SHAWNEE — Somewhere in the miles of farmland around their home, among the wind-swept brown grasses, barbed wire and cedar trees, a lost kangaroo is waiting to be found — or so the Menhusen family hopes.
The outpouring of support to help the family find its missing pet kangaroo, named Lucy Sparkles, has been staggering, said Shayla Menhusen, the animal's owner. She's had calls from as far away as Germany and news stories have spread to Japan. A Facebook page called Bring Lucy Sparkles Home was set up on Monday and now has more than 1,500 followers.
“Good Morning America” producers are calling her every morning to see if Lucy's been found.
It's become one of the most talked-about stories out there, Menhusen thinks, because it's unusual for a family to have a pet kangaroo.
“People have gone kangaroo crazy,” Menhusen said. “It's way more than I thought would happen. I never expected this.”
She also said the fervor might be due to the $1,000 reward offered to find Lucy.
Their 11-month-old red kangaroo slipped away from the family's 5-acre home site north of Shawnee near the Lincoln County and Pottawattamie County line on Thanksgiving evening. Menhusen said she thinks the guests and commotion scared the marsupial.
Reports surfaced on Thursday that Lucy had been found. That wasn't true. Leads have come in from all over the place, but still, no sign of the 2-foot-tall kangaroo.
Generous strangers have offered night-vision tools or their own eyes to help search the miles of farmland surrounding the Menhusen home. Every night someone is out combing the fields and calling for the lost pet. The family is also hoping to get a hold of a helicopter to aid in the search.
“She can outrun any predator,” Menhusen said. “Our biggest concern is her being hit by a car or attacked by a large cat. And we're very concerned someone might find her and keep her.”
Animal control officials in the surrounding counties have been notified, and the family has also been passing out fliers.
A hand-picked pet
Lucy was picked out about five months ago by the Menhusen's oldest daughter, 4-year-old Layla. Menhusen and her husband, Larry, owner of an electrical contracting company, also have a 16-month-old daughter and a 5-week-old daughter. The family bought Lucy from a breeder in Texas. The owner told the family that Lucy slept in her bed as a young joey.
The family special-orders kangaroo pellets to feed Lucy. She also has a climate-controlled shelter to live in near the home. Every evening, Lucy is let out to exercise, Menhusen said. They often take her to nearby schools for show-and-tell, and she travels in a pouch secured inside the family's sport utility vehicle. When at home, she also sleeps in a pouch inside of her shelter.
Kangaroos are the largest marsupial and are plant eaters. They can survive for long periods without drinking water by utilizing moisture in the vegetation they eat. Adult red kangaroos can run as fast as 35 mph, and females can grow up to 4.5 feet tall. They normally travel in groups called mobs.
“My husband has always wanted an exotic animal,” Menhusen said. “He wanted a giraffe, which I thought was crazy, so we talked to exotic breeders and learned female kangaroos make great pets.”
Menhusen said Lucy socializes with the family, plops down on the porch and lays around much like dog. She even plays with their oldest daughter, Layla.
“She's very much a part of the family,” Menhusen said.
Alan Varsik, deputy director of the Oklahoma City Zoo, said kangaroos are like the deer of Australia — they travel together similarly, can jump and bound, and are herbivores. While kangaroos are fast, he said young Lucy won't have the protection of a mob to help her fend off threats.
He hopes people intrigued by the possibility of owning their own pet kangaroo research the idea thoroughly.
“When people look at wild animals as pets, even if you have the best wishes and intentions, you have to know they have needs most of us don't understand,” Varsik said. “It can be a challenge because they seem people-oriented, but they haven't gone through thousands of years of domestication like dogs. They are cute and cuddly when they're younger but as they grow, they change and so do their needs.”