DESTIN, Fla. (AP) - Things are really hoppin' over at the Hallmark household...literally.
Capt. Jason Hallmark, who grew up with not-so-ordinary pets, recently acquired a wallaby, a miniature kangaroo.
"He's just a novelty pet, something funny, cute and cool," Hallmark said from his home in Destin. "It's something different to have than a dog."
Hallmark recalls having a pet goat as a youngster. "It came in the house and it wore a diaper. We also had a pot-bellied pig."
As for the wallaby, Hallmark and Hayley Close wanted to learn more after seeing one on TV.
"We thought it was cute . so we Googled it and started learning about it," Hallmark said. Then they happened upon a website that sold wallabies.
After a little research and a phone call, the two drove to Houston in February to pick up the 6-month-old marsupial, which they had already named Pogo. Hallmark paid $1,200 for Pogo, who will grow to be about 3 feet tall and weigh about 35 pounds.
"They live for a long time," he said - 15 to 20 years.
Now 10 months old, Pogo still takes a bottle twice a day.
"They say you can bottle feed them as long as they will take it," Hallmark said. "They say it helps keep that bond. It's like a baby formula for marsupials."
"I kind of like feeding him," Close said. "He would lay and cuddle with you after a bottle when we first got him."
In addition to the formula that they special order for Pogo online, he also eats a food that looks a lot like corn flakes, appropriately called Li'l Hopper.
But not everything has to be special ordered for this unusual pet that feels like a rabbit. He eats grass in the back yard, sweet potatoes, apples and almonds.
"And the older he gets, he eats more grass," Hallmark said.
However, you don't want to feed him things from the lettuce family or broccoli, Hallmark said - "it makes him gassy."
During the day, Pogo stays in the back yard along with their pet duck named Soldier Boy.
"The duck follows him around everywhere," Hallmark said. "The wallaby's not very sure of him, though."
No need to worry about Pogo hopping out of the yard. He's enclosed by a 6-foot privacy fence.
"He's still a baby and he can only jump about that high," Hallmark said, placing his hand about 10 inches off the ground.
At night they bring Pogo in the house.
"He runs around and jumps on the couch," he said. "He'll sit with you. Sometimes he'll sit in your lap for an hour, then he will get up and run around."
When it is bedtime, Pogo stays in the kitchen area. "We've got it blocked off where it's tiled," he said, pointing to the baby gate.
And Pogo is "potty trained," Hallmark said. "He goes on a puppy pad."
Hallmark, who captains the charter boat Vengeance, brings Pogo down to the fishing docks on occasion. He made the trip down for the recent Blessing of the Fleet.
"When you bring him down to the docks and walk him around, people want to see it, but then they are unsure of what it is," he said. "They ask, 'Is that a kangaroo?' "
On a recent weekend, they took Pogo down to the docks, and Hallmark said it took about two hours to get from his boat at Fishing Fleet Marina to HarborWalk because of all the interest in the little guy.
"People were stopping us and asking questions," he said.
But even with all the inquiries, Hallmark is glad he got Pogo.
"It's been fun, it's been neat . something different," he said.
Information from: Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.), http://www.nwfdailynews.com
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