Missing duck returns to San Anselmo senior housing facility

Here's a story that will warm your heart just two days before Christmas.

You may remember ‘Juanita the Duck’ that was missing from her Marin home where she was raised by a group of senior citizens. After a long hard battle, the duck had a special homecoming just in time for the holiday.

At Bello Gardens Assisted Living facility in San Anselmo, the residents have been missing a loved one.

"So, this is Juanita and what we're going to do today is give her a quick head to toe check," said a veterinarian at Wildcare in San Rafael.

That's where the missing mallard has been housed for the past three months since she disappeared from her home during a September storm. "Say ahhh, Juanita. Her mouth is moist and pink and healthy," said the veterinarian.

Early on, it appeared that Juanita would never make it back to the only home she ever knew because of laws that prevent people from having wild animals as pets.

"It's been really really good to find a solution that works for everyone involved. And that solution is to have Juanita the mallard duck returned to the seniors at Bello Gardens as an educational wild animal," said Wildcare Spokeswoman Alison Hermance.

With that, Wildcare staff handed Juanita off to the director of Bello Gardens. After a short car ride, she was home among her people.

"Juanita the duck is here! Let's go see Juanita," exclaimed a Bello Gardens staff member to a resident.

"Hi sweet bird! Oh, I'm so happy about that," said Norma Manning, a resident who never lost hope. "We did go to the center quite a bit and talked to the people there and they were wonderful. And somehow they gave us the courage to wait for this to happen."

To bring Juanita back, the folks at Bello Gardens had to more than double the size of her enclosure and increase the size of her pool, a pool that Juanita clearly enjoys already. And that was just the beginning.

"We had to submit pictures of the enclosure both construction and the final, we had to submit documents drafting our educational programs," said Neysa Hinton, Executive Director of Bello Gardens, adding that they also had to hire a duck educator and provide Juanita with a more appropriate diet.

Perhaps the happiest person at Bello Gardens is the cook, and the person who spent the most time raising Juanita, Walter Paredes.

"It's like a good present for Christmas, you know? What else you want? Juanita, happiness, everybody's going to be happy, what else you want? Juanita's here," he said with a big smile.

Resident Chuck Thompson agrees. "Lord love a duck. It's an old saying. And we missed her. And that's how we got her back."