Tragedy: May it Bring out the Best

Bushfires are raging in Australia. People and animals are fleeing for their lives. Maybe you’ve seen some of the touching footage of desperate animals seeking the help of humans. One posted by the NSW Police Force shows an officer offering a kangaroo water. He pours some in his palm and the kangaroo, cautious at first, slowly walks up to him. It drinks from his hand.

Watching a desperate kangaroo stumbling toward a human pleading for help melts the heart. In my personal life, I’ve had a similar experience of an animal pleading for help. Our dog Ginger wasn’t allowed in the living room, and she kept the rule until the last month of her life. My husband tells the story of being on the couch when he heard her whimper sharply. She stumbled out of the kitchen and, twisted with pain, staggered toward him. She wanted his help and comfort. My husband still remembers the awful feeling of helplessness since he couldn’t take away her pain. He was able to pet her and provide comfort, though.

Two years ago I encountered another creature who wanted comfort. My friend was wading in the Wisconsin River when a lone gosling swam up to her. Appearing desperate, the gosling actually crawled up her leg. Even though my friend searched for the gosling’s family, they were gone.

Gertie, as I named the gosling after my friend brought her to me, spent the summer and fall with my family. She didn’t like to be alone and would peep when desperate for company. I ended up fashioning a pouch and hanging it around my neck so she could ride around and be content as I went about my day.

YouTube provides other impressive examples of wild animals connecting with humans, including a whale shark which swam up to a boat. When a curious onlooker jumped in the water to investigate, he found the whale shark’s body was wrapped in rope. It floated patiently for 20 minutes while he cut it free.

One of my favorite videos of animals coming to humans for help has racked up over 3 million hits. It shows a wild raven squawking on a neighborhood fence. When a mother and daughter finally come out, they see the four porcupine quills piercing its face and wing. The raven sits while the mother pulls out the first quill. It squawks in pain, but continues to sit while the remaining three are pulled out. Afterward the raven hung around with the family for a day presumably as a thank you.

Another amazing video went viral after the horrific October California fires. This one shows a man helping a thoroughbred escape only to have it turn and run back into the fire. The footage shows it finding a mare and foal and leading them to safety.

My heart goes out to the Australians and the 480 million animals affected by these fires ripping through their country. My hope is that this tragedy will bring out the best in us all, and we’ll hear more stories about the amazing human-animal connections and acts of heroisms.

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