Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Dingo Society Formed

Berenice felt Dingoes had many of the merits we attribute to our domestic dog companions and from the mid-1970s began an intensive campaign to debunk accepted dogma that Dingoes were savage, untrainable, contemptible and worthless.  

In this period, she trained several Dingoes in obedience (including off-lead work), eliciting from them more reliability than most get from domestic dog breeds. Two Dingoes topped their obedience classes.

It became obvious the efforts of one person alone would always be limited but at this stage, the authorities were poised to prosecute Berenice and forcibly remove her Dingoes. 

In July 1976 Premier Neville Wran stated he was horrified at the indiscriminate use of 1080 poison and contamination of wilderness areas saying, "this is a horrible way to die". He immediately, called for a Dingo Seminar to be held with the purpose of questioning its use and the practice of aerial baiting for predator control.

The announcement of the 'Dingo Seminar', was the impetus she needed to fulfil her dream.

Her goal was to form a group to continue and expand the work she had already started. As much as she and her family had struggled over the years, her commitment was such she mortgaged her property to finance the venture.

At 9 am the morning after the announcement she was on her solicitor’s door-step with news of her decision to form a Society.

No war was better organised, or more carefully planned, than her fight to improve the status of the Dingo. As in every war there are enemies, but there are usually supporters, too. Theirs was a totally hostile environment. Every person they came in contact with had to be won over, or at least put on neutral ground. One false move and the authorities had the power to enter her property, her very home, and destroy any animal they considered noxious. The local Moss Vale Pastures Board, in not prosecuting them, were put in an unenviable position. They knew they were under scrutiny always and the pressures at times were overwhelming.

It had to be a quiet revolution.

The same day, 15 July, she wrote inviting her supporters to become inaugural directors of the Foundation. Her invitees came from a cross section of the community.

Her letter outlined her vision and stressed the importance of the Board of Trustees be comprised of sincere and open-minded people with the aim of a better understanding of a much-maligned breed.

Her focus was based on her belief the Dingo would prove trainable and its unique talents could be developed for the betterment of society. The accent was very much on conditioning and training but an improved image for the Dingo was paramount.

The aim of the Foundation was if dingoes proved trainable they would graduate to tracking, bomb detection, drug detection and security work and, in Australia, could prove more suitable than European breeds.

The Foundation's headquarters would be at the Walters Kennels, “Wooleston” in Bargo.

The name she proposed for the Foundation was the Australian Native Dog Training Foundation of NSW.

Her recommended aims for the society were:

  • To promote the conservation of the Australian Native Dog in the wild.
  • To seek the granting of special licence to the Foundation for the training of the Australian Native Dog by selected individuals, the dogs to remain the property of the Foundation.

Their policies included protection of the Australian Native Dog throughout Australia; its removal from the list of vermin; to have all aerial baiting and indiscriminate trapping, shooting and baiting stopped; and to promote the tightening of laws governing the keeping of ANY dog with far heavier penalties for persons allowing their dogs to be uncontrolled at any time.

The word ‘training’ indicated their belief the dingo is not a true wild dog but the earliest feral dog. This was belief was based on Berenice’s theory the dingo was a domesticated dog of the aboriginal people, only becoming ‘wild’ due to white man’s ongoing campaigns against them. The original Constitution was drawn up by Berenice and Mr Caldwell.

On 13th November 1976 the inaugural meeting of the Australian Native Dog Training Society of NSW was held at “Wooleston Kennels” and chaired by the first Society President Mr R Fahy.

Sweltering heat and a swarm of flies did nothing to diminish the enthusiasm of the 21 dingo supporters who gathered at the historic meeting in Berenice’s home. Nor did the possibility of Dingo Destruction Board officers entering the property to seize and destroy the 40 dingoes present who had been boarded out to “foster owners”.

In her address Berenice expressed her hope she had invited a thinking group of people who would question and keep questioning any relevant data and no wild claims, based on past theories, would be made.

The Australian Native Dog Training Society of NSW Limited (ANDTS) (later renamed Australian Native Dog Conservation Society Limited), was born.

In December both Mr Wran and Senator Tony Mulvihill agreed to be the Society’s co-patrons. These gentlemen had accepted the positions at a time when “Dingo” was most decidedly ‘a dirty word’.

Berenice’s property became the home of the “Merigal Dingo Education centre” later renamed Dingo Sanctuary.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

The Way of the Dingo

“If the dingo could speak it might with much more justification brand man a coward and a thief, for man took the land from the dingo and offered battle only when the odds were insurmountable in his favour.

The dingo once roamed free in regal supremacy among the animals of this vast land. The native people loved and worshipped it, and their nomadic life interfered little with its movements. ……. In fairness to this wild magnificent creature we should strive to preserve it in a suitable environment in our national parks and sanctuaries.”

These words come from the book The Way of the Dingo by Sid Wright first published in 1968. 


