Love Is Strictly Lassie-Faire for Howard, a Duck Out of Water

updated 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

At first it seemed an impossible love. Howard, the orange-blue-olive-chest-nut-and-white plumed duck, was a mandarin. Lady, whom even close friends would describe as a bitch, was from the wrong side of the quacks. But the determined duo overcame their ill-fated odds; Howard and Lady's romance has blossomed, without paws, ever since the January day when Howard made his splash into Steve and Garrie Katznelson's pool.

Nobody is quite sure how Howard came to Tarzana, Calif. Mandarin ducks—a sign of fidelity in China, where they were often given as wedding presents—are rare in California. After checking with local zoos, gardens and parks, none of which had a lost duck to report, the Katznelsons concluded that Howard probably flew the coop of a private collector. But why, they wondered, was he parked in their backyard? A month into the visit, Garrie figured out the attraction. "I noticed when I walked with Lady, Howard would follow," she says. "Then I had Lady stay, and I walked. Howard stayed. Then I walked Lady all over the place, and Howard got out of the pool and even followed us through the bushes. That's when I knew he had an attachment to Lady."

This is no flighty affair. Howard and Lady have been inseparable for nine months now. "We think Howard is confused," says Garrie. "We think he thinks Lady is one big, beautiful duck." Very big. At least 10 times as big as Howard. But this did little to deter him during mandarin mating season last winter. "He'd jump on Lady and nuzzle her," says Garrie. "And he had this mating call—he'd puff out his chest, start chattering and flicking his head. They'd snuggle and sleep together."

Which is not to say Lady is a tramp. She truly likes her finely feathered fella. So, apparently, do the Katznelsons' two cats, Tigrr and Sugar, who have yet to have him for supper.

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