You’d be hard-pressed to find Geoff Cook saying anything bad about animals, even the cheeky bandicoots who get into his veggie patch.
The 72-year-old Kooralbyn retiree has 28 homing pigeons and first had pigeons when he was four years old in South Australia.
His wife Karen – a marriage celebrant – sometimes shares their special birds in white dove releases at weddings, and they always find their way home.
Geoff and Karen’s little slice of Kooralbyn paradise, which they share with Karen’s almost 92-year-old dad Max and a menagerie of creatures big and small, is their happy place.
There’s Chase and Taffy the Appaloosa horses, Koby and Kally the blue heeler cross Catahoula leopard dogs, Clover the Burmese cat, five hens, a rooster and the pigeons.
There are microbats roosting under the house, pesky but cute bandicoots in the garden, and Geoff has built a box for a barn owl to keep the rodents under control.
Geoff got into horses when he was nearly 40 to impress Karen.
Getting married to Karen – a 1996 backyard ceremony complete with horses neighing and geese honking – is the best thing Geoff did, along with becoming a dad.
Geoff and Karen went on to run the trail riding attraction at Thunderbird Park while living on Tamborine Mountain and in Tamborine Village for 14 years.
What seems like a lifetime ago, Geoff did his printing apprenticeship.
He started at what was then the Stock Journal Publishers in Adelaide, primarily printing farming magazines as a letterpress printer.
On and off, his print career spanned five decades from 1965 to 2004, interspersed with stints delivering bread and doing a milk run, and finished up with a gig printing wine labels.
“Things change so much – when I started it was hands on, monotype, single letters, and when I finished, you’d push a button,” he said.
“I finally got sick of it, saw the trail riding advertised in Queensland and said to Karen, ‘that’s it, let’s go’.”
Geoff loves to watch birds fly freely.
Since retiring to Kooralbyn in 2008, he spends a lot of time pottering around and establishing gardens despite breaking his leg and having both knees replaced.
As he makes his way around the hills and slopes of the property with some pain, he loves to watch the birds soar high above.
“They’re just a beautiful creature, you just watch them fly. We sit on the balcony and watch these birds and they just fly for the joy of it,” he said.
“I’ve always been interested in birds. The diversity, the plumage, their antics. They’re just incredible little creatures.”