At first glance, Webster is just like any other therapy animal. He's personable and gentle and loves nothing more than visiting people and snuggling on their laps. But unlike most therapy animals, Webster isn't a dog or a cat. He's a duck.
According to Webster's owner, Phil Blanchard, the original plan was for Webster to live a quiet life as a family pet. But right from the start, Blanchard knew Webster was meant for bigger things. The duck was very social — always wanting to be out and about — and he was also extremely personable and happy to be held or stroked by anyone. Blanchard says he took Webster to stores such as Bass Pro Shops, Scheels and Petco or wherever pets were allowed so the duck could get his fill of socializing.
When they ran out of places to visit, Blanchard decided to enroll Webster in the Animal Rescue League of Iowa's Therapy Pet Program.
"Webster did not have to go through any special training since he has been going out and interacting with people for the past four years," Blanchard explained. During his interactions, Webster had already encountered many of the situations for which the rescue league trains therapy animals. So all Webster had to do was sign up and just keep on strutting his stuff.
According to Blanchard, people really respond to Webster because he's so outgoing and unique. Most people have never seen a duck up close and they certainly have never held one. It also doesn't hurt that Webster's feathers are so soft and cuddly.
Webster and Blanchard are based in Adel, Iowa, but they've traveled all over the state for therapy visits. When he's not working, Blanchard says Webster likes to roam around the yard, eat, sleep — "and of course watch his favorite movie, Jaws."