WYNNEWOOD — Christie Carr wants her young ones to cooperate when they sit down for a family portrait, but at times it’s so difficult that she has to tell young Irwin to go to his bedroom. He obeys and hops to it.
Irwin may sleep in a bed, wear boy’s clothes on occasion and eat Twizzlers, but he’s not human. He’s a red kangaroo, nursed back to health after he was partially paralyzed from running into a fence a few years ago.
Two years after battling a city council in northeastern Oklahoma over Carr’s right to keep a “therapy kangaroo,” she found Irwin a home at an exotic animal park. And Carr has found some relief from her depression.
On a recent weekday morning at The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park, Irwin, fresh from playing in the dirt, sat on a cushy chair in a wooden pen next to Carr. He later fussed with his new sister, Larsen, a baby Siberian tiger, in the staff house.
The new home, Carr said, is good for both Irwin and herself. He’s able to interact with other people and some animals, and her emotional life is enriched by being around all the animals.
“Just me and him together, it’s almost like he was feeding off my depression,” said Carr, who lives in the zoo’s staff house. “He likes people, he likes to be around people and here, there is something always going on.”
Irwin, however, can’t play with the park’s other kangaroo, Pluto, who lives near a pond. Carr and zoo founder Joe Schreibvogel are scared Irwin could lose his balance and fall into the water, so they are hoping to build a new kangaroo enclosure in the future.
Carr and 3-year-old Irwin arrived at the zoo after spats with officials in Broken Arrow. Carr’s therapist had certified Irwin as a therapy pet under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But city officials initially feared Irwin could pose a threat to the public’s safety.