page.
“Both [Justin and I] are novice lapidary artist[s],” she explained. “We especially love cracking open geodes. [We cut] out the pretties filled within the cavity and [mold] those stones into tools for you (and us)!” But, in addition to the creative arts, Nickles has yet another love.
Specifically, his other great passion is the animal kingdom. Indeed, Nickles’ imgur feed neatly displays the fondness he feels towards his furry friends. He even leaves food out for his neighborhood’s stray cats – or whatever else has a taste for cat food, including the occasional possum.
Despite the frequent animal visitors to the Nickles property, though, he recently had an encounter quite unlike any previous ones. Nickles subsequently described the event on his imgur feed. “I walked out my front door to go grocery shopping and I heard a really weird noise,” he wrote.
Naturally, his attention was drawn to the disturbance, and he felt compelled to investigate. What’s more, it didn’t take him long to locate the source of the unusual sound. “I looked to my right and this little baby was struggling like hell to fly or even walk,” Nickles explained.
Although Nickles wasn’t sure exactly what species it was, the baby was obviously a bird. And not only was that bird vulnerable to local stray cats, but it was also at risk from the elements. Indeed, on that particular day the temperature had plummeted to about 27°F.
“I showed my girlfriend, and she ran inside and got a towel to wrap him up in,” Nickles recounted. “Our quick Google research determined that this is a female mallard duck.” A mallard is a wild bird, so the couple subsequently contacted the state game commission.
Unfortunately, they were out of luck and no one answered the phone. The Pennsylvania fire service then advised the couple to call 911, and an operator would go on to say that someone would come and collect the mallard. But after nobody came following that call, confusingly, Nickles was then told to wait for a visit from the game commission.
So it looked like it would be some time before the experts arrived, and the day was already closing in. Furthermore, as night fell, the already low temperature was dropping further. As a result, he needed to keep the duck warm. There was just one snag, though: he couldn’t take her into the house, as he has five pet cats.
And it wasn’t just that the cats posed a potential risk to the mallard; the cats themselves might have been in danger, too. Nickles didn’t know what was wrong with the duck and as a result was concerned about the risk of diseases being passed on.
“So I brought her into my car to keep her (and myself) warm,” Nickles wrote. It was around that time that his bond with the mallard grew stronger. He added, “I could feel myself falling in love.” And that connection was only reinforced as the night went on.
“She started to fall asleep on my leg and I full-on fell in love!” Nickles continued. “I want to keep her so bad but I know I can’t give her the help she needs. We named her Mally the Mallard. Full-on, head over heels in love now.”
What’s more, the feeling was apparently mutual for Mally, as she snuggled up to Nickles for two whole hours. At times she even buried her head into his hoodie, particularly upon hearing the sound of passing cars, which seemed to make her extremely nervous. Her rescuer would later learn that there was a very good reason for her fear.
However, the game commission then called up and told Nickles to leave her in a box outside his house for collection. “It was the most heart-breaking thing I’ve had to do in a long time,” he reported. “I hope she isn’t cold.”
Nickles then kept regular watch over Mally to make sure she was safe, and sure enough, she was collected in the morning. Then after a health inspection, the reason for her condition – and her reaction to passing cars – was revealed. It was suspected that she’d been the victim of a traffic collision.
The good news was that the injuries she had sustained turned out to be superficial. Perhaps it was the shock or exhaustion of the event that had made her immobile. In any case, when the game commission released her, Mally didn’t waste time hanging around and instantly flew away.
“It took her a long time to get her beautiful head straightened out,” Nickles wrote. “That or she was just using our love. On Valentine’s Day. It’s okay, though. We still love her! So this is for you, Mally! We will never forget you or the beautiful light you brought us for those short few hours! You are a master troll!”