I grew up in the small picturesque township of Mount Beauty, located at the head of the Kiewa Valley in North Eastern Victoria.
One day when I was ten, a knock on our door changed the life of our family in a significant way. Cradled in the arms of a neighbour, and peering up at us with bright, yet frightened eyes, was this tiny, helpless baby wombat. It was love at first sight for all of us.
Wandy, her mother sadly deceased, became well and truly part of our family. She was so tiny that she fitted into the palm of one hand and, may I say, she fitted perfectly into my dressing gown pocket.
Initially we fed her special formula with an eyedropper and our hearts were torn each time we heard her crying like a baby when she was hungry or upset. She went everywhere with us – trips to Melbourne with frequent ‘wee’ stops meant that we often felt like a travelling circus, with strangers clustering around to see ‘our baby’.
Many weekends we took Wandy up into the bush to fossick around and select tender shoots and herbs we thought would help her grow up ‘big and strong’. This she truly did, and over time she became a huge, furry ‘bulldozer’.
At our beach house at Inverloch she revelled in digging huge, subterranean chambers in the sandy soil. She tunnelled so furiously and so expansively under an old building on the property, that in the end it had to be demolished because of crumbling foundations.
Sadly we all realised that Wandy had well and truly outgrown her ‘joey days’, and needed the freedom of the wide-open spaces.
The amazing bush property owned by renowned artist, Clifton Pugh, became Wandy’s new home. Here she could wander into their house whenever she wanted, and yet explore the nearby bush at her leisure. Many, many tears flowed as we said our painful goodbyes, yet we knew that this was ‘The Better Life’ for this beautiful and charismatic creature we called Wandy.