Gympie pensioner Chris Warner lost his home and almost all his possessions in the floods, but a week after the natural disaster he was dealt his most devastating blow yet.
- A Sunshine Coast animal charity is saving a record number of horses and kittens following the floods
- Other charities are providing free food and check ups to help pet owners in flood ravaged areas
- Some pet owners have had to make the devastating decision to surrender their pets
His beloved dog Nick was his only companion, but due to a lack of housing availability and rules restricting pets he had to say goodbye to Nick too.
Mr Warner said the farewell was the hardest thing he had done.
“I’ve had him for seven years since he was a mistreated pup, basically skin and bone, and we just made friends.
“I wouldn’t go anywhere if I didn’t take him because I had the ute. I’d say, ‘Come on, we are going to the beach or somewhere, up you get’.
“He loved it [, and] learned so much so quick.”
Mr Warner underestimated how quickly and high the Mary River would rise.
By the time he left his home, water was up to his waist, and he had to support Nick swimming through the flood while he carried his wheelie walker and whatever he could fit into two small bags.
“I waded out to a high spot and sat there for the rest of the night waiting for daylight,” he said.
“A good Samaritan saw me wandering around and said, ‘jump in, and I’ll take you to the shelter’ because I couldn’t walk there.”
Not just human suffering
The toll of the floods on animals is becoming clearer as the clean-up goes on.
A Sunshine Coast animal rescue ranch has helped record numbers of animals in the wake of South East Queensland’s flooding disaster.
Soquilichi Rescue Ranch at Maroochy River took in 80 cats and kittens within 48 hours, as well as the highest number of horses it’s had in 10 years.
Carer Miranda Wells said the animals were coming from flood-ravaged areas after being displaced or injured.
“It’s raining kittens,” Ms Wells said.
“We have people that are out in the floods that are finding kittens that are abandoned, so we don’t know if something’s happened to the mum.”
The rescue ranch also received calls from pounds in flood-impacted areas overflowing with animals, which would be put down if they were not rescued.
“Horses are coming in as well. People can’t afford their vet care, and they’ve had horrible incidents like stuck in fences and even lost their paddock mates,” Ms Wells said.
Other charities are offering assistance to ensure other pets don’t suffer the same fate.
RSPCA Gympie hosted a community day for pet owners, offering free food and vet services.
“We’re looking for skin issues, ear issues, anything where they get hot or moist,” vet Dr. Anne Chester said.
“Then we also worry that animals can be displaced, and they can get cuts or injured and if that gets in the water that can become a problem.”
Dog owner Teresa Spencer took her dog Boss for a check-up after losing his appetite after the floods.
“I think it’s wonderful. It helps people that aren’t very financial, especially at the moment with the floods,” Ms Spencer said.
Nick’s new family
After days of living with Mr Warner at the Gympie evacuation centre, Nick became well-known and loved by all the other temporary residents.
“Three-hundred people going up and down, and I reckon every one of them gives him a pat or a treat,” Mr Warner said.
When Mr Warner made the heart-breaking decision to surrender his dog, a volunteer who knew Nick from the shelter contacted her friend Amy Ocean, who adopted him within hours.
“He’s very chill, but he’s still cheeky. The kids love him,” Ms Ocean said.
“He’s definitely one of the family now.”