I convinced Sarah to put the gloves on and to hold the echidna still, while I looked in the first aid kit to see what was inside. I grabbed tweezers, scissors, and betadine disinfectant. I squirted some betadine onto the wound, causing him to wriggle a little, but Sarah managed to keep it down. Very carefully, I pulled away the damaged skin, and I could see there was tearing of the skin.
“This poor fellow has been attacked by something that has tried to eat it,” I said, still shocked that this could happen. “Ok, I need to clean up this wound, and patch it up as best as I can. Sarah do you have any Panadol or Ibuprofen?” I asked.
“Yes, I do. I always keep a supply just in case,” Sarah replied as she checked her handbag, and pulled out a packet.
“Ok, I am not sure how much and if it will help. Let’s just try one tablet for now. Crush it up and mix it with some of that sugar which you put in that bag, and feed it to the echidna. See if that helps to kill the pain,” I said to Sarah. Once this was done, I began to carefully remove the dead and damaged skin, and clean up the wound as gently as possible. Once I had completed it, I put a gauze over the wound and taped it down as best as I could. Then turning it back onto its feet, I lay it down in the box, hoping that the medication was not too much, and that the poor little fellow would survive.
Placing the box on the floor at the front passenger side, we all climbed back into the car and set off once again, about an hour after we had originally started to leave the area. Stopping only once to let Roey go to the toilet, and for us to stretch our legs, we arrived at Halls Creek just after 2pm. We found a little park where Roey could go to the toilet, before we found a little café. We asking the owner if we could bring our little pup inside and then sat down for some late lunch. I insisted that Sarah and Oscar order anything they wanted, and that I would cover the costs.
Once we had eaten and bought some extra food, we returned to the vehicle. We stopped at the service station to refuel, before we continued west towards Fitzroy Crossing, which is a three-hour journey on sealed roads, which I was very pleased about. When we stopped about half way to let Roey go to the toilet and to stretch our legs, we also ate some of the extra snacks that we had bought, which included some cold beef for Roey. I also checked on the echidna who was moving a little bit which was a good sign that the medicine was wearing off, and that it had a chance of surviving, hopefully until we reach the veterinary hospital in Broome.
We continued our journey westward, expecting to arrive at our destination just before dark. I stopped to check on the echidna every hour, and let Roey out for a brief toilet break. I was pleased to see that the echidna was now fully awake, and it was burying itself under my now torn shirts, which I didn’t mind as I now knew that the echidna now had a good chance of living to a good old age. When we finally arrived in Fitzroy Crossing, we stopped at the service station so I could refuel, then we called into the hotel to have a meal, as we had not eaten anything since leaving Halls Creek. I ordered an extra steak to take away for Roey, which I cut up into small pieces, to make it easier for her to eat.
While we ate, I mentioned that I would like to continue driving till we got to Broome, which was another 4 hours away. Sarah said she was fine with that. As I paid for the meals, I spotted the little sachets of peanut paste and honey. I asked for four of each, so I could feed an injured echidna, though the receptionist didn’t believe me. As Sarah and Oscar settled in the back, I opened a honey sachet, and left it in the box. I soon heard scratching noises, and taking a quick look before leaving town, I smiled when I saw the echidna licking out honey with his long tongue.
When I drove into the town of Broome at about 11.30, I called the after-hours number, which I had looked up when we were in Fitzroy Crossing. “Hello. My name is Anton. I am a zoologist. I found an injured echidna east of Halls Creek early this morning. I have treated it as best as I can, but it needs some more specialist treatment,” I said when the call was answered.
“Well as a zoologist you are fully qualified to look after it, but we will be happy to assist. Do you know where our practice is located at 158 Jewell Street? I can be there in fifteen minutes,” the vet said to me.
“Yes, Ma’am, I will find it. Thanks for doing this so late, but we have only just arrived in town,” I commented. “No problem. See you soon. Bye,” the vet said. I did a street search to find the vet practice, and we headed in that direction.
When we pulled into the carpark, the building looked dark. Then suddenly lights came on from the inside, and a lady walked to the front door and opened it. I picked up the box and walked to the door. Dr Anton, I am Dr Francis Lewis, on-call vet,” the lady said.
“Nice to meet you. I’m not a doctor, just a zoologist, marine biologist, and also I have an environmental science masters,” I replied, as I followed her inside, and down a hall to a treatment room. I pulled my gloves out of my pocket and put them on. I carefully retrieved the echidna from my shredded shirts, and turned her over, so she was resting on her back in my gloved hands.
