“Insane and surreal.” That’s how East Dallas neighbors Casey and Tim Tiernan describe their wallaby adventure.
Wallaby, you say? For the one or two of you who haven’t heard, here’s a recap.
The Tiernans headed out for their usual morning walk in their Greenland Hills neighborhood and were mere steps into it when they spotted something brown nearby. They assumed it was a dog — until it hopped. “My God,” Tim recalls. “It’s a kangaroo!” Stunned, they followed the animal until losing sight of it.
Assuming it had returned to its owner and they would never see it again, the Tiernans began to process the encounter. Tim pulled out his phone, and a quick search convinced them they had seen a wallaby, cousin to the kangaroo.
Casey remembers she could do little but shake her head and laugh.
But their wallaby adventure was far from over. “As we approached our house, we were shocked to see it standing in our driveway,” she says. Keeping their distance to avoid spooking it, they began to “baby talk.” Their goal was to coax the animal into their backyard to keep it safe. The wallaby eyed them, hopped around a bit and nibbled grass. “By the way it seemed unconcerned, we were absolutely sure that it was someone’s pet.”
Tim asked a neighbor to call Dallas Animal Services while he kept an eye on the wandering wallaby. Meanwhile, Casey took to neighborhood megaphones, Lakewood Facebook and Nextdoor. “Posts I never thought I’d write: If you are missing your kangaroo or wallaby, it’s chilling in my driveway. Seems pretty tame and wants in the house. We’re trying to coax it into the backyard so it can have a safer place. #lakewoodlife.”
Predictably, the cyber floodgates opened, and hundreds of comments poured in. Most expressed shock, while many voiced concern for the poor lost creature and questioned the legality of a wallaby in city limits.
It wouldn’t be East Dallas social media without the wisecracks. In a nod to the animal’s native Australia, one comment was simply, “Crikey!” Another labeled the incident “#MarsupialMadness.” A couple others had fun referencing a certain Men At Work song about “the land down under.”
Then there was the commenter who summed up quite succinctly the neighborhood’s bewildered state: “I must be drunk.”
The wayward wallaby should thank his lucky marsupial stars that he hopped into the Tiernans’ hands. Random folks began cruising the street. Some even claimed the wallaby, including a couple guys in a white truck. “They stopped and asked, ‘Where’s the roo?’” Tim says. But when Tim asked them for a description, they looked suspicious and merely mumbled, “It’s brown.” Tim didn’t buy it. “I really got worried about someone trying to poach it,” he says.
Dallas Animal Services officers soon arrived, along with lots of curious neighbors and reporters with camera crews in tow. Everyone formed a semicircle and herded the wallaby into the backyard. The wallaby managed to elude capture for a while. Tim remembers being impressed with the critter’s ability to avoid the net by bounding 4 feet in the air.
The wallaby was eventually caught and calmed down immediately as a smiling officer cradled it. The Tiernans noticed that when the officer scratched the wallaby’s neck, it closed its eyes, like an appreciative dog or cat.
Happy ending: The wallaby spent little time “behind bars” because his owner had seen the hoopla on social media and picked him up right away. The owner wishes to remain unidentified but says he and “Muggsy” live on a ranch in Oklahoma and were in the neighborhood for only a short visit.
For the record, yes, it is legal to own a wallaby in Dallas, as long as you have a permit. But should you? Lest you feel inspired to run to the nearest Wallabies R Us to add a marsupial to your household, consider the downsides. They need lots of space, special enclosures and exotic food. Plus, they are not amenable to house training.
Even more surprising than finding Muggsy in their yard, the Tiernans were amazed at the media attention. Google “wallaby Dallas,” and you’ll find pages of hits all over the United States and Europe. “Our 15 minutes of fame turned into 30 minutes,” Casey says.
Things are returning to normal for the Tiernans and the neighborhood, but it’s a slow process. The Sunday following the incident, Tim was at church at the communion rail when his pastor approached and quietly said, “Mr. Tiernan, a wallaby?” Tim simply replied, “Amen.” The pastor responded, “All God’s creatures. Amen.”
Patti Vinson is a guest writer who has lived in East Dallas for more than 15 years. She’s written for the Advocate and Real Simple magazine.