animal sanctuary

A Tail of Love

Image source: Photographer Brad Fleet

They walk amongst us on the Sunshine Coast – Carlie Wacker meets two human beings with hearts so big they have dedicated their lives to ensuring the life of every animal has a happy ending.

Tucked away in the picturesque Glasshouse Mountains is an animal sanctuary that breathes heartfelt kindness and love. A place where animals of all shapes and sizes come to decompress and learn to trust humans again – a sanctuary where they can peacefully live the rest of their lives without threat or fear. This, my friends, is the happiest place on earth for animals – it is Mini Tails Sanctuary.

Michael and Christian Collen are animal angels – these two people have always been drawn to help animals. After finding each other in the UK, they began their journey of paying it forward by rescuing dogs. The first lucky canine was a French Dog De Bordeaux named Vie (French for ‘life’).

Many beautiful dogs have since had the pleasure of receiving pure love from the Collens (they even flew their rescue pups from the UK when they relocated to Australia). After a period in Melbourne running a restaurant, they moved to their forever home on the Sunshine Coast and this is where the tale gets bigger.

While running the successful vegan venue Café Vie in Buderim, a former French restaurant they named after their first joint rescue dog, Michael and Christian became known as the go-to couple to assist with rehoming dogs.

Specifically small breeds at first but as their hearts and the brood of animals in need grew, so did the need for a larger abode and so they began searching for a property to house their growing family of mini tails, mostly chihuahuas and terriers.

Every one of these precious souls coming to them from traumatic situations like puppy mills, abandoned homes and abuse – two pups were found in a rubbish bin just in the nick of time. I met and played with all these sweet dogs. Willow is a chihuahua with cerebral hypoplasia – she oversees the pack despite her medical condition and Lulu joined the team with horrible patella issues.

The priority is getting proper medical treatment and with the help of Greencross Vet Kawana Waters the job gets done. Bravo legends!

As the community started buzzing with affection for the Collens, their customers began referring more and more animals in need and the sanctuary grew.

The first were Mini Herefords, Ferdinand and Herman, who were advertised on Gumtree for the freezer but sent to the boys via a customer in the café. Next came more cows, Penny and Pearl, also advertised as beef or breeders.

When Michael and Christian heard the story, they hired a float immediately and began a life now fuller with bigger furry friends and mini tails was fast becoming MANY tails.

“We were approached by a family who were struggling with drought, money and water to care for a family of Alpacas – so alpacas Davina (mum), Archer (dad) and Buzz (son) joined us and then word started to spread – fast!” Michael says.

Feathers flew with turkeys Percy and Cornelius who were being sold as Christmas dinner before the lads jumped in and took them in to live the rest of their gobbling days doing the rounds of the property – they now refer to these feathered friends as ‘Sanctuary Security’.

Michael says the philosophy of the sanctuary is to “help without judgement”.

There are many reasons someone must give up an animal and Michael and Christian ooze so much empathy that they will welcome an animal without discrimination.

Their philosophy really forces us to think in a more compassionate way about people and animals.

To this day Mini Tails Sanctuary is the most palatial forever home for more than 65 animals in residence including llamas, alpacas, cows, ponies, sheep, a donkey and various feathered friends.

Michael says, “We have no expectation of these animals but to decompress, relax and live their best life.”

I learnt so much about animals during my visit. Did you know a cow cannot bite you? They have no top front teeth but get to know their individual personalities and you will discover some cattle love tummy scratches, tickling and specific foods like banana peels. Highland cattle are the most divine bovines of all.

Miniature ponies are super sassy and really do not like to be ridden; alpacas and llamas prefer not to be cuddled but value space and respect.

Some alpacas get what is known as Berserk syndrome which is normally due to them being over-handled or being socially-isolated as Crias (young babies).

“Berserk Syndrome can be likened to keeping a human in a room on its own and the mental effects from that,” Michael says. “These animals are usually euthanised but not at Mini Tails.”

Their berserk male is named Spike and despite the alpaca community suggesting Michael put him down, he resisted and Spike lives on.

My heart is filled with happiness having met Michael and Christian and their menagerie at Mini Tails Sanctuary.

They manage it all on their own, but a website is being created to allow for donations and the opportunity to sponsor an animal.

If, in the meantime you would like to donate funds to help these precious creatures you will find donation boxes at Café Vie Buderim, Greencross Vets Kawana Waters and Sol Temple Tattoo Studio, Maleny. 

About the Author /

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Carlie Wacker has worked in the media entertainment industry for over 20 years. From television to stage and radio she has been lucky enough to work her way around the whole country. Over the last 10 years she has styled and choreographed innovative fashion parades and talent shows and brings her love for fashion and entertainment as our Fashion Editor. She is also an MC, voice-over artist and radio announcer.

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