Fred the Labrador has spent his entire life surrounded by creatures of all sorts and sizes. Fred, the resident dog of Mountfitchet Castle, a rebuilt Norman castle near Stansted, Essex, has been a peaceful and loving presence to anybody who visits the tourist attraction.
Fred’s parental instincts are finally being tested at the tender age of ten. On Thursday, castle personnel discovered nine young yellow ducklings meandering aimlessly across the crowded grounds.
The ducklings’ mother was unable to be discovered, however it is thought she was kidnapped by a fox shortly after her babies hatched. Without a parent to guide them, the ducklings had a small chance of surviving the treacherous voyage to water.
“The crew was really concerned about the ducklings, but Fred… quickly took to them and has been babysitting them ever since,” according to a Facebook post.
Fred may be a little bigger and furrier than the ducklings’ mother, but he has shown to be an excellent foster dad over the last week.
“He grew up with me and my wife Jo in the castle and our house with rescued animals,” the castle’s owner, Jeremy Goldsmith, told The Dodo. “We even had a squirrel in the kitchen for six months that we rescued from the side of the road.”
Since being introduced to the dog, the missing ducklings appear to have imprinted on Fred, following him around. “Fred warmed to them instantly and has been fantastic looking after them,” Goldsmith added, “even swimming in the castle moat every day.”
When the day is done, Fred and his duckling offspring sleep in the same home basket. The ducklings rely on Fred to keep them safe and warm, and the Labrador has grown accustomed to being surrounded by nine tiny shadows.
“Fred has such a kind personality,” Goldsmith remarked. “He is a very natural father and parent.”
Fred will most likely be a stay-at-home dad for the next two months until the ducklings fledge, becoming self-sufficient and capable of flying. Though parenting this family is time-consuming, Fred is up to the task.
“[He] has a fantastic father instinct and has taken to all nine ducklings,” Goldsmith added. “We are quite proud of him.”