In search of ponies: List of exotic pets getting longer

I t seems there isn't much left on the planet that humankind hasn't tried to domesticate, and if not attempting to domesticate, mankind has tried to keep most everything in captivity at one time or another, with varying degrees of success.

In some cases, pulling creatures out of the wild is actually doing them a favor by postponing or preventing extinction. In other cases it is done just because it can be done.

But captive housing is not to be confused with domestication efforts, which can get a tad bizarre.

The list of critters people have and continue to try and turn into pets — we tend to call them "exotics," which seems to cover almost anything that's not a dog, cat or farm animal — is long indeed and sometimes causes ire if not outrage.

Included on the list are things like venomous snakes and insects and vicious lizards that grow bigger than dogs, and then there are the more benign reptiles, turtles and amphibians.

And of course there are little nectar eating nocturnal marsupials, monkeys and even prairie dogs, squirrels, possums, skunks and raccoons.

From cockroaches to zebras, camels, or tigers, you name it, people keep them.

For those who aren't quite ready to go full "exotic," some breed a touch of the wild into domestic cats and dogs in the form of wolf hybrids Bengals and Savannah's.

Given all the strange pets out there, Lucy Sparkles shouldn't seem all that unusual.

Yet she has hopped all the way to national headline news in the week since Thanksgiving.

It does make sense that she would attract attention though, because even though people have a lot of strange pets, it isn't every day a family chooses a joey, or for that matter, a little girl names her joey something as unique as Lucy Sparkles.

Of course the story was prompted when the 11-month-old, 2-feet tall kangaroo youngin' disappeared from home during the holiday bustle, but her family got lucky in a sense because, while missing pets aren't usually news, missing kangaroos kind of are.

So needless to say, the residents of their Oklahoma City suburb have to be keeping their eyes, and minds, open to the possibility they might cross paths with a kangaroo — albeit a beloved, timid and probably frightened family pet kangaroo.

Who knew — a kangaroo is one of those creatures that you can imagine being on a child's list of dream pets, but struggle to fathom actually being a pet, yet apparently they are available from breeders in the U.S. and around the world.

Though often identified by the general term "kangaroo," there are more than 50 species in the macropod family. Wallabies are most likely to be kept as pets, with sizes comparable to small to medium dogs as opposed to the potential of an 8-foot, 200-pound kangaroo.

Driven by mild, somewhat skittish and fearful traits, they are touted to be affectionate and pleasant pets, for a conscientious owner who takes the time and does the research, of course.

Those same traits make Lucy Sparkle's disappearance almost predictable, yet also mean she is built to survive in unforgiving lands — cut from highly adaptable cloth.

And although she hit the road less than a day's distance away and would probably LOVE the eastern plains, there's no need to be on the lookout for kangaroos in these parts because despite hopping speeds of up to 45 mph. Kangaroos tend to pick a place and stay pretty close, so chances are good Lucy Sparkles is still within a mile or two of home.

Coming from an American breeder who raises kangaroos to be pets, and having spent more than half her short life with her human family, it is more than likely that home is where Lucy needs to be. Because though it's a far cry from the grasslands of the outback, for her, home is a house with kids and a yard and a little girl who apparently think she sparkles, as well she may.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: insearchofponies@gmail.com or on the web at:

www.insearchofponies.blogspot.com

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