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Kangaroo R&R - Rescue and Rebirth
To Snoopy...My First 'Rescue' Roo
The last of the ten kangaroos they shot that night was a gentle grey doe, her soft stricken eyes staring in confusion and terror at the alien spotlight. The perfect target. After she had fallen, we could all see movement still continuing in her pouch.
I felt overwhelming sickness as one of the men pulled a joey from her. And then red-hot rage, as he said, "I'll just put this little bugger out of his misery." He took a firm grasp of the baby's tail as he spoke, and began to move towards a nearby tree. I could see what he planned.
I couldn't control myself any longer. I'll never remember the words I said as I took that baby joey and bundled the confusion of legs and tail into my jumper. I only know that three strong men stood there like shamefaced schoolboys as my fury boiled over. My horror and their embarrassment were such that I was promised that any future joeys would be given to me. Thankfully, they kept their word and I would successfully raise nine kangaroos.
The biggest and best of these babies was this first one, my Snoopy. He became a Big Red Boomer who stood SO much taller than me - an 'old man roo' who never failed to melt at the sound of my voice...the touch of my hands. Against all the odds, I was his Mother...and he was my baby.
I Like the Night Life!
So there had been the tragedy...but now began the triumph!
As we had just been on a weekend 'getaway' in the bush, our little 'ugly duckling' came back home with us to the city for some weeks until our planned move to the country. His home was a roomy knitted nylon 'shopping bag' that he could somersault into, as he had into his late mother's pouch. It was warm, and the right shape, and easily transported around by his new human 'parents'. (An added benefit was that it could hang on a doorknob anywhere, anytime).
He was named Snoopy because of his delightful habit of popping his dear little face out of his 'bedroom' (the bag), to see what was happening in this alien world around him. And when he was 'out' in the great outdoors (or indoors, as the case may be) he was such a curious little chappy. You just had to love him...despite all manner of 'accidents' as a result of his excitement with his new world!
Snoopy actually became your basic 'party animal'...mainly because I had to feed him 3-4 hourly, and so he had to go everywhere with us - and we did a lot of partying in these early-married years. He didn't mind a bit - especially when he was the centre of attention for some time, and then 'hung' on a doorknob in his bedroom in a spare bedroom, wherever we happened to be. Everybody loved our Snoopy...and he returned all this love in his huge soft eyes, and verbally, by a collection of soft 'clicks'.
...are SO special!!
They have to be amongst the sweetest little creatures you'll ever meet...
UGLY as....just check out the photo above. And Skinny!
SO slow getting decent fur all over them!
Totally helpless and dependent for absolutely everything.
SO delicate and vulnerable to sickness and injury...
BUT...110% pure love, and gentleness - and the heart-melting appeal in those big soft eyes has to be seen to be believed.
And you simply must cuddle them in your arms as you feed them, and whisper sweet soothing words into their ears that look far too big for their tiny faces while they are babes. And then they touch your face, SO softly, with those minute claws on those tiny 'fingers' of their front paws...or they gently clasp your fingers with theirs.
And when they are barely big enough to start their first 'adventures' they follow you everywhere, 'clicking' and trying to understand your world.
How blessed is the human who gets to experience and share this love.
Finding the right milk formula for a baby 'roo is quite a trick. And all those years ago, little was known, and it was mainly trial and error...the cruelty being that 'error' would inevitably end in death of the baby. It is true...they ARE incredibly delicate in their constitution and vulnerable to all manner of health problems. And just as important is the issue of the 'will to live'. If a baby animal loses that will, there is little hope that all the love and comfort you give will save it. Not all of my 'rescues' had successful outcomes...but in this case, thankfully, MOST lived to jump again another day!
Somehow, we discovered there was a 'roo lady' of renown, who had been successfully raising marsupials of several varieties for some time. We visited her post-haste. What a joy her Lounge room was. Wall-to-wall roos, and wallabies and possums - all in flanelette pouches and bags...some in pet beds...some with hot water bottles under their bedding...and lots of little curious faces popping out, and then quickly hiding again in case of 'stranger danger'. And the room was SO warm - a heater going night and day to ensure 'creature comfort'.
This special lady kindly shared her 'tried and true' recipe (and a generous sample) of 'roo formula' with us, so we could gather together the ingredients (from the chemist and health food shops). This was excellent, and certainly ensured Snoopy's start in life. However, soon after our move to the country, it became impossible to obtain all the ingredients. On some 'shaky' advice, we tried goat's milk - and found it absolutely perfect . As quickly as possible, we bought a goat, and started milking her - and from that time on, raised every other 'rescue' on pure goat's milk.
Apparently it is the best milk substitute for any other animal's milk - and great for any ailing creature - animal or human! TRULY!
And Another Roo - ...or two or three
...or actually, eight more after Snoopy.
And Biddy - a Grey Flyer. For some reason we never understood, Biddy had chalky bones, and in fact, broke both her back legs at different times. Luckily, the breaks were in the long part of the leg that lays along the ground.
