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Real Life

Amazing real life animal stories: Heartwarming tales of healing and happiness

From mail delivery dogs to slithery snakes, these pets prove that we'd be completely lost without them.

By As told to Take 5
We know how important the world's animals are, and that us humans would probably be lost without them!
Meet five incredible animals and the ways they've helped the world!

Kirstie Henning from Queenland introduces her perfect piggy

Kristie and her pet pig Crystal. Image: Supplied
I ran my hand through my stepdad David's hair and felt a shiver run down 
my spine.
At 79, he still had a healthy head of brown locks, but during his visit from New Zealand he'd been complaining about the top of his head being sore.
When I spotted an ugly black lump on his scalp, I knew something was up.
"You need to get this checked straightaway," I told him.
He promised he'd do it as soon as he returned home.
Weeks passed before 
I received a phone call from my mum, Wendy.
"It's melanoma," she said, choking back tears.
Tests showed the cancer had spread through David's liver, spleen and lymph nodes in the neck.
Kristie's stepdad David has inspired her to help others. Image: Supplied
Because it was stage-four cancer, doctors weren't able to operate, either.
Chemo wouldn't be effective; all he had were painkillers.
I got on the first plane to New Zealand to be with them.
Although David insisted everything would be all right, Mum was a wreck.
"I don't want to lose him," she sobbed.
I wrapped her in a hug and assured her doctors would find a way of helping him.
Back home, I returned to my farm, where I kept a menagerie of pigs, ducks, goats and rabbits.
My mates always loved seeing my animals – especially my adorable newborn piglet, Crystal.
Suddenly, I had an idea.
I could take Crystal around the Sunshine Coast to raise money for cancer research and inform people about sun safety.
"Sounds great," David said when I ran it by him.
So I put a hat on Crystal's head and sunscreen on 
her flesh and took her to 
the park.
"She's so cute!" people cried, rushing over for a pat.
I talked to them about 
how everyone needs sun protection – even pigs – and explained why I was raising awareness.
Everyone was so moved that they happily chucked in a couple of bucks to help out.
"You're such a good girl," 
I told Crystal later, knowing her cuteness had won everyone over.
I'll continue fundraising with my special pig. Together, I'm sure we 
can beat cancer.

Mon Atkins from Darwin, NT, loves her pet python

I held my breath as 
I looked at the six-foot snake hanging around my son Jack's neck.
Although it was a non-venomous carpet python, I was relieved that it reacted so well to Jack.
"Please Mum, can we keep it?" he pleaded.
We'd come to a mate's house to meet her snake, Simpson, and to see if we could look after her. Like me, Jack, loved reptiles.
We lived with a children's python, Isabella, three blue-tongue lizards and 
two long-neck turtles.
Luckily, our Staffy, Bailey, looked upon them as 
her mates, too, otherwise things could have become really hairy!
Jack with the snake Simpson. Image: Supplied
So when a friend asked if we could adopt Simpson, we jumped at the chance.
Really, what's one more? 
I thought.
I love snakes so much that whenever I saw one on the road, I'd stop and shoo it away so vehicles didn't run over it.
I've always believed 
that they're completely misunderstood, and wanted Simpson to have a good life.
Back home, she and Jack became inseparable. She curled up in his hoodie and slept beside him in her tank at night. When we went 
out, Jack put her into his
backpack so she could travel in the car with us.
On really hot days, he even lowered Simpson into our swimming pool to let her cool down a bit.
Mon pictured with her children. Image: Supplied
"Look at her, Mum!" he cried. "She loves it."
Simpson was such a water baby that we decided to take her with us to Lee Point Beach, a 20-minute drive from Darwin's CBD.
Slithering along the sand, Simpson raised her head and faced the wind.
She looked so striking and elegant that I took out my camera and started snapping away.
Soon, beachgoers 
and tourists gathered around to 
look at her.
"It's okay,"
 I told one petrified woman, "she's harmless."
After explaining how she lived with us, some people were even game enough to touch Simpson.
They seemed surprised that she was perfectly still and didn't bite. I know that 
not all snakes are as friendly as Simpson, and I wouldn't want people to think they can
just walk up and touch any old serpent.
But Simpson's one in a million and we won't let her slither away!

Martin Studer, from Brighton, Qld loves his dog Pippa

As I took the letters out of my bag, I saw a Labrador lumbering excitedly towards me, wagging her tail.
As a postie, I'm used to being greeted by all sorts of dogs. But this was one of the most adorable I'd seen.
"Give the mail to Pippa," the dog's owner, Melissa, said.
I lowered the envelopes towards her mouth and Pippa walked off with the letters proudly.
"She takes them inside and puts them on the kitchen table for us," Melissa explained.
What a clever dog! I thought.
"I have the best job in the world," says Martin. Image: Supplied
Pippa looked forward to my daily visits so much. On the days there was no mail for her house I couldn't bear to ride past, knowing she was waiting for me.
Instead, I'd stop, pull out a postal collection card and write MAIL FOR PIPPA on it.
She's a real survivor. Six months ago, someone baited her with strychnine poison.
She had seizures for 36 hours and spent days in intensive care. How could anyone do something so cruel to such 
a beautiful animal?
Pippa is a postie's best friend. Image: Supplied
Getting to meet lots of other dogs is what I enjoy most about being a postie.
On my run, I've also made friends with a three-legged Jack Russell terrier, Billy, who loves 
it when I arrive at her house.
I think I've got the best job in the world!
Each year on Christmas Eve, I dress up as Santa Claus and carry a ton of tennis balls for all the dogs I've got to know through my work. I write, To Dog from Postie
on each of them.
I've always said that all dogs are equal, but this Christmas I'll make sure I give Pippa an extra special gift.

