Driving down towards the narrow bridge over Pearce's Creek late Thursday afternoon with Tess, we spotted a small shambling silhouette staggering across the road. Shocked, we realised it was a very young joey. Swerving to give it plenty of room, the Forester has never been brought so sharply from 80kph to a halt downhill on grass. Tess pelted back up the hill, and gathered it gently in her school jumper.
Poor thing, it's frozen, I said as I felt its ears, only lightly covered in fur. Tuck it under your shirt, against your skin. Where's its Mum? Tess swaddled it under her shirt and held it close.
A short search revealed the body of its mother, a swamp wallaby, both back legs shattered, her body stone cold. Must have been there all day, slowly getting colder, and now come out of the pouch in search of warmth.
What can we do? Asked Tess, knowing full well it needs special care that we can't provide.
I might know someone. Long time ago, but they might still have the resources. Not far from here. Come back to the car, and keep it warm.
We took the joey to the farm where ten years ago, I remembered, people did macropod rescue. And they were still there.
Wading our way through their various dogs (ranging from Chihuahua cross to the hugest great Dane I've ever seen) we met Jan and Peter. Jan placed the joey in a soft bag and ambled over to the garage where, to my intense surprise, they had two fully kitted out hospital grade humidicribs. Let's just get this one started up, Jan said softly, twiddling various techno dials. Just keep him warm against you, darling, there's a dear, she said to Tess, while I make up a bottle for him and wait for the crib to warm up. He's very cold, he's in danger. In the cupboard she pulled out a tin of Di-Vetelact milk powder especially for young macropods (Nope, I thought, I have lots of stuff in my cupboards, but I don't have that). Soon after, while Tess cradled the joey, Jan fed him tiny amounts of milk. He didn't eat much. I know, it's strange, Jan said to him. Not your Mum, not your home, not your milk. But it's the best we can offer you. Tonight will be the most difficult: if you make it through the night you might be right.
By then it was well dark outside. We left him with Jan who was going to stay up during the night to ensure he regained his body temperature and learned to feed.
The next day I received a text: "Our little boy has picked up well, he started sucking at 10 last night. Jan"
:-) he made it through the night :-) he made it through the night :-) he made it through the night :-)