a little east of reality

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

how to break your own heart

Tonight I was heading out for the evening when I heard a weird sound from our driveway. I couldn't recognise it at all, this clumsy banging sound, and it was with total surprise that I rounded the corner to find a small kangaroo lopsidedly hopping down the drive towards me. The reason for its awkwardness was immediately obvious - it's right leg had snapped at the ankle and it was hopping on the stump while the foot flopped along with it, still attached but completely useless.

It's interesting how easy it is to panic quietly. I didn't want to frighten it, so I had to be calm and keep my voice tone gentle, but my mind was racing trying to figure out who to call and how best to keep the kangaroo confined until help arrived. I was so worried that if I went inside it would manage in spite of its injuries to hop out into the road and get hit by a car before I could get back to it. After all, it had managed somehow to get from the national park to our driveway.

I got the number for the RSPCA and then was so happy to see my downstairs neighbour coming out of her door. She'd heard the weird banging too and come to check it out. From there she took over the phone calls while I stayed outside with the kangaroo. Eventually she got hold of the local ranger, who promised to come as quickly as he could. The whole time we waited the kangaroo just stood nervously like it wasn't sure what to do next. It didn't look frightened of us, but each car that drove by made it tense up and occasionally it would kind of shake its head from side to side as if it was trying to clear its head.

Watching it, I realised just how useless its short arms are in this kind of situation - too small too take any real weight, so short that the kangaroo would topple over if it tried to used them to walk anyway. That's why it was no surprise when the ranger arrived and immediately concluded that it would have to be put down. Not only was the break really incapacitating, but he also said that it was clearly not a fresh injury, which meant that it was likely already infected, and kangaroos with infected wounds died slowly and painfully. Kinder to end it now.

You know, a kangaroo isn't a person. It can't sit itself in a wheelchair and spend the rest of its life pursuing different goals than the ones it had when it was able-bodied. It would have done nothing much more than die in that condition, and painfully at that. It had looked at me with such a quiet confusion; hurting but not knowing why or what to do about it. So I knew the ranger was making the right decision. But it was just awful to look at that sweet soft animal and realise that someone was right then getting a gun to end its life. I didn't watch when he did it, but the noise was enough. He was good. He killed it with one clean shot to the head and immediately checked to make sure it was dead so it wouldn't suffer.

It was only at that moment that my neighbour and I realised that the time was just about when our other neighbour was due home. The last thing we wanted was for her six-year-old son to come home to that. So the ranger dragged the body to his truck and I quickly got the hose and washed the blood off the driveway. Just in time, too. They pulled up just as I finished. The fifteen minutes I stood in the driveway with this kangaroo had felt much longer and clearing away all evidence of its death so quickly seemed weird, like we were covering up a crime. It really was a sad experience. God help me if I ever hit one of these beautiful creatures with my car and actually have to put it out of its misery myself - I think I'd drown in my own tears.