Christie Carr first met Irwin, a red kangaroo, at an animal sanctuary near Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Carr, who suffers from depression, had volunteered there on the advice of her therapist. A week later, Irwin (who is named for Australian animal expert Steve Irwin) ran into a fence, fractured his neck and suffered severe brain damage. Carr volunteered to take him home and developed a bond with Irwin, who is now officially certified as a therapy pet under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
However, officials in Broken Arrow have some, if not many, concerns about what might happen if Irwin were to regain full mobility. Currently, his veterinarian, Dr. Lesleigh Cash Warren, does not think Irwin will grow to more than 50 pounds due to his accident, noting that
Irwin cannot be judged as any normal kangaroo…He is a unique animal due to his disabilities and will require a lifetime of care and concern for his welfare.
Healthy male great red kangaroos can weight 200 pounds when full grown and stand up to 7 feet high. They can bound 25 feet in one leap. But Irwin currently cannot stand or walk on his own; he is slowly gaining mobility and can hop three or four times in a row with assistance.
Carr cares for him full-time:
Carr, who is unable to work because of her health, changes Irwin’s diaper several times a day. She feeds him salad, raw veggies, kangaroo chow, popcorn and the occasional Cheez-Its or a handful of Cheetos.
The marsupial never leaves the house without first getting dressed. The clothes – a little boy’s shirt cut and sewed to accommodate his neck, sometimes a tie, and jeans or slacks with a hole cut for the tail- are necessary for therapeutic reasons and to protect him against germs, Carr said.
The 1-year-old animal never leaves Carr’s side for more than an hour, often accompanying her on errands and going out to eat. He rides in a car seat before being placed in a pouch when going out in public.
Carr says that “Irwin will not live if I have to give him up” and that “I can’t imagine a day living without him.” She would rather leave Broken Arrow than give up Irwin.
Photo of a red kangaroo (not Irwin) by No Dust.