The Golden Lab​

It was a dark, wet, wintery night. I was in Year 12 at school and driving home from an evening debating event, still in my school uniform. It must have been around 9pm. Up ahead on the side of the road, between the rhythm of my windscreen wipers, and peering through a foggy screen, I saw the golden outline of something. The road was deserted. As I slowed down and approached I could see that it was in fact a large dog. A Golden Labrador.

Without any thought really (much to my father’s later disdain) I pulled over and got out to check this dog. He was an old Golden Labrador who clearly had just been hit by a car, and he was lying on the side of the road, alone and suffering. I crouched down and took him in my arms as my mind started to think about what to do next; Where to take him at this hour? Where would there be a vet clinic open? He was a rather fat lab too, so how would I lift him?

As my mind raced, something else happened. I felt this dog dying in my arms. He stretched out and his breathing changed; he groaned softly.  I can remember a sense of calm flowing over me as I realized what was happening. So I just held him, nuzzled my face in to his stinky fur, my tears rolling, and I told him that it was ok. I told him that I was sorry that I couldn’t save him and I promised him that I would study ever so hard so that one day I could become a vet and save dogs like him.

Ever so gently I felt the life force leave his fat, wounded body and he became heavy and limp. I sat there holding him, by the side of the deserted road, crying over a dog I did not know. He had no collar or tag and there was nobody around. I sat with him for a few minutes, maybe a car or two passed by, I really didn’t notice.

Some time later I left his warm body on the pavement and continued my journey home. I was crying so hard that I could barely see.

People talk about epiphanies in life. Well that Golden Lab was one of mine. I had grown up wanting to be a vet, but was finding the study a challenge at school and was, at that time, doubting my ability to pursue my goal. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that it was meant to be that I witnessed the death of that Golden Lab on the side of the road on that dark cold night. I believe that God or the Universe or Spirit or whatever you choose to call it, led me there at that time, to bring love and comfort to this animal in his time of need. In return he gave me purpose, for it was in that moment that I knew my life’s destiny was to work and care for animals. It was in that moment that I found the strength and conviction to stick to my goals.

Today I wonder whose dog he was. Who else had cried over his death? Whether or not his body was ever found by his owner? I wish now that I had left a note, so that if they had found him that would have at least known that he died loved; he did not die alone; and his death was not in vain. For it was through his death that a young 16 year old girl became all the more determined to fulfill a life passion to become a veterinarian and dedicate her life to helping animals.

Thank you Golden Lab, wherever you are.

The Voice in my Head

Extract from “The Jane Effect” published to celebrate Dr Jane Goodall. Edited by Dale Peterson and Marc Bekoff ; Trinity University Press, 2015

As a child growing up in the 60s and 70s, I followed Jane Goodall’s journey through the many stories I read in National Geographic. The jungles of Africa were a long way away from my hometown, Adelaide, South Australia – but Jane became one of my key inspirations to pursue a career serving animals. I lost track of her for a while, but her story returned to my life in 2002 when a friend loaned me her book, “Reason for Hope”. At that time I was a busy mum with three young daughters, living as expats in China, and feeling overwhelmed by the problems our planet faced. “Why should I bother doing anything if nobody else cares?” That was how I felt until I read Reason for Hope.

Since then, Jane has become the voice in my head (well at least one of them!). Or is it my voice that aligns so closely with Jane’s? Who knows? What I do know is that Jane Goodall has become a guiding force in my life, and now my daughter’s lives.

I rarely see or speak with Jane but her gently spoken, wise words influence me daily.

“Do what you can when you can with the time and resources you have. That will make a difference. That will be enough.”

Jane shared those words with me at the end of our first meeting, in Beijing, 2004. As an Australian living in China and passionate about her global youth program, Roots & Shoots, I started the program in our international school but had noticed that there was not a global office in Australia. “Why?” I wondered.  So when Jane visited China, I campaigned hard to meet with her.  I asked, “What about Australia?” She explained that nobody had started it there yet, to which I replied, “I’ll help”.

This conversation marked a turning point in my life, to say the least. Seeing the Jane Goodall Institute established in Australia has occupied many of my hours, and much of my energy, over the past 16 years. It has been an incredible journey filled with beautiful connections, moments of joy and many challenges.

“We must never, ever give up”, I hear her speak. So on we go, forging ahead in the face of adversity, story after story of disaster and suffering for animals and people. At times we face burnout, utterly overwhelmed by it all – and then we find the resilience and hope that Jane talks about. The four reasons for hope: human ingenuity, our indomitable human spirit, the resilience of nature and the energy and creativity of youth.