Joanne Vine from 
Glencoe, SA has a soft spot for her massive cow

As his fuzzy head rested on my lap, the calf looked up at me with big brown eyes.
"Stop it," I laughed, as he drank from a bottle I held.
We'd had the little fella since he was just a few days old, after my husband, Phil, had brought him home from the dairy farm where he worked.
He was a boy, so they had no use for him. And as he looked up at me with those brown eyes, his nose rubbing against my leg, my heart melted.
I knew there was something different about this calf. Would making him into a juicy steak be a mistake?
I shook the thought from 
my head. He'd become our dinner, just like others had before him. It was the circle 
of life after all.
"I reckon I'm going soft," 
I said to Phil that night.
But as the calf grew, I became even more fond of him. He was so friendly, always sticking his head 
under my hand for a pat.
"You big sook," I'd tell him.
Even Phil developed a soft spot for him and we started calling him Moo.
Joanne and her cow Moo. Image: Caters
I had to remind myself not to get too attached. He's 
our food, not our friend, 
I'd remember.
But Moo was so gentle, it was hard to distance ourselves.
When he was six months old, he came down with a terrible case of pneumonia.
I spent long nights nursing him back to health and when he pulled through, I was stunned by how relieved I felt.
Then came the undeniable realisation… "We can't eat Moo," I said to Phil that night. "He belongs in our hearts, not our freezer."
Thankfully, Phil agreed.
By the time Moo turned two, he was no longer the little calf that would lovingly place his head on my lap. Instead, he was a beast of a
bovine!
He was tall for his age, easily reaching the clothesline to cheekily chew on our laundry.
"Maybe the washing powder is making him grow," 
I joked.
He'd been munching on OMO since he was a little tacker and each year, Moo seemed to have yet another growth spurt.
As far as cows go, our fella was a right beef cake!
Just after his seventh birthday, Moo towered 
over me at an incredible 190cm tall.
"We'll have to call him Big Moo now," Phil said, smiling.
Because of his height, he's become a bit of a celebrity around town. The locals always ask how he's getting on.
"He weighs nearly a ton," I say – and I'm not kidding!
Recently, we saw that the world's biggest cow, Blosom, was 193cm tall, but we don't think she'll hold the crown forever.
Our Big Moo is hot on her hooves and will overtake her at some point. Then he'll not only be the tallest cow in Australia, he'll be in the Guinness Book of Records 
as the highest in the world!

Dick Williams, Bakers Hill, WA proves an elephant never forgets

Me and Tricia Image: Melissa Leo/Perth Zoo
As I walked into the elephant exhibit with a bucket of food, I felt so small.
"Well, hello Tricia and Tanya," I said, looking at the girls. "I'm your new keeper."
The two of them spent 
a few minutes sizing me 
up before they moved their trunks curiously towards my hand.
At 22, I'd been working as 
a zookeeper at Perth Zoo for just over a year. Until now, I'd been working with crocodiles, but I'd always loved elephants. They were such
intelligent animals. So, as soon as the vacancy came up to care for them, I jumped at the opportunity.
The pair, both aged around 14, were wary 
of me at first. They even started roaring at me on the first night I locked them up in their enclosure, and Tricia tried to pin
me against a wall!
But I'd spent long enough working with animals to know you should never show any weakness.
"I'm not afraid of you two," I told them in a gruff voice.
Over the following weeks, they started warming to me, so I introduced some games.
I'd get them to chase me around the yard, bellowing at the top of their lungs. I'd also hide from them in the blind spot directly behind their ears.
Tricia turned out to be a real gentle giant.
Soon, every time 
I walked in to the enclosure she'd be sniffing me all over, flapping her ears and trying to pull me close with her trunk.
We'd formed a close bond.
WATCH BELOW: See this woman wrangle a python. Story continues after video.
It was hard saying goodbye when my wife, Noreen, and 
I moved to Darwin.
"I'll miss you," I told them, rubbing their trunks.
Years passed and I worked with a lot of different animals in wildlife parks. But 
I never forgot about Tricia and Tanya. I had to laugh when I heard Tanya had joined the circus. I could see her parading around in a ring!
When I turned 72, my family decided to book a breakfast with the elephants at Perth Zoo for a family celebration.
"You wouldn't believe it, Dick, but Tricia's still there," my brother-in-law told me. "She'll be celebrating her 60th birthday!"
More than four decades had passed since I'd worked with Tricia. I wondered if she'd remember me.
I was excited when we left our home in Bakers Hill, WA, for the special breakfast.
My brother-in-law had told them about our history, so Tricia's keeper, Kirsty, invited me into the enclosure.
I got teary when I saw her.
"Happy birthday! Do you miss me?" I asked.
I was overwhelmed when Tricia started flapping her ears and sniffing me all over. It felt like no time had passed.
Then Tricia started urinating.
"Now that's a sure sign she remembers you," Kirsty said. "When they urinate they're greeting you, so it's pretty special to see that."
It was hard to say goodbye again. Tricia wrapped her trunk around me, wanting me to stay.
"I'll be back for your 70th," 
I said, grinning from ear to ear.
I guess the lifelong bond between Tricia and me is proof that the age-old phrase 'an elephant never forgets' is true!

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