Recently I was walking our dogs along a forest access track when we were startled by racing wildlife.
Old Toby dog mooched a few metres ahead, intently sniffing tussocks in search of a place to leave some wee-mail. Young Dixie was engaged in walk training close to my heels. She was great, walked along happily then sat to receive her ‘Good Dog!’ reward pats.
Suddenly a wild creature sprang from the brush on our right side. It moved so fast! That low curved posture of a black wallaby, head down bum up, in full flight across our path. It crossed the track between Toby and us, gone in a flash of folded ear dark brown fur muscular legs.
I yelped! Dixie crouched beneath my knees as two others followed immediately behind. A slightly smaller wallaby pressed close to the side of a larger one while they bounded past. They were so close to Dix and me that one of their feet left a mark on the knee of my trousers. For an instant I exchanged glances with a wide open blue-black eye that looked as surprised as I felt. Then they were gone, hidden by the undergrowth.
Toby glanced back over his shoulder while he carried on weeing, unfased by the encounter. My heart was racing. Dixie’s dainty hackles were up, her hair on end, she trembled in fright. After trying to soothe her with cuddles, pats and words she remained too spooked to walk on.
I recalled wise Jane who had calmed her Charlie dog during a thunderstorm. Like a sculpted girl facing up to a raging bull I barked defiantly in the direction of the wallabies. I glanced at Dixie, barked again. Saw her hair settle down and trembling stop. Shook myself like Toby dog shaking off stress. Said ‘Dixie, heel!’ and she did. After a minute she stopped, shook herself and carried on. Once home in her garden with the gate closed, she turned to face the wallaby forest, barked her defiance too.
Those racing wallabies made me wonder. Mostly I see a solo wallaby, sometimes a mother with a young’un in pouch. Were the three wallabies a family?
And why were they racing so fast? Chased by a predator that I didn’t see? Moving fast to get somewhere? Or just having fun? I’ve seen groups of young kangaroos bounding around in the forest, jumping logs and chasing each other in what looks like play. Maybe wallabies do that too but more discretely.
It was a surprising encounter for us and them. Now I know wallabies sometimes hang out in groups. They can move quietly as well as very quickly with amazing precision. And their footprints smell long after they’re gone even when printed on jeans!
Margaret Hodge is a Daylesford resident.