Over and over we are touched by the mystical experiences of life. Gertrude’s story is all of this and more. But we cannot tell Gertrude’s story without telling the story of her true saviour, a lady we shall call Claire (although not her real name).
Claire, a kindly soul had a dying wish and that was to save dear Gertrude, a gentle black and white dairy goat she came to know and love in the wake of the devastating Black Saturday Bushfires of 2009. Perhaps it was the common bond the two shared, both having stoically survived this firey inferno that was to change and char the lives of so many, perhaps Claire just loved goats, we do not know.
We were to learn that while Claire had taken refuge in an already burnt out paddock on that fateful day five years ago, a blanket providing her only protection from the unforgiving flames that would claim the lives and hopes of many including a herd of milking goats on a neighbouring property, a lone goat would flee for her life.
As the ashes cooled and those who survived returned to assess the damage, the lone goat, who was to be christened Gertrude, no doubt frantically and desperately sought out the friends and buddies she would never see again. Confused and alone over the ensuing months, Gertrude eked out an existence in the burnt out forest, wandering aimlessly and alone. And no doubt she would repeatedly return to her one time home range, only to be confronted by rubble and the blackened remains of her herd.
A lifetime of experience with animals tells us they are aware of their surrounds and that they possess the ability to feel in ways comparable to we humans. And Claire knew this too. Seeing the trembling goat coming in closer each day to graze by the side of a pair of aging equines, Claire took great comfort in knowing that dear Gertrude was not alone.
But sadly in the aftermath of the fire, the ravages of cancer had taken hold of Claire’s body, and while it threatened her life, it could not erode her love for Gertrude. Knowing that her own end was near, Claire made her final plans, all things in place except for one – Gertrude. And this is where we came in.
Our first involvement in this incredible journey came by way of a phone call from Claire as she desperately pleaded for our assistance to help dear Gertrude. We were, as Claire would relay, her last chance; calls to all other agencies had proved fruitless. She, and Gertrude, had nowhere to turn.
While Claire knew of our love and tender kindness for all animals, Gertrude did not. The fires had put paid to any trust the hapless goat may have once had in humans; the mere sight of a stranger enough to send her into a panic and she would flee through fences and across busy roadways into the forest that had once provided her with sanctuary.
That Claire’s first call came in the midst of winter, complete with howling winds and blinding rain, meant any attempt of rescue would be fraught with danger and failure and so was put on hold. Added into the mix was our busy relocation of over 300 animals, lock, stock and barnyard to our new forever home. But ever present were Claire’s words, “Please can you save this goat? It is my dying wish.”
How tragic it was that we were soon to learn how prophetic these words were. With the ever-ready assistance of our dear friend and longtime animal rescuer, Manfred Zabinskas of Five Freedoms Animal Rescue, Gertrude was safely darted and made her way to Edgar’s Mission just in the nick of time as the Lady in the Hat headed off to America on a fact finding mission.
She returned home to not only the good news from our animal caregivers that dear Gertrude was settling in well to life at the sanctuary but also to a generous donation from Claire in the post.
Our phone call of thanks to Claire saw us settle for leaving a message on her voicemail. No doubt Claire was very busy we reconciled ourselves as we offered dear Gertrude a wheetbix with the words, “This is from Claire, a lady who still loves you very much.”
As the weeks marched on, the thought of this phone call faded as our lives busied; busied that was until we received another call from Claire’s number. But this time it was not Claire, but a relative asking about our call. As we again relayed our appreciation for Claire’s kind gesture and asked that our thanks be passed on, the words which came next will haunt us forever.
Claire had passed just days after Gertrude was rescued. With eyes welling with tears and a lump forming in our throat, we passed our sincere condolences to the family member and these words were returned with the utmost of thanks for fulfilling Claire’s dying wish of saving dear Gertrude.
And it will be our dying wish that one day all of humanity will begin to see, just as Claire did, that all animals are precious, worth fighting for and deserving of both our kindness, as well as a life worth living.
Dear Claire, we will be forever grateful for your kindness and gentle determination right until the very end. Because of you, Gertrude now happily roams our beautiful goat paddock here at the sanctuary, among friends, where she will be loved, cared for and safe forevermore. Thank you will never be enough.