Dr Lewis took a look at the gauze, then carefully removed it. “Well, you did a good job - iodine, cleaned the wound, removed dead tissue. There is not much more I can do but give it some antibiotics to help the healing process. If I am not mistaken, this poor thing has been attacked and eaten alive,” Dr Lewis said.
“That is the same conclusion that I came up with when I treated it,” I responded.“It’s a she, and she is pregnant. Now tell me what you did you do, when you came across her,” Dr Lewis asked.
“Well, it was my pup, Roey, who stumbled across her while going for a toilet break. She came rushing back with the echidna hot on her tail, so I scooped up the pup and retreated to the vehicle. The problem was, I had two people who were on the back tray just waking up. She was quite aggressive as we tried to get everyone inside. Then I had to recover my swag, which took a few laps around the vehicle to tire out and confuse her enough for me to roughly roll it up, throw it in and get back inside the vehicle.
As I was driving away, it occurred to me that there must be a reason for her aggressiveness, so I stopped, grabbed my gloves, and confronted her. When she stopped at my feet, I picked her up and turned her over and saw the injury. I gave her a mixture of sugar and a crushed paracetamol tablet, which put her to sleep, and she settled down, to allow me to treat the wound with iodine, tweezers, scissors, and the gauze. When we finished, I put her the right way up in this box with two of my shirts, and began the long drive here.
She began to move a little when we reached Halls Creek, and by the time we reached Fitzroy Crossing she was fully awake and burying under my shirts. I gave her some honey to eat before we left there,” I explained.
“Well, that is good thinking to not leave her there, as she and her babies would not have survived. Let’s just see if we can clean the wound up a bit more and give her some antibiotics, and re-cover the wound,” Dr Lewis announced.
Half an hour later all the treatment was completed. The echidna was given a liquid and solid meal supplement which she happily accepted and devoured. “Well, she is surprisingly a lot more active than I would expect from the injuries that she has. I believe that she will not survive out in the wild, so that leaves us with two options. We find a wildlife park or carers to look after her, and her young, or you take on that role. I will give you the option,” Dr Lewis said to me.
“Well, I am not sure if I can look after her. As you know I am a marine biologist, which means I spend a lot of time on boats, but I am willing to give it a try. I have a property just out of Jurien Bay, where she will be able to live in reasonable peace. What would be the total cost for what you have done tonight?” I replied.
“$280 for treatment and $109 for medication,” Dr Lewis said to me, and much to her surprise, I handed over $500 cash to her.“The extra can be a donation,” I said with a smile.
“Well, I wasn’t expecting this, but thank you. It will go towards future wildlife treatments,” Dr Lewis responded happily. I was given an animal carrier, and with my shirts added, the echidna, which I named Emma, happily settled into her new home. I was also given some of the special food formula, plus enough medication to last for two weeks.
Once I came out of the Veterinary Surgery Sarah was a little surprised that I was carrying an animal cage. “The vet said as a zoologist, I was well qualified to look after the little lady and her soon to be family,” I explained as I placed the cage on the front passenger side floor.
“Well, I have arranged accommodation for us at a nearby caravan park,” Sarah explained.“That’s good. I really need some sleep,” I replied. A few minutes later we arrived at the reception of the park and checked in.
What surprised me was that she had booked a cabin, which comprised one bedroom with a sofa bed in the lounge, which was fine, as I was happy to camp in my swag with Roey on the front porch. Emma remained in the cage in the lounge area where it was warmer, as it was quite chilly outside. I woke up just before 8am, when there was a lot of activity happening around the caravan park, which was only about a ¼ full with tourists.
Once Roey had gone to the toilet, I put her bowl on the patio, filled it with some water and added some biscuits before I went into the lounge of the cabin, where Sarah and Oscar were already awake. “Good morning. Did you sleep well?” Sarah asked me.
“Yes thanks. How is Emma going?” I replied.“She seems very restless,” Oscar replied from where he was at the table looking at the cage. I went to the vehicle, and retrieved the food that I was given plus the first aid kit and gloves.
Emma happily ate all of the food I gave her. “She appears to mending nicely. I will give her a check-up, then we can set off and find some breakfast,” I announced.
I put the gloves on before opening the cage. Emma walked out and stopped in front of me, which surprised all of us. Carefully picking her up, I rolled her over and carefully removed the gauze. I looked closely at the injury which did show signs of healing.
