THE FAMILY ZOO

THE FAMILY ZOO

EXTRACT FROM THE BOOK

Or listen to Family Zoo Chapter 1 audio

“It’s a whale of a day,” I said pointing out to the now flat and glittering sea.

“Well, that’s nice,” said Donna, “but it won’t get the wallaby fed. Would you?”

“Must I?”

“Yes.”

“In that case I’d be happy to.”

Winston was our wallaby. He was 17 months old and had been with us for 14 months. Winston was two feet tall in his normal wallaby posture, bent over, head to the ground. Nearly four feet tall when he stretched right up, he weighed about 20 pounds. Red-necked wallabies like Winston do not grow much taller although they fill out considerably across the abdomen, hind quarters and tail as all the macropods do. His fur was a warm tawny colour with a small russet cape draped across the shoulders and neck. A black tip of four inches on his tail completed his red-necked wallaby uniform.
In the morning and three other times a day, Winston was drinking 120 ml of lactose free milk. Going to the kitchen I heated water and began to make the mixture.
Winnie, not unaware of my actions and what they meant for him, huddled around my legs, moving as I moved, grabbing the backs of my legs with his sharp claws to make sure I knew he was there.
At that time Bracken, Liam and Brean, our three young boys, were eleven, nine and seven years old respectively and they too were crowded in the small open kitchen, bumping into each other and Winnie. An injured magpie named Sam walked into the house and joined the mob, hoping for cheese or other small treat. This not being forthcoming, Sam decided to investigate Winnie’s tail, and as I stirred the mixture and the boys made their own lunches for school, the magpie attacked Winnie’s tail, who jumped up and whirled about and went for Sam who screeched and defended himself. Brean dropped his peanut butter sandwich and began to wail; Bracken bent down and picked up the struggling wallaby; Liam laughed.
“Ah Winnie,” said Bracken. “What should I do with him?”
“Put him down,” I suggested. “Perhaps you could give Sam something to eat.” Finishing the mixture I put it into the bottle with the three inch long wallaby teat and Winston smelling the milk and recognizing the bottle was tsk-tsk-tsking and pawing at me. I went over to the steps on the east side of the house and sat down. Winnie rushed-hopped up and I shoved the bottle towards him and he did the rest. I stroked his soft short fur, which annoyed him, but not nearly as much as the magpie who had returned to chasing Winston’s tail. Sam the magpie thought this great fun, on his back on the hardwood floor with the wallaby’s tail between his legs, pecking and clawing at it. But Winnie was too preoccupied with his food to take any action other than to wave his tail about. The magpie held grimly onto the tail and appeared to believe that this was the best way to start the day.

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