Without any medical training, but with the 'copability' one develops out of necessity when one lives an extremely LONG way from the nearest veterinary clinic - I devised a splint for her both times. Biddy was undoubtedly the quietest and gentlest of all the roos I raised - maybe due to her innate nature - maybe because of these misfortunes - I don't know. But thanks to her placid acceptance of any misfortune - and, it would seem, total belief in me and my power to heal her - we were able to get her through her mending times successfully. She would never be a real 'flyer' again, but seemed quite content to eventually jump along carefully at her own pace, 'clicking' all the way.
The best news I received later was a photo of Biddy, with a joey peeping out of her pouch. Look!!
(... just guess who was the Daddy? Give up? My first baby...my Snoopy! Just look at his photo, just a little further on in this saga).
And there were the twins - Kelly and Kenny. From time to time when we visited Perth, we would see the 'roo lady' again to exchange any new snippets of knowledge and progress reports - and one time she offered us these two, as she had her hands SO full! They were so unusual and gorgeous - unsure of the type - small, grey, and black points to ears, snout, paws, tail and pretty jet black eyes with great black lashes.
The extra cuteness of these two was that they needed to share the same bag, and faced each other. They sucked each other's tail tip for comfort, and washed each other up after meals. When you cuddled them, you had to have one in each arm. Ohh....SO sweet!
Bimbo the First
was a Rock Wallaby
And he came from further North than we lived - from station country, where there were some distant ranges...his kind of country where this nimble-footed creature could jump from rock to rock as though he were on even ground. Amazing.
Bimbo was truly beautiful. He was already fully furred and his coat was quite bushy...but silky and soft. He was a wondrous red-brown, with a cream chest and bright, cheeky eyes. His build was short and stocky and strong, his chest broad and his shoulders and forearms became quite muscly. Look at the photo i found at last. It's not the greatest, as it's part of a larger photo, but you can see the wondrous colour of his coat, if not the incredible length and thickness.
He loved to pretend he was BIG and ferocious - holding tight to your arm and huffing loudly. But when you scratched his chest, and tickled him under his chin, he'd go all soft and cream-puffy, and nuzzle in under your arm, instead. That was one gorgeous fellow.
**Bimbo the Second was a knitted clown I made many years later. His claim to fame is in another hub - Soft Toy Shuffle
...the 'roo bedroom
The first room you came into in the old farmhouse was originally known as a Vestibule...just an Entrance room. No real purpose, except maybe as a place to hang coats and hats, and store boots. And it led, through six doors, to other parts of the house. In our time as the residents, there came a time when there was a roo hanging in a bag from every door.
I should explain. A baby kangaroo is happiest 'hanging' in something - giving it the closest approximation to being in its' mothers' pouch. So, although I started out with a large bag for Snoopy, I soon came up with the idea of cutting off the arms of old jumpers, stitching up the armholes, sewing the back lower band over a straight wooden coathanger - and voila! - a 'roo bed that could hang on a door - with a wide opening for the babies to somersault into!
Yes, they really do go into a pouch headfirst, and then, wriggle their whole clumsy body and those great long legs and tail through a somersaulting action, ending up in just seconds, with little faces popping out, as if to say, "Look at me! I made it!"
The cutest part of this vestibule/bedroom was when either my husband or I would come out first thing in the morning, and all these little kangaroo heads would pop out of their bags to see who it was, and then all start their joyous 'clicking' to greet us and the beginning of another day. What characters! What a great start to the day!
Snoopy - ...an 'Old Man Roo'
So here is my baby...all grown up into a Big Red Boomer.
Hard to believe this was the little guy in the first picture. And without a person standing beside him, it's hard to believe that, fully-grown, he stands just over 6ft. (or 2m.)
Hard to believe the gentle giant he remained. So much power if he wanted to use it...but he never did.
Snoopy and my other 'babies' had such a good life. Our boss, our friend, generously created a three acre high-fenced paddock for them in a well-treed and pastured area so they were free, but contained and safe. Because of being hand-raised they could never be in the wild again, so this was the perfect compromise.
They were well fed on hay and grain and any grasses or other greens we could supply. But best of all, they were happy enough to breed - and that is always the best indication that all is well in their world.
And for proof...guess who was the 'Daddy' of Biddy's joey, pictured above? My baby - Snoopy!
What a super-special honor it has been - to know and to love such creatures.
Amazon has some great literature - ...on a great Aussie icon!
Kangaroos I didn't raise! - ...ohhh! This is magic...this is it!
Only one thing I have seen happen differently - and that was the doe licking a path through her fur, leading to the pouch - to make it easier for the newborn. Maybe this only happens with more experienced mothers?
But the joeys really do rush about like that, and fall over, and do somersaults. I am laughing and crying as the memories roll.
Don't you wish you,
Could raise a Kangaroo?
It's one of the loveliest things,
A human could ever do!