I have experienced the energy and creativity of youth many times – young people who are driven to create a better world, their hearts connected to their minds. That is where my hope lies, through the many young people I continue to connect with through JGI.

“Discover your gifts and passions and use these to follow your dreams while creating a better world for animals, people and the environment” 

Those are Jane’s words and I continue to share them far and wide. With my daughters it has become my mantra. Jane Goodall has not only been a force of influence in my life, but I am seeing my daughters each blossom into their own talents while creating a better world.

I feel deeply proud and honored to have had the opportunity to be mentored by Jane – and to unleash the potential of many young people, especially my daughters, towards a kind, sustainable and peaceful future.


Backing Boom in 2019

It’s almost a year since we first met Boom.

He is the feature of my first blog post because he represents everything that I exist for, and yet he is a constant source of challenge to me!

A 13 year old Westie (West Highland White), Boom has been in the loving care of his human, “Bee” since he was a pup. These days life is a real struggle for Bee. With mental health decline and chronic health issues, Bee is regularly hospitalised, a situation that creates huge anxiety around Boom and what will happen to him. Bee’s life is dark compared to that which most of us enjoy and take for granted.

Boom receives care from Cherished Pets to managing his chronic illnesses every week, giving peace of mind to his owner.

We were contacted by a local health agency last January to create a plan to support the care of Boom during Bee’s hospital stays, and in the worst case scenario, her death, which could happen at anytime.

Following our initial assessment it was clear that Bee and Boom are eligible for full level care as a beneficiary of our charity, Cherished Pets Foundation. This means that we can access support for Boom’s health management across all our areas of service: Wellness, Respite care, Case Management, Veterinary Care, Volunteer assistance, 24/7 support and triage and emergency response plans.

The value of our care provided to Boom in the past 12 months would easily exceed $3000 at market rates. I haven’t seen the final sums. If one takes in to account the time spent on the phone to Bee during all hours when she is concerned, and our “drop in” visits to check on them, it would be much more. Not to mention our worry time about them both.

Boom has multiple health issues, chronic nasty allergic skin disease, recurrent bouts of suspected low grade pancreatitis, liver disease and senior dog issues. He has a heart murmur and was never neutered. He has been fed low grade food for most of his life, and lives in a less than ideal environment, but he is loved. So loved.

Bee experiences high level anxiety at the thought of leaving him, losing him, keeping him, loving him. Everything really. In fact it had been 3-5 years since Boom had been to a vet, due to Bee’s fears of a) not being able to afford treatment b) being told he was going to die and c) physically being able to get him to the vet. Instead she had been self-managing his skin condition and sadly watching his condition deteriorate.

We are there to provide 24/7 support, triage visits, home nurse visits, weekly grooming and baths to manage his nasty skin, veterinary care, medications, pathology tests, nutrition and wellness needs, respite care, emotional support and preparation for end of life.

I lie in bed at night wondering how we can continue to support Boom and others like him. You see, we have close to 40 pets and their people currently listed as beneficiaries of our Foundation’s social and community pet care service. Demand is growing. We are getting tired. We are stretched.

In 2018 we have had wonderful organisational support from PETStock Assist, Demeter Legacy ,Grace Gives, KINGS Funerals, Ocean Grove Connected Communities, Smallest of Wishes, and our community partner Wallingtons WRG, not to mention the many private donors who support Cherished Pets Foundation, our business supporters and friends, The Dove, Barwon Heads Uniting Church, and the wonderful volunteers who support our fundraising efforts. Last year we had generous anonymous donors cover the expenses of three individual cases at a cost of more than $5000 combined. Heartfelt thanks.

This blog marks the beginning of a new phase of Cherished Pets journey, where I am determined and committed to taking our unique bond-centred veterinary service and expanding its accessibility to others.

I need YOU. You can help by:

1. Donate.
2. Follow my blog, like, share, spread the word on social media too.
3. Volunteer with our Foundation.
4. Use our general vet services as profits from this provides untied funding to support our social service.
5. Bequest and support our future. Contact us for more information. admin@cherishedpetcare.com.au
5. Invest in our adventure and make a truly meaningful contribution to our future. Contact me directly alicia@cherishedpetcare.com.au

THANK YOU. WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER. LEADING FROM THE HEART.
TOGETHER IS BETTER.