I put a layer of iodine on the wound, gave her an antibiotic injection, and put a fresh gauze dressing on her. Then rolling her back onto her feet I placed her on the floor. She began to explore the cabin. When I heard Roey growl, I gave a soft whistle, and she came to me. I picked her up and patted her gently. “Good girl, Roey. Now leave Emma alone. She is just looking around,” I said to the puppy, before putting her down. She walked over to near the door and lay down, watching carefully as Emma wandered around.
I went outside and packed up the swag and checked the two fridges. I gathered the fruit, and anything else that looked past use-by-date, carried it inside and placed it in the bin, while Sarah was having a shower. I sat down as I watched Roey cautiously approach Emma, give a short yap then jump back. She repeated this a couple more times, before returning to near the door and lying down.
“What was all the yapping about?” Sarah asked as she exited the bathroom, dressed and holding a damp towel. I chuckled.“Just Roey trying to tell Emma that she is the boss,” I replied with a smile, as Oscar entered the bathroom to have a shower. Once we had all showered, packed everything up, and loaded up the vehicle, we checked out of the caravan park and set off in search of some breakfast, which ended up being a café at a roadhouse.
I sent a text message to Jasper, while we were eating, to let him know where we were. “Hi, mate. We are in Broome. I have Sarah and Oscar with me, as the boss there scared them. We are heading south shortly with Karratha our next planned stop, then Carnarvon and home. See you in a few days’ time”. After the text, I called a motel in Karratha to arrange accommodation for the night, and once we had eaten, we all climbed into the vehicle, and set off south again, with around 8 hours of driving ahead of us.
Stopping every two hours for a toilet break and leg stretch, we arrived in Karratha, and went straight to the motel where I had booked a two-bedroom unit for Sarah and Oscar, and a room for me and the animals. Once we had settled into our rooms, and I had fed the two animals and redressed Emma’s wound, we headed over to the restaurant for some dinner, having only had a short meal at Pardoo Roadhouse for lunch.
Once dinner was over, we returned to our rooms to retire for the night, agreeing to meet at the restaurant for breakfast at 8am. Once I had checked on Emma, and given her a little bit more food, I prepared for bed. Roey demanded that she be on the bed too, so I picked her up and put her on the bed, and once I had settled in bed, she cuddled up to me and went to sleep, which made me smile, as I slowly drifted off to sleep.
As soon as I woke up and showered, I fed the two animals and re-dressed Emma’s wound, which was looking much better, before packing up and loading my clothes into the vehicle. Then I headed to the restaurant for breakfast. My travel mates were all smiles when I arrived. “Any thought into what you want to do when we arrive in Jurien Bay?” I asked Sarah when I arrived for breakfast.“Your little town sounds nice. I may see if I can find some work and settle down for a while,” Sarah replied.
“Well, I will assist you as best as I can. I know the principals of the local district high school, and the primary school in the town just north, and you can stay on board the catamaran until you find suitable work and accommodation,” I replied to Sarah. Once we had eaten, the rest of the luggage had been loaded, and the animals put in the vehicle, we set off once again. We stopped for an early lunch at Nanutarra Roadhouse.
When we arrived at Carnarvon soon after 3.30pm we booked into the motel, and I texted Jasper. “Hi, mate. Just arrived in Carnarvon. So, now only a day away from home. Hope all is well there. See you when we get there at around 4pm tomorrow.”
Moments later I received a reply. “Hey, boss. Looking forward to seeing you home. I am on charter at the moment, returning to Fremantle tomorrow afternoon. So, will be back home the next day. Anita knows you are coming home, so she has set up the cabin ready for you. Your brothers are looking forward to seeing you. Regards, Jasper.”
I smiled after reading the text, and I sent a text to Anita. “Hi, Anita. I have just had a text back from your hubby, lol. I’m looking forward to being home again. Sarah and her son Oscar, whom I know from NZ, are with me. I thought maybe accommodating them in the catamaran for a while. Can you make the necessary arrangements please. Regards, Anton.”
Shortly after I received a text back. “Yes, no problems. I have a day off tomorrow. See you when you arrive”.The next thing I did was contact the local shire council, to make an enquiry regarding a piece of vacant council land at the end of Oceanic Way across the other side of the harbour that I was interested in.
October 2017 Preston Wigglesworth All Rights are Reserved