The Trail Blazers had a very unique fan Friday night at the Moda Center: Mo Mo the wallaby.
A 10-month old wallaby owned by 14-year-old Portia from Clackamas, Oregon was spotted in the stands just before halftime of the Blazers-Clippers game.
Totted around in a linen pouch for safe-keeping, Mo Mo and his owner Portia became instant celebrities.
It was the first of its kind, a wallaby at Moda Center.
"It was a surprise to all of us," Trail Blazers Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Engagement Michael Lewellen told CSNNW. "Certainly not the kind of animal you'd expect to find at an NBA game."
Portia suffers from anxiety attacks. When brainstorming ways to combat the attacks, she found other kids turned to service animals for help alleviating them. What's more, wallabies were becoming a growing trend. Without her parents' knowledge, Portia put together a powerpoint presentation and pitched the idea to her parents.
"They thought I was crazy," Portia said.
She had to demonstrate responsibility if she wanted to own a wallaby.
Waking up during the night, picking up after him, and feeding him are all things that going into taking care of her therapy animal.
Portia says her anxiety attacks have gone down by 70% because of Mo Mo.
Having a wallaby in attendance sparked an internal debate: Could a wallaby, a marsupial, really be classified as a therapy animal?
In the state of Oregon, the only listed approved therapy animals are dogs and miniature horses.
By definition, the letter of Oregon law, Mo Mo the wallaby is not an approved, licensed therapy animal.
"The woman had good control of it," Lewellen said. "It wasn't disruptive. It wound up being kind of cute. But we hope not to see it again."
The biggest issue for Lewellen and the Trail Blazers, along with officials at the Moda Center, is safety, not just of the animal, but of other people.
Lewellen sites other patrons' response to the animal, health concerns and the need to be aware of such a "unique" animal entering the Moda Center.
On Monday, Lewellen, along with several Trail Blazers officials and Moda Center officials will meet to address Mo Mo the wallaby and what the next steps in addressing the matter will be.
"Honestly, I, we've never dealt with this sort of thing before."
Lewellen harkened back to what state laws, health concerns and potential next steps in moving forward after Friday night.
The concern is whether or not more exotic animals will enter the building under the guise of "therapy animal."
Though, Lewellen isn't closing the door on Mo Mo the wallaby.
"The person in possession, if they say that's what it is, then there would have to be a process to challenge it," he said. "That's a process that is difficult to execute on the fly. We will be a little more watchful of it, and we're still not quite sure how it got into the building. It wound up being a pleasant distraction and because we won!"
"Let's just hope the next service animal isn't a baby warthog."
"The biggest thing I want to know is: Did the Wallaby get a t-shirt saying “this is my first Blazers game?”
I am of the mind that if someone is suffering from something like anxiety attacks, they should be able to pursue avenues to address them. What if a person is allergic to dogs? And a miniature horse just doesn't cut it for you? It's not black and white. But to write someone off without knowing the whole story is ignorant and, in my opinion, shameful. I support Portia in her efforts in dealing with her anxiety attacks and if a wallaby makes her comfortable, confident and secure, who are we to judge?