“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
My trail began on the 14th of December 1961, born the second child to two damn fine human beings: Sylvia Pamela Brown and Bernard James Ahern. Wandering down many paths throughout the years, it was the discovery of an old journal recently that took me back to a path I inadvertently took in early February of 1994. A short cut led to a detour, which was to lead me to a German Shepherd dog and a change in the course of both of our lives. Out of the corner of my eye I spied what I thought was a dead dog by the side of the road. I thought that our shared moment together would be but that moment of sadness I felt for his passing. But then I thought he moved. “Did he move?” “No, he didn’t.” “Hang on, I think he did”. Teetering between arriving at work on time (as my “short cut” had already proved anything but) and the plight of the hapless injured animal, it was the hapless injured animal who easily won out.
What transpired next was a new path to navigate for both me and the gentle German Shepherd, as Schofield was to become to the Central Highlands Animal Shelter what Edgar Alan Pig was to Edgar’s Mission. Whilst tugging at the piece of fencing wire that crudely connected the emaciated dog via his neck to a fence post, his pitiful form and putrid wounds tugged at my heart strings like no other. His dew claws, or what was left of them from pawing at the wire in an attempt to free himself, were a mix of dried blood and pus and a great host for infection which had achieved its debilitating aim. The ashes of this once majestic animal drove me to ask, “What happens to animals such as he?”. The answer was the impetus for creating the aforementioned charity. Shooting unclaimed animals and dumping them at the local tip was never going to sit well with me.
Schofield was to become my most constant and loyal of companions and nurtured my great love of his breed. I found him to be curious, obedient, loveable, ever alert and vigilant, courageous and brave (I swear he would have laid down his life for me if ever the need arose, and yes, I truly believe I would have done the same for him), intelligent—all traits so typical of these majestic dogs. But sadly, as the years rolled on, so too did his hip dysplasia, a chronic and debilitating condition all too common for German Shepherds—a sad reminder of how we humans have allowed our desire for looks to override our responsibility for “those we have tamed”. His coming into my world at just that time not only saved his life but the lives of countless other lost, abandoned and neglected cats and dogs who went on to find sanctuary through the Central Highlands Animal Shelter. Additionally, it inspired me to be brave and courageous and do things I never thought I could. I recall the day the shelter had to close, through no fault of my own, as one of the worst days of my life. Yet it seemed that the passage of time had seen the expansion of existing animal rescues who were able to fill the void I was to leave. Not long thereafter a certain dashing, debonair, witty, wise, charismatic pig was to trot into my world and lead me down another path I would never have trod had I still been at the helm of the animal shelter.
Closing the journal, I cannot help but smile as the vision of a perfect pig and a handsome German Shepherd steal my thoughts. Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail … of kindness.