The love of my life, caring for wildlife

Denise Garratt with a rescued koala.Valentine’s Day – you either love it or hate it (I’m of the latter personally). But whatever your view it’s hard to avoid. Today I bring you a slightly different love story – that of an amazing woman Denise Garratt, from Victoria, and her life- long love affair with wildlife – it will bring tears to your eyes. --JS


Love comes in unexpected ways and I fell totally and utterly in love so unexpectedly and as it turned out, it was to be the love of a lifetime.   It all began many years ago – I was living on high up on a hill near Eildon which was so special and so untouched as no one had ever lived on this piece of land high above the lake.  It abounded with all manner of wildlife and filled my life with wonder at being able to share such a special place with wildlife. 


One day a neighbour appeared at my door with a little orphaned joey and handed me this precious bundle and asked me to care for it.  Care for it!  I didn’t have a clue!   And thus began a journey, a journey that continued over the years and is still ongoing. 


That precious little creature, who I named Emma, absolutely took my heart in her soft little paws and gentle ways and together we grew - she, to an exceptionally beautiful and incredibly intelligent adult and myself the growth was in the learning I did with her.  She was the teacher -   there was so little known in those days and it was a hard road, albeit a rewarding one. 


But, I found people who were willing to give of their time and knowledge and together we travelled our journey.   Emma grew to such a character and because of where we lived she came and went as she wished to eventually join up with the local mob.  She came back to me to have her first joey and I will never forget the night she came home, opened the sliding door of the cabin (which she had learned to do) and came in and hopped onto my bed.  She appeared to be a little distressed so I sat there with her and held her not knowing what was happening.  She held my arm and I felt her contractions and watched her tiny joey being born and crawl into her pouch.  We sat there for some hours holding each other then she decided it was time to go.   She came back regularly – I think to check on me actually and I watched that little joey grow as a wild baby.  Emma kept it wild and when it was older she sat it in the garden and came in to me, had her usual cuddle and a bite to eat then out the door, picked up her baby and away they went back to the mob.


It was during this time and subsequent years later that I grew to know the local mob and they me to a degree. I spent so many hours quietly sitting and watching them and they watching me. They seemed to accept this stranger in their midst  in this peaceful sanctuary. 


I lived with that mob on that hill for seven magical years. So many adventures, too many to go into here but one day I think there might be a book there!  


I later went on to set up my own wildlife rescue group, Help for Wildlife, a 24 Hour State-wide Wildlife Emergency Service.  Our dedicated team has attended oil spills, heat stress events with flying foxes and many bushfires, including Black Saturday. We spent 3 weeks at the Kinglake fires, sleeping on site on hay bales at times – if we could sleep. We searched for injured animals, built shelter and provided food and water for starving and displaced animals every night for 10 months.


IFAW were truly the wind beneath our charred wings over those days and nights and were there before and have continued to be there. Words are hard to find that could even begin to express wow deeply grateful we all are for their kindness, their support and above all their friendship .


I share some of my life with you to show that each and every one of us can make a difference in some way.  The only limit we have is what we put on ourselves.   The differences I have been able to make is through a very deep respect and love for our wildlife. We can learn to live with wildlife, we just have to help show some people the way.


It was all through love and a little joey called Emma who showed me the way.  


Denise Garratt



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