Saved from death row
AUSTRALIA’S ONLY SANCTUARY FOR DISABLED AND ABUSED ANIMALS IS FACING A NEW BATTLE
They were rescued from euthanasia, but now these furry and feathered battlers at Storybook Farm are set to be homeless.
‘We are leasing this property and have just found out it’s up for development,’ says 50-yearold LJ Cameron, who runs the sanctuary with her two children Alex, 19, and Jonah, 13.
‘We have six weeks to find a new home.’
As New Idea sits down with LJ, a little sausage dog with bright blue eyes bounds over as fast as his wheels can carry him.
Seven-year-old Krumm can’t use his hind legs due to an intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), but a specially made wheelchair enables him to lead a full and happy life. He even starred in the upcoming film Flammable Children, with Kylie Minogue and Guy Pearce.
The dashing dachshund is one of around 40 creatures who reside at Storybook Farm, situated within the picturesque Gold Coast hinterland.
‘When our own dog Mr Waddles went down with IVDD, we learnt during his treatment – or lack of – that all animals with special needs are put down.
‘I was like: “Why are we doing this? They are still full of life, full of energy. That’s not right,”’ says the lifelong animal rescuer.
And that’s how Storybook Farm was born.
Among the sanctuary’s cheekiest residents is Burt Bumble, a four-month-old bulldog with spina bifida.
‘Burty arrived with a bowel infection and his rear legs were quite weak. But today he can run around chasing his mates. Burty is such a gentle, funny soul,’ says LJ with a smile.
Another favourite is oneyear-old French bulldog Bruce James, who was born with a birth defect that means he can’t use his back legs.
‘He hops about in his own unique fashion and wins over everyone who meets him with his cheerful, cheeky personality.
‘If they didn’t have quality of life, I would be the first to say so. Nothing should suffer.
‘But these guys get up without complaint every day, they play, they chew things. They love their life, and I think we can learn a lot from that.’
LJ introduces us to a kitten, Valentine Belle, who has a chromosomal abnormality that’s not dissimilar to Down syndrome in humans.
‘She is an absolute sweetheart, and adores being cuddled. But she was incredibly ill with cat flu when she first arrived and we weren’t sure if she would survive,’ LJ says.
As we wander around the paddocks, we notice some of the animals don’t have an obvious disability.
‘Those are usually the cruelty cases,’ explains LJ. ‘I’ve had Captain Ned – our donkey – for over 23 years. He was a mess.’
Pointing to two goats, LJ says: ‘I bought these two boys, Grover and Nigel, so they can be good, strong companions to those who are blind or crippled.
‘Everything here has a support system.’
Grover and Nigel live in a paddock with lambs Anna-belle and Lulu-belle, who survived a dog attack. Although AnnaBelle lost a leg, she’s confident on her feet and bleats contently.
As well as taking in animals that would otherwise be on death row, LJ rehabilitates dogs who’ve been through surgery.
‘We do physio twice a day, exercise, massage, hydrotherapy. We do high-nutrient food. We really factor in the dogs’ emotional wellbeing, because if you are stressed, you won’t heal.’
In a bid to raise awareness of special needs animals, LJ takes her ‘dream team’ of six dogs who’ve all escaped euthanasia to markets and community events.
But actually getting them out and about can be quite an event.
‘Besides having to get their wheelchairs, leads and collars, because of the incontinence issues we have baby bags like other mums, with baby wipes, baby powder, nappies, nappy bags, then there are snacks, bowls of food, toys.
‘It’s like having a lot of toddlers,’ LJ laughs.
All jokes aside, LJ says they also work as therapy dogs and have a profound affect on people with disabilities.
‘They went to this younger lady and she just started talking with one of our dogs, Daisy. She was telling us all about her dog growing up. The staff were just in tears because she was actually non-verbal. They couldn’t believe it,’ she says.
‘They release the emotional side of things in us, because it is such a pure form of contact with an animal. And that’s why we say this work is so important.
‘So if there is some wealthy American actor who can buy us a farm, then I’ll cry and name every other animal after them.
‘But if someone just has a farm they can sell to us and let us pay it off, that’s good too.
‘These animals are incredibly important. We watch the healing, and every day we see something magic.’
Determined, LJ adds: ‘I’ll find us a permanent home no matter what!’
‘We really factor in the dogs’ emotional wellbeing... if you are stressed, you won’t heal’
To learn more, go to: facebook.com/ Storybook-farm-sacred-animalGarden-283575955137958.
Sausage dog Andrew Morris and kitten Valentine Belle (below) are happy at Storybook Farm. Alex, LJ and Jonah love their pups Bruce James and Burt Bumble (bottom).
Brian James came to the farm after being attacked, and Captain Ned (left) is the resident companion donkey. Daughter Alex loves helping out on the farm. PUPPY LOVE