“Come on Ooroo,” Candy seemed to say. “You can do it, I know you can. Watch—” and she demonstrated her version of navigation. Easy for her, these two steps at the end of our long, wooden verandah. By the fourth (or was that the fifth?) attempt, at last the tiny kangaroo learned his particular translation. His awkward bundle of legs came together for an amazingly graceful leap.
Until I first saw Ooroo, I had not known such pitiful specimens of the awe-inspiring kangaroo existed. He was sparsely furred and desperately stressed. His tiny shrunken face and huge agonised eyes clearly indicated his belief he had nothing left to live for. My heart ached with the wish to ease his fear and pain. I strongly suspected this delicate little creature would be one of my more miserable failures. So certain we’d be parting company in short order, I named him Ooroo. (‘Ooroo’ is an old-time farewell in the Australian bush)
I was wrong about the likely survival of this skeletal figure—completely wrong, thankfully. I hadn’t taken into account the life-giving love my sweet puppy, Candy could—and would—most willingly provide. Whenever I had a newly reclaimed soul to try to save, a formal introduction to this motherly pup would provide each rescue with a solid lick of approval. Candy cheerfully offered the full gamut of her services—parent, baby-sitter, nanny, big sister, care-giver and protector extraordinaire.
When Ooroo received his official welcome he blinked, clicked his tongue several times, and fell in love. Truly—I watched it happen. An unexpected lump forms in my throat as I think of these two most unlikely best mates.
I have no explanation why some animals will declare for friendship whilst others declare war. I simply remain deeply thankful for the acceptance and love that’s always been the outcome in our menagerie.
“Didn’t Ooroo love his first warm drink of goat’s milk?” Kanute knows he did. It’s not really a question, more like another picture floating to the surface from the memory album. I nod slowly as I see that same picture in my imagination.
That life-saving warm milk made life more liveable by the moment for this little fellow. With a hot water bottle wrapped in a fluffy towel tucked into a hanging jumper on the back of a chair near ‘old faithful’ (my wood stove) he was content. These were the essentials that took him through his first tentative hours. Despite needing many more heart starter feeds through that first night, next morning found him alive and clicking, his little face peering out anxiously for something safe and familiar. Candy and I waited willingly. His deep need dictated his acceptance of me as his new mother.
“Didn’t he love ‘coming out’ from his artificial pouch for his cuddles?” And how eagerly he sought Candy. Nothing compared to her cheerful and enthusiastic clean-up of his face and chest. A routine began that first day. Candy thoroughly washed Ooroo’s chin and mouth, then it was his turn. This sweet baby would hold Candy’s face with his delicate little paws, and lick off surplus droplets of milk clinging to her whiskers. They talked to each other constantly; he in clicks and her with gentle whines and soft ‘woofs’.
“They really thought they were brother and sister”
“And they really thought you were their mother, just like all your pets and rescues.”
As Ooroo grew in health, strength and courage, we would often hang his ‘bedroom’ on the back of a chair, in the sun on the verandah. Soon he was ready for his next great adventure—coming out into the world. At first this required much leaning against me, with a comforting arm to keep him safe at all times.
“That was a pretty picture” Kanute’s eyes crinkle at the corners and one side of his mouth lifts in a lop-sided grin.
“Ahh-hh, those tiny paws clutching tightly to my arm… and his worried face peeking out at the alien world.” Incredibly sweet and trusting; and Candy was always alongside to encourage him.
The navigation of the verandah steps was a major learning curve—and an introduction to the great outdoors. Candy refused to consider there was anything he couldn’t do, and so bright new vistas opened up for Ooroo. She taught him the questionable delights of visiting pigs, goats, lambs, and chooks populating various areas of our house yard. Every time I went outside Candy followed me, close on my heels like a small dust cloud. Now Ooroo joined us and followed, too.
“He was scared half to death, but not being with us was unthinkable,” I tell Kanute. As though he could forget those huge eyes, and that tiny frightened face. Together we all went to our outside loo (or toilet); the outside wash-house (alias a laundry); and the generator shed. Ooroo learned the ins-and-outs—plus the horrors—of the alien and alarming noises of these rooms.
When Ooroo showed signs of comfortable acceptance of these ventures, Candy decided the time had come for him to discover the world of the paddock. She had become adept at negotiating the ring-lock wire of the fences with a ‘nose forward, twist of the body, flip the back legs through’ action. Unfortunately, Ooroo’s body design was somewhat more complex than his canine sister. Poking his head and front legs through was the easy part but not so the essential ‘twist’.
“What a terrible tangle he’d get into.” Kanute shakes his head. “I know he wasn’t prepared to face it at all, really. Without Candy’s woofing and wheedling, he’d never have risked it.” Only his love for his trusted and well-experienced leader could tempt him to keep trying.
I watched from a distance with neither aware of my existence, finding myself entertained and deeply moved by their pantomime. Candy performed her manoeuvre and woofed from the other side of the fence. Ooroo tried various twists of his body—failed—worried—withdrew and clicked—and worried even more. Once again, Candy would patiently go through the entire routine—and again, and again. Her determination to introduce him to the joys and excitement of an adventure on the other side knew no boundaries. Hmph… the other side. Would that be the place where the grass is always greener? The place that’s always on the other side?