Move over, Sandra Bullock and John Mellencamp, there's a new celebrity on Tybee Island - and he's got webbed feet.
His name is Aflac and he's a 5-month-old Pekin duck. Aflac's rise to fame came after owner, 11-year-old Angel Barnard, trained him to walk on a leash, and motorists traveling down busy Butler Avenue took notice. Angel's family owns Bowie Seafood Market, and she said she decided to give the leash a try because she didn't want Aflac wandering into the street in front of the store.
"I didn't want him going into traffic, so we decided to try and use a dog harness. The first time, he bit the leash, but it only took him about two weeks to get used to walking on it," Angel said.
For many Tybee residents, like Crystal Davis and her 2-year-old daughter, Godwyn, Aflac, who often sports his best "Duck Dynasty" bandana around his neck, has become a staple for their visits to the seafood market.
"We love him. He's just adorable. He'll actually open up his wings and give my daughter a hug. We can't drive by without her yelling, 'I want to go see Aflac!'" Davis said.
The Barnard family resides in Midway, living on Tybee during the summer and on weekends during the school year. But traveling hasn't bothered the bird.
"We were worried about him traveling back and forth, but he'll just hop into the kennel in the back of the truck like a dog. I think he thinks he's a dog because he pants like a dog, too. I don't think it is something ducks normally do," said Angel's mother, Jamee Barnard.
Aflac was Angel's Easter present. Originally part of a couple, Aflac's girlfriend, Muddy, was killed in late April by a possum at the family's Midway home. And after a nasty brush with a chickenhawk on the island in August, Aflac spends his time off the leash in a coop at the seafood market, complete with a kennel and a pool for when he needs to cool off from the Tybee heat.
At home in Midway, he has a larger spread, where Angel said he spends his time digging for bugs and cooling off in his kiddie pool.
"We have people that will call the store and ask, 'Is the duck out today? We're coming by and we want to see him,' said Jamee Barnard. "He's at least had 200 pictures taken of him already."
Along with Aflac, the family has two dogs and a kitten, but Angel said taking care of a duck isn't much different from taking care of other pets.
"The only difference is that he has to have water constantly so he doesn't dehydrate, and he's allergic to avocados and popcorn. I feed him once a day. He eats corn, lettuce and cabbage, and he also likes steamed shrimp.
"I've just always loved ducks, so it's neat to have one as a pet."