A petting zoo, home to unusual animals on the east end of Calgary, recently brought to light the troubling background one of their animals came from — but its story has a happy ending.
Pablo, a five-year-old wallaby living at Cobbs Adventure Park on the east end of Calgary, is believed to have spent his early days involved in dog fighting.
He was rescued nearly two years ago by the group, but it’s taken time for Pablo to get comfortable in his new home.
The animal is among the 36 wallabies — a marsupial that looks like a small kangaroo — living at the park, which is also home to five kangaroos.
His life at the park began when a woman showed up during their off-season and asked if they took care of kangaroos, says Mike Sheppard, co-owner of the park.
“I said, ‘Yeah, it’s kind of an odd question, why?'” he said. “And her answer was, ‘I have one in my backyard and I don’t know what to do with it.'”
Sheppard says within about 30 minutes of the woman showing up at their door, he had picked up the wallaby from the woman’s backyard and brought him to his new home.
The wallaby was said to be living in a drughouse and a vet told them it was likely he was used as bait in a dog fighting ring.
“He had all these bumps on his neck and they were dog bites,” Shepherd said. “His fur was shaved on the back and they say that’s to teach dogs where to bite.”
The wallaby was “erratic” and unpredictable when Sheppard first met him.
“He would be very calm and then he would attack you and bite you and kick and scratch,” Sheppard said.
He says they don’t know anything about the dog fights or where they might have occurred.
“All we know is this poor guy ended up at someone’s house in Calgary.”
For a while, Pablo was scared of people. They had a volunteer who would come in and just spend hours sitting in his pen to get him used to “good” humans.
Pablo is doing much better now.
Sheppard says of all the wallabies, he is the only one that is cuddly and he’ll actually start nipping or biting if you stop cuddling him.
He also appears to have found a best friend at the park.
“They hang out together, they sleep together. It’s very very cute,” Sheppard said.
“Today, he is the sweetest little boy.”
Not the only rescue
Sheppard says they have had wallabies for the last four years.
The seemingly odd animals were chosen for their petting zoo after finding out his wife, Maureen Sheppard, wasn’t allergic to them, despite having many other allergies.
“As a joke, [she] said ‘We should look into getting kangaroos.'”
When they looked it up, they found a sanctuary in Kelowna, B.C.
“We went and talked with them and fell in love with kangaroos,” he said.
The couple also get a lot of “hand-me-down” pets — ones people can’t care for anymore — which includes exotic animals that are taken through their cause, Cobb’s Exotic Animal Rescue & Education Foundation.
People have given them everything from iguanas, to lizards, to tortoises, ferrets and more. They even get farm animals like ducks, chickens and goats.
“We do it because we love it,” he said. “Not to make profits.”
Sheppard added that their aim is to create a home for the animals, to get them healthy and use them for education.
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