Just minutes after marrying her high school sweetheart at a Western Australian nature park, surrounded by almost 100 family members and friends, PJ Dhaliwal “hiked up” her wedding dress and bolted across the grass behind her reception.
“To everyone else it probably looked like I was doing a runner — darting with my car keys in my hand,” the 25-year-old wildlife keeper and educator laughed while speaking with Yahoo News Australia on Friday. “I think I flashed half the people there.”
“My husband said ‘I’m not even surprised, it’s the most PJ thing ever to happen’.”
Bride springs into action for possum
Moments before her walk down the aisle on October 28, a family member spotted the possum sitting low in the fork of a tree at the wedding venue, RAC nature park in Margaret River, and knew something was wrong.
“My husband’s auntie came to me just after the ceremony,” PJ, who works at the WA Bird of Prey Centre and Critters Up Close wildlife sanctuary, explained. “Apparently they saw it before but were like ‘the best person to ask is PJ but she’s getting married in 10 minutes’.”
The 25-year-old, who is also a licensed home carer, told Yahoo she immediately became concerned when she saw the nocturnal possum was out in broad daylight and lethargic enough to let her brother-in-law reach up and touch her.
“I saw this possum and I saw it was in a really bad way, there were people everywhere and it was getting attacked by birds,” she said. “I just kinda forgot it was my wedding and went into wildlife carer and rescue mode.”
Photos capture incredible moment
PJ retrieved her equipment kit from her car before rushing back to the tree to bring the possum down. Photos show Gavin holding onto a small wooden table at the base of the tree as his wife climbs on top wearing her white dress and veil. PJ can be seen cradling the possum in a pillowcase in her arms, with the animal’s inquisitive face poking out.
“She was a bit young, displaced and dehydrated,” the carer said. “She was quite young and hadn’t been away from mum for too long.”
The possum was taken to a nearby wildlife carer by a wedding guest who is also a volunteer at the Darling Range Wildlife Shelter WA, where PJ has donated her time for five years. “I’ve had an update that she’s recovering really well and hopefully will be released back into the wild soon,” PJ said.
'A wildlife hero'
“A wildlife hero: nothing was getting in the way of this bride and a possum needing rescue!” the post, which has attracted a lot of attention online, said.
Commenters toasted the “wonderful” couple and wished them a long and happy marriage.
PJ laughed when asked about the post’s popularity, noting even her wedding guests had started hearing from strangers about “the story of the bride who rescued a possum on her wedding day”.
If someone comes across an animal or wildlife that appears to be in need of assistance, PJ said the best course of action is to contact the local wildlife rehab centre or licensed carer. In WA, the Wildcard Helpline at 9474 9055 can help provide information about available services.
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