once in a while a critter will come into my life for the shortest of times but
will touch my heart very deeply.
was one. Little Arnica was another.
recently, on a cold winters morning, Todd left for work at around 8am only to
return home minutes later with a bundle tucked inside his warm jacket.
few kilometre's up the road he had come across a dead female Eastern Grey Kangaroo
in the middle of the road. He was rather distraught to realise that many a car
had been driven around the old girl and that nobody had spared the time to stop
and check her.
pulled up alongside the kangaroo so that he could pull her off the road. We both
believe there is no dignity for an animal to being left in the middle of the road
in a battered and bruised mess. Removing dead animals also stops scavengers such
as crows, foxes and eagles from becoming the next road statistic.
moving the roo Todd leant down to look at the pouch - and it moved. There
was life inside!
gently Todd pulled a tiny joey out of the pouch and very quickly put it inside
his jumper to warm it up. He estimated that mum had been hit much earlier that
morning or even the night before. The joey was cold, dehydrated and very distressed.
Todd returned home I saw that he had something bundled up inside his jacket and
with little words between us my wildlife instincts immediately swung into action.
I collected a warm pouch and heat source so that the little roo could be made
quickly assessed the joey for major injuries and saw that it had a very swollen
left hock joint and several lacerations to both the legs. We also saw that she
was a little girl.
the cuts were superficial and weren't bleeding so I tucked the joey inside the
pouch and put her in my jumper. It was important that she be not be disturbed
for an hour or two so that her stress levels could be reduced. Once she had rested
and was warm I could do a more thorough assessment and start her on rehydration
a week before I had been at the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Conference and
listened to Dr Sarah Brett discuss the benefits of providing "Arnica"
to injured and distressed native animals. Arnica is a homeopathic treatment used
for shock and bruising and Dr Brett sung its praises. I was fascinated by Dr Brett's
discussion and decided to call the joey Arnica.
so wished I had some of the homeopathic remedy on me right then and there so that
I could help little Arnica calm down and help reduce the likelihood of deep bruising.
I could see from the first quick assessment that the bruising was going to be
were quickly sent off to the Kimberley Vet Centre in Western Australia - where
Dr Brett works - to gather more information on the remedy and to hopefully get
the mean time I rang my local vets. I explained the situation and was told that
I could give one drop (such a tiny amount!) of pain relief to Arnica. Because
she was so young it was dangerous to give any more.
a couple of hours I attempted to assess Arnica more thoroughly. I saw that her
left foot bent in a weird way and suspected it was broken but as Arnica was still
particularly distressed and wriggled a hell of a lot I halted the assessment and
decided to start to rehydrate her instead, giving her warmed Glucodine. She was
very difficult to feed and refused to suck on the teat so I very gently pulsed
the bottle so that the fluid dribbled into the side of her mouth. I was happy
to see that she swallowed the fluid once it was in her mouth.
three lots of rehydration I started Arnica on Di-Vetelact milk replacer to fill
her empty belly. I offered her the Di-Vet as it is a very hydrating milk formula
and would assist her rehydration.
Todd returned home we assessed her again and found that yes, she had a broken
foot. We splinted the area that we thought was broken. The joint looked nasty
but we couldn't feel a break so left it unsplinted I then rang my vet Judith Carney
told me me to bring Arnica in for x-rays and I was advised to keep up with the
night was a bad one. Arnica called all night - calling out of distress, confusion
and for her real mum. I got very little sleep and lay awake most of the night
with my hand in her pouch, with my fingers enclosing her small face. She slept
better that way. Even though she didn't recognise me as her new mum she was comforted
by the warmth of my skin - she slept better while I touched her. On the times
I did drift off to sleep however and moved away from her she quickly woke me up
with another call.
day dawned and although she slept better throughout the second day feeding her
was still very difficult as she continued to refuse to suck the teat. I fed her
every three hours but only managed to get about five mils of milk into her at
a time - even though I sat there for about 45 minutes each time.
make matters worse I was also sick with the flu and felt dreadful. My head was
cloudy and my back ached. I felt like I was failing her as my concentration wasn't
great. I thought I could that see she was fading in front of my eyes. I realised
then it wasn't that she was sleeping better but it was because she was beginning
came home and we changed her to a different milk formula, Biolac, which she seemed
to like better. Todd took over feeding duties so that I could rest after such
a bad night and because I was so ill.
realised that she was dehydrated again so offered more Glucodine which she took
well, but it still wasn't enough. Later in the evening I brought out the big guns
- the Hartmans' solutions so that I could give fluids by subcutaneous injection
(fluids under the skin).
my horror, when I inserted the needle into the plug of the Hartmans the plug broke
and the fluid started to pour out onto the floor! Now unsterile, the fluids could
not be used.
we continued with more Glucodine and were thrilled to see that it was working.
She became brighter and did the biggest wee!
second night was a good one as she slept the entire night. Finally, she was more
third day came about too soon.
Off the the vet we went where Arnica was anaesthetised (only lightly as she was
young and dehydrated and deeper anaesthesia may have killed her). She was then
given subcutaneous injection to rehydrate her properly.
assessed Arnica and found that the damage was actually in the joint, not in the
foot where we had thought. We'd splinted the wrong area! The damage to the foot,
and why it looked bent, was tendon damage. My heart sank as I realised that joint
breaks were difficult to repair.
and I gowned up for x-rays. As
I held Arnica the x-rays were taken of both leg joints. Judith was quite concerned
with the break - I could tell by the look on her face - but said that there was
a chance it could be mended. It did look pretty nasty though, I have to admit.
But I kept my hopes high as I knew that more attempts were given to mend native
animals these days than in the past where many conditions were seen as irreparable
and more animals were euthanased without attempted treatment. Wildlife veterinary
care has come along way in recent years.
leg was then re-splinted and Judith showed me how to place a splint over the foot,
joint and leg. Judith supplied me with plastic splints that soften in hot water
and can be moulded over a limb (wonderful stuff!), more bandages and a new bag
of Hartman's solution! She is an awesome vet who is really keen to help me with
my wildlife work.
promised that she would contact the vet centre at Western Plains Zoo for more
advice and would contact me as soon as she knew more. I left the vet clinic in
a mix of hope and despair.
4pm I received the call.....
news was not good. Judith confirmed her fears that the break was irreparable for
an animal that was meant for release back into the wild. Benn Bryant, of Western
Plains Zoo, had confirmed this.
was told that if we attempted to mend the bone it would forever be an impediment
to her. The joint would be swollen, seized and probably arthritic for the rest
of her life. This kind of condition can be controlled if the animal is a pet,
but not in an animal that would be returned to the bush. It would slow Arnica
down and would make living in the wild a constant struggle and it would probably
make her vulnerable to predator attack.
the next hour I struggled to get through work til 5pm when I was to return to
the clinic. I was keenly aware of little Arnica resting at my feet in her warm
and secure pouch.
collected Todd from work and we made the short trip to the clinic. Judith was
waiting for me and with tears streaming down my face Arnica was put to sleep.
drove home in silence and my tears started again when I saw Arnica's mum lying
off in the bush.
was time for Arnica to go back to bush. All the critters that come through our
door are returned to the bush - one way or the other.
have a spot on our property, in the middle of a hollowed tree, where we place
the critters that haven't made it.But
with considerable distress I realised that I hadn't had a photo with Arnica, so
Todd took one for me as I battled the tears. Arnica was with us for such a short
time but touched me so deeply. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I do - helping
orphaned, injured and sick native animals.
It's a special place for me and this was
Arnica's last resting place.