Elderly residents at an assisted living facility north of San Francisco are fighting to get their duck back.
Walter Paredes, a cook at Bello Gardens Assisted Living in San Anselmo, said a landscaper gave him a baby duck a year and a half ago. He named the mallard Juanita and raised it at work.
"She's like my baby or something," Paredes said.
Pictures show Juanita spending time with residents in the back yard.
"It's not just a duck it's a companion to a lot of people," resident Rita Wardner said.
After a year and a half at Bello Gardens, Juanita flew off on Sept. 16. Staff posted fliers in the neighborhood hoping to find her.
Turns out a neighbor took the duck to the wildcare center in San Rafael, where she is checked in as a patient. But Bello Gardens residents want her back.
"Wishing she could come back and fill her place with us," Wardner said.
That wish may not come true.
Wildcare staff members said under state and federal law it is illegal to keep a wild animal, and returning Juanita would lead to trouble.
"If we were to go against California Fish and Wildlife and give her back, we would jeopardize our license and would no longer be here to treat 4,000 injured and abandoned animals each year," said Alison Hermance of the wildcare center in San Rafael.
Bello Gardens is circulating a petition and asking the state for exemption to allow Juanita to return home.
"She gave us a lot of joy," Wardner said. "For old people that's important to have joyful moments."