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.


  1. I suppose it is pointless speculating on why he died, but it would be interesting to know if it was some food that he used to be fed, or the sudden richness of appropriate food.

    While it won't make you any money, I reckon there are enough 'roo tales to make a book. As long as it had the photos, I'd certainly buy it.

  2. Tissues is right!

    Poor George. What a heartbreaking story and ordeal you must have gone through. The thing we have to remember is yes he had a short life, but from what I can tell the ending of his short life was more than he could have wanted; love, compassion, and friends, Kangaroo and human alike.

    You did good by George and I have no doubt he will never stopped being loved!

  3. Oh my..I'm trying to type with tears in my eyes. It's amazing how much we can love animals and see their personalities come through. You do so much wonderful work in helping these beautiful creatures survive. I wish those who don't have a clue would understand that! I agree with Andrew that a book would be wonderful. I will remember George now too..and all the others you've written about. Thanks so much for these fun posts..even the sad ones.

  4. How heartbreaking to lose him so young. Thank goodness he was able to spend some of his time with you

  5. What a story! These pictures are maybe the cutest you've shown yet. The telling so powerful. Poor little George - but he at least had some time of kangaroo comfort and joy. You gave him that at least. I am so in awe of what you do with these magnificent wild creatures.

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