Jeff Phillips: The Solicitation of a Kangaroo Report

I recently wrote about a young cop who drowned a cat to appease the seasoned officers at his precinct, however it should be acknowledged that humans are not the only animal that would execute your beloved pet by drowning.

About 10 years ago, I was working a photo concessions job at the John Hancock Observatory. While I was at the display counter one afternoon, spotting guests, preparing their picture so I could be a high energy carnival barker, and call them over to check it out, one tall man in particular approached, sucking away at the CamelBak strapped over his North Face fleece.

“This me?” he indicated the photo I had pulled up on the screen. His Australian accent was immediately noticeable.

“I believe so.” As he viewed it, I tried to make small talk. “Am I correct in guessing you’re from Australia?”

“You got it, mate.”

Being naïve about his native land, but caffeinated enough to chat, I pressed on with “must be kinda cool to see kangaroos out and about?”

His eyebrows lifted as a he shook his head. “No, no, no, no. Try to stay clear of them as long as I can help it!”

“Oh they’re feisty, are they? Ya know, I heard a story from this old bartender who once worked as a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas back in the day. He said there was this kangaroo at the casino that people used to challenge to a boxing match every now and-“

“That’s probably a well-trained and playful roo. But people have to keep a close eye on their dogs when they let them out. Dogs like to bark at kangaroos and kangaroos are quick to take offense to it. A lot of people have pools. Those kangaroos will grab those dogs, drag them into a pool, and hold their heads under until the dog is done breathing. Yeah. There’s a big problem with kangaroos drowning dogs.”

He walked away from the monitor, his last words, kangaroos drowning dogs, resonated like the thud of a microphone dropped to the floor. Legions of mangy marsupials crept into my mind, snatching dogs of all sizes, dunking them below the surface of bean shaped backyard pools, paws flailing, then going limp, all the while the kangaroos’ faces betray no emotion. The animal became a cartoon poster boy for a deranged epidemic in my dreams. There was a smugness in the way the Australian man told his story, as if it was his intention to punish an ignorant American, who was knowledgeable in only one stereotype of his homeland, by turning whatever image I had of said stereotype on its head.

Videos surface and go viral of a kangaroo knocking, scratching on a glass door with black claws that could slice open a man’s gut. A tour through YouTube reveals footage of a ‘roo’ luring a dog to a pond, then once the dog plunges in after it, the dog is pounced upon and held under. In another video, a man rescues his dog, caught in a kangaroo’s headlock, by punching it hard in the face. In yet another video, a kangaroo chases a few kids around the neighborhood. The children are laughing, but I sat there terrified as the kangaroo, bounding fast like the hybrid of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Jack rabbit, inched closer, almost grazing the child’s back with its claws.

An intelligent animal seething with vengeance may be capable of organizing the uprising that shatters complacency, ending several thousands of years of dominance by a species, that, though we wouldn’t like to admit it, dealt a destruction that went beyond the murder of innocent pets. What do the elephants say about us after rumors of poaching circulate in the wild? What do the manatees say about our reckless boats to the fish?

I want to punch a kangaroo as much as the next guy for picking on dogs, but as I wrote about in my previous story, a young cop drowned a cat as part of an off-the-cuff hazing ritual. Could there be some beef between kangaroos and dogs that goes back a long way and has perpetuated itself in a mean coming-of-age gesture? It might not be a coincidence that a group of kangaroos is called a mob. Gangs are known for their cruel acts of initiation. Before we set out to formulate an effective intervention to persuade young joeys from taking up such a violent life, perhaps we can listen to whatever critter wants to step in and give us some talking points that might deter our youth from finding that first sickening satisfaction in burning ants with a magnifying glass.

I was unable to find any meaningful statistics on how many dogs are drowned by kangaroos annually, however a ten year report from 2000-2010, from Australia’s National Coroners Information System, attribute 18 human deaths caused by kangaroos. On a yearly basis, the kangaroo threat is an anomaly. I’m ashamed by how quickly I cast aspersions on all kangaroos after hearing one random traveler’s tale, and pulling up a few videos online. Sadly, this is in no way different than how Islamophobes view a few images of Isis carnage, then think they’ve seen into the hearts of all Muslims. News reports may flash stories of robberies and murders, sometimes with the image of a black man as the suspect and those inundated with the image avoid areas where they may be the only white person. I don’t mean to find excuses for prejudice, and I would beg anyone who finds they are petrified of a broad classification of people to probe what may have triggered such fears, to investigate if casting such a wide net of distaste is warranted. To approach it as a numbers game may help reveal that knee jerk reactions in the interest of self-preservation are often misplaced, because sensationalism stirs such powerful myths to attach to easy physical identifiers; often it’s by skin color and style of dress, among myriad others. Unfortunately the outrageous sinks in deep. Without a firm foundation of preexisting fondness, the reversal of intolerance can be like pulling a frantic body from the weight of quicksand. It should be noted that to poke holes in one’s own worldview doesn’t eat away the brain. It in fact prevents the buildup of a stubborn plaque, fatty nodes that could otherwise burst and cloud all thought with its festering of disease. A sponge must be porous if it is to absorb anything.

It’s hard for me to stay mad at an animal. I’m trying to restore my opinion of the kangaroo as a good guy, just misunderstood. But it’s hard to shake images of them lurking at windows, gripping a dog’s neck. Though I can rationalize not all kangaroos are coming for our pets, I’d just as soon they stay away from the perimeter of my home, even though I should smile, wave, and say hello as I would to a bunny hopping across a moonlit lawn.

kangaroo report


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