Polly gets a Christmas cracker
Marco Arquero, a nurse at Canberra Hospital, delivers the Christmas presents to pets at the RSPCA in Weston. Photo: Colleen Petch
A new world record was set on Monday when Marco Arquero of Yarralumla crammed more pets' toys and treats into a Ford Futura than have ever been crammed into this model of car before. There was scarcely room left for him to drive.
But Monday's feat will have to remain an unofficial record because he was far too busy filling the car and then lugging his cargo to the RSPCA in Weston to call the Guinness world record people.
Only a month ago Arquero, a nurse at Canberra Hospital and one of those hopeless dog enthusiasts with whom this columnist has no rapport whatsoever, was seized by the thought that every dog and cat (and bird, rabbit, guinea pig and possum) housed at the RSPCA this Christmas should receive some Christmas presents.
''My dog Dozer [as in bulldozer] is a rescued dog and he's a big part of my life so I thought this would be a good way of giving something back to the RSPCA,'' Arquero says.
''I just think that the dogs deserve to have a toy each because they just live in their little kennel and even though they're spoilt by the RSPCA staff I thought it would be really nice - they need to know they're loved.
''They all go to good homes eventually but it's a long wait for some of them before they find the perfect home.''
A lovable pup from the Weston RSPCA takes stock of the Christmas presents provided by Marco. Photo: Colleen Petch
From this (relatively) little idea a big Futura-load grew.
He talked to the staff at the RSPCA to find out what sorts of things the critters would like.
''My goal was just to start [fund-raising] at work so I began by talking to a few of my colleagues [at Canberra Hospital] but then it got a bit extended and then lots of patients on my ward and elsewhere in the hospital got to hear about it and it all got extended.''
Hoz Cafe at the hospital pitched in and so did the Cafe D'Lish at Deakin shops and suddenly, because everyone in their hearts wants - in Arquero's words - to ''do something for the critters'' there was more money and so more scope to buy things than he had dreamt there could be.
He went out on at least 10 shopping sprees (there are about 150 dogs and cats housed at the RSPCA, plus all the other creatures he was present-buying for) startling the pet emporiums by how much he was buying.
Unloading the Futura in the RSPCA car park Arquero was pleased to be able to say ''every single animal has got their own toy, and every single animal has got its own little packet of treats''.
The variety of pressies, as Arquero unloaded them, was mind-boggling. For instance, so many of the treats for birds come with bells on that at times in the car park the sound was like a troupe of Morris Dancers in full fling. There was even a worm farm (with which to raise worms as treats for the birds) and some cat gymnasiums and cat towers.
''We've got 20 or 30 frisbees for the dogs, we've got squeaky toys, we've got fluffy toys, we usually bought out everything they had in the stores,'' Arquero rejoiced in the car park. ''We've got things for every size of dog, from puppies all the way to the big labradors. We've got cat blankets and dog blankets, they'll be great for the kittens and puppies.''
While all of the collecting had been going on, Arquero laughed to recall, there had been one especially poignant moment at home when all the goodies were spread out on the floor for sorting.
''Dozer [a black labrador] almost went crazy when he saw all of this. He gave me a look that said 'Is this all for me'?''
Then when told that, actually, none of it was for him, Arquero swore he saw a hurt, reproachful, mystified look on his best friend's face that said: ''Why would you show me all this stuff and then not let me have any of it?''
There was nothing mystifying in the expression of RSPCA ACT chief executive Michael Linke when he accepted Monday's cascade of goodies.
''It's fantastic, isn't it? We usually rely on second-hand stuff or [those staple pet toys] toilet rolls or tissue boxes to give the animals something to play with. So to have somebody go to town like this and really meet a need is just fantastic,'' Linke said.