Wannabe a wallaby

"Photo: Jasper Tyler-Boekelman and Kristine Tyler are getting used to watching life bounce along at the pace of their wallaby, Kiss ’n Tail.Matt Johnson/staff photoWhen Kristine Tyler started looking for a pet for herself and her young son last summer, she wanted one that wouldn’t eat her birds, that was affectionate, and that lived longer than the average hamster.Dogs were too loud, cats too murderous, and rodents too delicate. So, what about a wallaby?Although purchasing a 2-foot-tall member of the kangaroo family was not the first thing that came to mind, it certainly became an option after Tyler read a classified ad from an Arlington farm that raises the bouncy little beasts -- and some bigger ones. Smaller than the 4-foot walleroos and 6-foot kangaroos on the farm, an Australian wallaby sounded as though it would be just right in size and temperament.“I wanted an affectionate pet,” Tyler said.To make sure that a wallaby was right for her son and her little Clinton home, Tyler visited the Arlington farm. The owners handed her a baby wallaby upon her arrival. That’s all it took.“It started licking me and licking me,” Tyler said. A few weeks later, Tyler and Jasper came home with a baby wallaby of their own. They named it Kiss ’n Tail and spent the next few months raising it as much like a mother wallaby as they could. They fed the little bounder from a strangely-shaped bottle, and Tyler occasionally wore a pouch where Kiss ’n Tail would spend as much time as she was allowed.Now six months old, Kiss ’n Tail seems to be the dream pet mother and son were looking for. The wallaby sleeps in a baby’s play pen, eats mostly grass and hay from the yard, and is house trained. When things don’t go quite right, such as when a visitor comes to the house, Kiss ’n Tail lets everyone know she is nervous by exhaling with a sound similar to a hiss. Then, she hides.For Jasper, playing with his down-under pet requires strategy. Still a bit skittish in her new home, Kiss ’n Tail often remains hidden behind the couch or stands stubbornly in the middle of a room until lured not only by soft, kind words, but a box of Wheat Thins as well.Nearly full-grown, the wallaby can clear a double bed in a single bound. Trying to chase the little animal down is completely useless.“She hops away,” Jasper said.In a few more weeks, Kiss ’n Tail will have her own run in the yard and will start getting used to a South Whidbey winter. Taylor said she is going to keep a close eye on the wallaby, in case its five-foot vertical leap lands it outside its fence. She does not anticipate that the cows in the neighboring pasture will be any trouble, but coyotes and poisonous plants are different matters.“I’m scared of the coyotes,” Taylor said.For such an exotic animal, Tayor said Kiss ’n Tail is surprisingly easy to have around the house. The worst trouble she gets in is when she pushes over house plants to dig in the soil.“We would have guessed she would have been more trouble than she is,” Taylor said with a giggle. “With those big legs, we thought she’d be jumping all over and busting out the windows.”If she ever does, the neighbors will undoubtedly notice. "

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