9 September 2022

Rescued animals become June’s lifelong mission

| John Thistleton
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June Furbank-Savill, a puppy belonging to her friend Josie Cushan called Solly (short for Solomon) and June’s beloved Chloe. Photo: Patricia McNamara.

Behind the public exuberance of June Furbank-Savill and her little dogs is a lifetime of struggle and kindness.

June takes in rescued animals. At her rented farmhouse at Dalton she is looking after two dogs, a cat, two rabbits, a long-billed corella, a cockatoo and ‘Miss Scarlett’, an eclectus parrot often mistaken for a plump crimson rosella.

One of three children, June grew up in Lithgow. Her father Alan Furbank looked after lamps in the coal mines and kept racing pigeons, and her mother June had canaries. They had 11 cats.

When one caught a sparrow June took it from the cat’s mouth and cared for it until it was sufficiently recovered to fly away. She has been rescuing animals ever since.

Years later as a registered nurse in psychiatric wards in Sydney, June was disgusted with recommendations of the Richmond Report into mental health services. Major hospitals closed and occupants relocated into boarding and group homes. June left nursing and became a bus driver.

A worse blow landed five years into her driving career in the early 1990s. After leaving the Randwick bus depot and collecting passengers at Pagewood, a young man furious at a fare increase lashed out, smashing June’s nose and cheekbone.

“I turned around and the bus was packed with people sitting and standing and asked for a hand, I had just been king hit. But everyone looked at the floor,” June said.

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Concussed, she left the bus for a fire station nearby for help, but ended up in a private home, where the owner contacted the bus depot. She never resumed bus driving.

In 2000, June relocated to a property near Goulburn on the Winfarthing Road where she stayed with a friend, Josie Cushan. This proved ideal for the two women who both had dogs.

“Out at the farm I relocated a lot of snakes,” June said, who previously volunteered for the rescue organisation WIRES.

“I used to annoy Josie because she hated snakes and if we were travelling together I would stop to get snakes sunbaking off the road, so they wouldn’t get run over. That’s one of our biggest killers of reptiles, roadkill.”

June was devastated when her Maltese terrier ‘Maggie May’ died of a snakebite one Christmas, one of three dogs to succumb to snakes. She followed up a friend’s suggestion to call animal rescue volunteer Fiona Mills, who gave her Chloe.

A keen photographer, June took this photo of herself with Chloe.

With the bulging eyes of a Chihuahua and build of a Jack Russell terrier, Chloe had been found starving on the streets of Wagga Wagga. She needed two operations to recover from serious head injuries which June suspects could have happened when bigger dogs gave her a hiding.

“Because she was starving, she would eat anything,” June said. “She would hide apple cores behind the cushions on the lounge for later.”

Chloe became a fundraising flag bearer in aid of animals suffering because of in-breeding, neglect, or being poorly-matched with new owners or simply old age.

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Over the next 13-and-a-half years Chloe accompanied June to aged care homes, social events and down the street in Goulburn, dressed in eye-catching costumes to entice donations to the Guide Dogs, RSPCA, Salvation Army and Can Assist.

June credited Chloe’s charisma for the money they collected. She was overjoyed when they raised $2000 for Can Assist. Over the years Chloe was responsible for raising more than $7000, according to June. Their most successful outing came one Halloween celebration, when Chloe was dressed in a child’s outfit and June’s hair was styled like a rat.

Chloe in one of her outfits dressed for a fundraising campaign. Photo: June Furbank-Savill.

June left Goulburn and moved to a rented farmhouse at Dalton in January 2021. “It’s paradise,” she said. “I was so happy Chloe got to retire here.” Chloe died about a month ago and is sorely missed.

She applauds the ACT for becoming the first jurisdiction in Australia to recognise animals as sentient beings and would like to see the remainder of the world doing the same to protect all creatures great and small.

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