Friday, July 27, 2012

George - Merrilyn Part 25

A warning.  You'll need tissues for this one.

George came into our lives on a sunny day.  He was a sad soul in the beginning,  probably due to his first few weeks in human care.  What happened to George's mother is not clear, but he had been picked up by a family who knew nothing about wildlife care.  I suspect he had been in care for quite some time and had probably just out worn his welcome.

He came to us lying flat in a cardboard box.   I was told by the lady who dropped him off that she thought that was far more comfortable than being bent up in a pouch.  I am gobsmacked that so many people think they know better than nature.  Anyone who has seen a joey in a pouch knows this is the way they were designed to be.  They don't lie flat on the ground until they leave their mother's pouch. I suspect George had been made to do this for quite some time and that had caused him to become quite subdued.

Clearly George was distressed and hungry.  He was 3kg in weight. He was also gorgeous!

He reminded me of Buster when he first arrived here and I hoped he'd settle in as well.  (Merrilyn Part 4 - Buster Arrives).  He did settle in and loved his pouch, took to the bottle well and soon his personality and love of life shone through.

He and Blossom became great pals.  (Merrilyn Part 23 - Blossom).
We had a number of joeys in care at the time, as you can see from the stands.  That's Blossom on the left and the smaller George on the right.  In this photo, both had heard something and were standing to attention checking it out.  Ready to flee if it was something dangerous.  Though they are standing in slightly different poses, I think you can see the differences between the female and the male, particularly the more powerful back legs.

Of course, as you've heard in Parts 23 and 24, where Blossom was found, Merrilyn was too, and so a new "three musketeers" developed.
Here's George having a scratch, with Blossom nearby and Merrilyn's familiar tail there too.
George on the left, Blossom in the middle. Merrilyn leading them around was a familiar sight for a couple of weeks and bought a big smile to my face as the now free and independent Merrilyn was teaching these new young joeys the ways of the wild.

I was pleased with George's growth, he was nearing 4kg, but one morning, when he hopped out to go to the toilet, he started to hiss.  I knew this meant pain.  He came back to me and seemed fine but I watched and waited and when he next went to empty his bladder his distress was clear.

I had heard of male kangaroos getting crystals in the bladder, but had never experienced it before.  There had been no warning signs such as the strong smell of urine and I'd seen no colour.  I rang a couple of carers and they suggested the vet was the best option.  Taking a joey to the vet is a traumatic experience for the joey, so isn't taken lightly.  I didn't feel I had a choice though as a total blockage could mean a burst bladder and death.

By this time I had a favoured vet for kangaroos.  I'm not going to name him, but he is an excellent vet.  Vets in Australia very often give of their time freely to help with wildlife rescues, but they have no formal training in wildlife care so they learn with you about what may or may not work.  The vet took a look and questioned me about the symptoms and decided that yes, crystals were probably the issue.  He tried to pop a tube through using just local anaesthetic, but it seemed things were almost totally blocked.  The only option to clear the problem was surgery.

Putting a joey through an operation is also not lightly done and I wondered if I should subject George to it.  I couldn't leave him in pain and at risk of death, so my only other alternative was to have him humanely euthanased.  The vet gave me some time alone to think.  As I stroked George's soft grey fur I knew I simply had to give him the chance to live.  Had it been a badly broken back leg I would have euthansed him without hesitation.  A male kangaroo with any kind of weakness is liable to suffer a horrible death, but George was young, this was internal, the vet assured me it was a simply operation and that he should recover quickly.

The vet was happy for me to be in the room as he operated and he explained what he was doing.  I really couldn't see George as he was covered in the light green sheets they use for operations, with only the section the vet was working on exposed.  Opening things up was easy but still the vet didn't seem able to clear the blockage.  Things were taking time and I was beginning to worry, especially when the vet stopped explaining what was happening.  He asked the nurse to bring him warm blankets as George was losing heat, but it was all too late.

He looked up at me with sad eyes and told me George was dead.

Whether it was the bladder blockage, or the time it was taking and George losing his body heat, I don't know what the cause was and I don't think the vet did either.  What had caused the blockage?  What had the original carers fed him?  Had it been quite weak and the proper animal milk been too rich?  It was pointless speculating.

Something in me had to touch George and so I put my hands under the green sheets to stroke his body and say goodbye.  I accidentally put my hands where some of his bodily fluid had leaked out and reluctantly withdrew them as I knew I should wash them straight away.  The vet gently wrapped him in a blanket and offered to look after the body.  I thanked him but said I'd take him home.

I cried the whole way.  Holding and stroking the blanketed body.  Merrilyn and Blossom were not far away and came over to greet us.  They must have missed  George, but the blanket seemed so foreign and they didn't know what to make of it.  Merrilyn reared back and hopped away.  We buried George under a tree that he had taken to lying under for the past week and I cannot pass the spot without whispering hello.

Rest in peace George.  Your life was short, but you are not forgotten.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Relationship Grows - Merrilyn Part 24

I promised more of Merrilyn and Blossom and here you are.

The two girls, possibly related as both came from the same area, seemed drawn to each other from the beginning.
Merrilyn had been raised with Buster and Bob, but had always been an independent miss and the boys were far more often seen together and Merrilyn out on her own.  She was also feisty with any kangaroo who invaded her space, but not so with Blossom.
In fact Merrilyn took to being Blossom's guardian.  Though she was no longer relying on a bottle from me and was free to move away, we saw her even more and when Blossom was outside you could guarantee Merrilyn would be there too.
The weeks went by and nothing changed and this is one of my favourite photos and one of Merrilyn's favourite places to be.  It was as if she felt Blossom was her own joey, though she was not yet old enough to be a Mom herself.

Even when Blossom was old enough to be venturing out on her own, Merrilyn was always there in the back ground.  Mind you she didn't keep her out of trouble.  One day Blossom somehow managed to get her back toe caught in a crack in the concrete.  She simply wrenched it out - leaving the nail behind and you may wish to skip the next shot, which shows you the damage.
You can see the nail on the other foot so you know what she has pulled off.  Kangaroos rarely make any sounds, but I was alerted to the problem by a lot of hissing.  Poor Blossom.  She was hopping and hissing.  She was learning to be out of the pouch for longer periods so her pouch was not nearby.  I grabbed it and held it open and in she hopped and with the weight off it the hissing stopped.  I talked with the vet on the phone and we agreed that it should be kept clean and dry and nature would sort it out, and it did.  Though I was often at the vet, it is an incredibly traumatic thing for a joey to be taken to a vet and can cause more problems than it fixes, so anything that could be fixed here was fixed here.

The toe healed and Blossom grew more gorgeous as each day went by.  Here she is at 4kg and in the middle of winter - hence the fluffiness of her coat.

It wasn't just Merrilyn who was becoming very attached to Blossom.  I was too.  I was now the Macropod Coordinator for my area so spent quite a lot of time stabilising joeys and handing them on to other carers, or, sadly, having them euthanased when they clearly were not going to make it.  I had always said Merrilyn was special and no other joey would touch me as she had, but somehow Blossom was wriggling through my practical defences...

Finally a note for those who have been searching for my Macropod (Kangaroo and Wallaby) Care Manual.  Apologies as it did disappear for a while, but here the link to it if you need to down load it.  Macropology.  Until next time.