Gus the Magpie…

Written by: Marvin Baker

As a writer, this piece of information is, well, really stepping outside the box. It’s about an Australian magpie who took Melbourne by storm.

Many of us know that Australians love their animals and one example is they worked feverishly to save as many koalas as they could following devastating fires that happened west of Sydney.

The situation with Gus the Magpie is similar. Judy, my friend who lives in the Melbourne suburb of Tarneit, found an injured magpie and took him in and nursed him back to health. She named him Gus.

But Judy, who lives in a retirement village, couldn’t keep Gus so she looked for someone who could. Enter Tom D’Aquino. He is a friend of Judy and her husband Geoff and had been their gardener before they moved to Tarneit.

Tom and his wife Linda took Gus in and not only did he remain healthy, but Tom taught him to do numerous tricks, mainly by extending his arm and having Gus land on his arm after flying around.

At one point, Tom and Judy found out that Gus was female, but the name stuck… Gus the Magpie.
Tom, who is a musician and was part of a rock ’n’ roll band called East Enders, as well as a former professional Australian Rules football player, has a lot of friends who Gus met.

The magpie’s popularity soared in the Melbourne metro, so much so that Tom created a
Facebook page for Gus. And because Tom D’Aquino is my friend, I liked Gus’ Facebook page. With that, Tom sent me an email exclaiming “Gus has gone international.”

That was about the time of my birthday in March. Lo and behold, a birthday package arrived from Judy and you guessed it, there was a life-sized model of Gus the Magpie for my desk. Following that I received several photographs of Gus, who even posed for a photo next to his “swimming pool.”

This might seem like an hilarious story, and it is, if you don’t know the people involved. But I can assure you, Tom D’Aquino and his wife Linda bent over backward not only to save a magpie from being euthanized, and to giving Gus the best life he could get.

Sadly, Gus became ill and Tom and Linda took care of him around the clock. They were beside themselves as Gus’ condition worsened.

On Oct. 8, Gus passed away and Tom and Linda and Geoff and Judy were devastated. Tom and Judy both told me that Gus lived a good life, but had occasional bouts of mental strain.

Tom also told me in a Facetime call that many people have dogs as pets, many have cats, while others have unusual animals like ferrets, lizards or rats. For Gus and Linda, it was a special magpie that lived in Australia’s second largest city for three years.

Since his passing, condolences have poured in from all over Australia, here in the United States, Singapore and Thailand. Gus truly did go international.

And in case your wondering… a magpie… Australian magpies are different than those found in North America. They can live up to 25 years, they have a good memory and become quite loyal to their master. That would explain why Gus was so friendly around Tom, even though Gus had his issues.

The good news is this sick magpie that Judy Fell saved from euthanasia, has actually forged a better friendship between myself, my wife Ilene and Tom and Linda D’Aquino. We live 12,000 miles apart, but because of Facetime and email, we are as close as our next door neighbor.

And if and when we meet in person sometime, rest assured, Gus will be a topic of discussion.
It may be unusual, but a magpie brought two Americans and four Australians much closer together.

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