If the mythical Dr Dolittle could visit this Kialla West lifestyle property, he would have no shortage of furry or feathered creatures to have interesting conversations with.
The 25 ha farm is home to not only Robyn Dance and daughter Daisy Dance-DeMarco, 15, but nine cows, three sheep, two pigs, a horse, two dogs, a turkey, chooks and a cranky one-eyed cockatoo named Trevor, who has been known to tell all of the above to f*** off.
“We didn’t set out to have so many animals, but we just can’t say no,” Robyn said.
First to join the menagerie were a couple of calves, bought after following Robyn and Daisy around a pen at the Shepparton saleyards.
“I couldn’t leave them there, so I borrowed someone’s trailer and brought them home,” Robyn said.
Turns out one of them, Rosie, was actually male and has since sired a couple of new additions to the small herd.
The stories of each of the farm occupants, and their various antics, would make a comical and unique story, but the first chapter about but how and why they came to live at Kialla West, would have a similar theme.
They’ve found their way there because they had nowhere else to go and in terms of a comfortable life have well and truly hit the jackpot.
“They will all live here until they die, they just roam around as they please, I don’t like the idea of them being locked up,” Robyn said.
The mother and daughter duo has also cared for orphaned wildlife in the past and Daisy is considering a career working with animals after being inspired by wildlife carer and Australian animal educator Rowena Guppy.
As true animal lovers, Daisy chose vegetarianism when she was in prep and has lived a vegan lifestyle for the past five years while Robyn has a largely vegetarian diet.
“I’ve been brought up with animals and I just couldn’t bear to eat them, our animals are such a big part of our lives,” Daisy said.
Even the oldest animal in the menagerie, 15-year-old Sealyham Terrier Gordon, who coincidentally also has only one eye, follows a meat-free diet.
“Gordon has cancer, he was diagnosed eight months ago, and the vet told us he would go very quickly. We changed him to a vego diet and look at him, he’s still going,” Robyn said.
“He’s our lentil dog!”
Given his age Gordon tends to spend his days in the outdoor area – he finds it hard to navigate the steep steps on his own – and occasionally has to share the space with his mate Rod the sheep, who comes onto the deck to bang on the window for his toast in the mornings.
The other sheep Norma, 13, and Jarrod were rescue animals, as was Harold the turkey who was adopted by Daisy through a save-a-turkey program one Christmas.
Other feathered friends have come from Edgar’s Mission, a not-for-profit sanctuary for farmed animals near Lancefield, and the RSPCA in Burwood.
“We went to the RSPCA to get some chickens and they could tell we loved animals so they shoved Andrew in, too,” Robyn said.
“After we picked them up, we were in Brunswick St having lunch and there was Andrew, and the chickens running around the car. Everyone who walked past would have been wondering what was going on.”
Andrew was a piglet and now that he’s fully grown, loves a belly scratch and has become a great mate for Maureen, who was supposedly a miniature pig, but now aged 13, is far from miniature.
Each animal has its own unique personality and regardless of their genetic makeup generally live in harmony.
“We’re actually building a front fence after Maureen, Norma and Gordon went on a bit of an adventure together,” Robyn said.
The pig, sheep and dog ventured up the 1 km driveway, and wandered in single file along the Goulburn Valley Hwy, stopping along the way to strip a neighbour’s fruit tree and giving passing truckies something to talk about.
On the rare occasion there’s a squabble the humans step in, like the time silky chook Jeff ended up travelling with the family on its Port Fairy holiday, the trip ending up a revelation.
“We got Jeff after he followed Daisy around at a birthday party when she was in grade one, the owner said he obviously liked her so she better take him home,” Robyn said.
“The other chooks were bossing him so we took him with us on holidays. We thought it was a boy but on the way to Port Fairy Jeff laid an egg in the car.”
Regardless, the name Jeff has stuck.
The most recent addition to the team is lively but lovable 10-month-old Groodle Roger.
“You wouldn’t believe it but Daisy has allergies to animals, even though she loves them so much, Groodles are supposed to have low-allergy fur,” Robyn said.
Roger stirs the other animals with his enthusiastic playful puppy ways and the only time he’s calm is at night when he patiently waits for the Netflix series Pup Academy to begin.
“We have to be careful when Roger’s outside, we bought him a few squeaky toys and because Trevor talks Roger thinks he’s one of the toys,” Daisy said.
No doubt Trevor would have a few choice words for Roger.