As a dingo lover, it is a tough book to read. But I must confess it is beautifully written.

Sid Wright was a dingo hunter and the fictional story is based on his experiences.

The reason I did read it was because Sid Wright also understood and respected the dingo.

I came across several letters and poems in tribute to the dingo written by him in Berenice’s papers and often included in the society’s journal. There is also a lengthy document he wrote titled “Kind Control” which outlines alternatives to protecting flocks and herds without involving the destruction of the dingo.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Dora’s Twilight Years

Those of you who have read For the Love of a Dingo will know Dora was Berenice’s first dingo. It was Dora who gave her the opportunity to prove what she claimed about the Dingo being a tameable and trusting dog was true.

Through observation of Dora, and dingoes who followed, Berenice learnt more about the dingo than many of the so-called experts.

Dora lived nearly 14 years retaining her quality for life right up to the final days. She would still try to play with Berenice with bows and backward jumps - only to collapse on the ground as her arthritic legs gave way but smiling all the time. They still enjoyed a daily walk down into the Merigal gardens they had done over the previous 13½ years.

She was never a problem dog - she did not dig, or try to jump out of her enclosure, she was very obedient.  She was always close by but never seemed to intrude.

It was Dora who adopted little Cobber when he first arrived, introducing him to the “territory”, and daily routine.

As Dora got older Berenice felt she could not cope with Cobber’s sometimes rather disrespectful behaviour, so they were only together when supervised. But they remained wonderful companions.

Dora also got on well with Meri Meri, a newcomer though 11 years of age, and a Cattle bitch named Wish. Wish would make Dora's day. As soon as she was let out of her night yard, Wish would rush to find Dora, so she could submit to her, sliding along the ground in complete submission.

Dora would stand there with her head up high, her tail up over her rump, the expression in her eyes regal and aloof, through sometimes I detected a little surprise at this total submission. But it all helped to keep that twinkle of youth in Dora's heart and to enjoy the position as the alpha Dingo bestowed on her when Napoleon so suddenly died three years previously.

Just before Dora passed away Berenice was due to go into hospital and would not be able to lift or carry anything. She became concerned she could not be able to meet Dora’s needs as an old dog - the provide the extra support she needed.

It seemed to Berenice, as in the whole of Dora's life, she should not be a burden on her at that time and she died.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Tradies and Dingoes

Being surrounded by runs with dingoes and cattle dogs, in addition to dingoes living in the house yard, renovations at Berenice’s house created many unique and hilarious situations.

The shower recess needed and upgrade. When Berenice contacted White's Leaky Shower Repairs at Camden the telephonist said, "I hope you don't have any dogs". Totally lost for words for a moment, Berenice explained she lived at the Merigal Dingo Education Centre.

"Oh, no" came the flabbergasted cry. "It is as if David wears a sign saying 'Dog, please bite me' because he is always being attacked. Will you make sure the dogs are all locked up when he comes?"

David duly arrived. As he walked down the driveway his legs were going ten to the dozen, with his head swivelling from side to side to make sure no dogs were attacking from the rear. He was behaving like 'prey', as a hare would run when being chased. Berenice explained he should walk leisurely when entering a property, with predictable behaviour so the dogs had a chance to accept him. Only Sheila was loose, but he asked she also be locked up next time he called.

Next time David arrived unexpectedly. The dogs and dingoes were not kennelled he was walked leisurely. He called out to Berenice "See, I have taken your advice". The dogs had looked up at his arrival, then went back to sleep. They were not interested. David was impressed.

The shower recess was only the beginning of the renovations, and David was so interested with all going on at Merigal, he ended up being advising on colour through the house. Berenice was delighted with the product. The house was dingo coloured house on the outside, and a soft apricot inside throughout, with a deeper coloured tiled floor.

The builder, Jeff Barber, had     worked out around Alice Springs. He was cattle dog breeder and had also had a Dingo companion. He was thrilled to work amid the Merigal gang as they kept a close watch on proceedings. Berenice half expected to replace 'stolen tools' but the only one to go missing was a wooden handled trowel. The culprit was probably Kalang. She was too nervous of strangers to greet and meet them, so she steals their belongings to sniff and familiarise herself with the stranger's scent. I think the Dingo's motto could well be 'Where there's a will, there's a way.' The trowel was found some weeks later and returned.

When the carpenter, Scott, arrived, he saw Sheila and said he had known a stray dog just like her when he shared a house with five other men. It turned out Sheila was the one and same dog and remembered him.

Sheila paid him back for deserting her. He had chicken for lunch in his glove box where he thought it would be safe, but she got into the car, and the glove box and stole it. She was normally very good, but can't resist chicken, and got several free feeds from the workmen's lunches she managed to steal.

Scott asked Berenice’s mother the name of the savage Dingo was. Berenice wondered who he was referring to. It was Snowdrift. She explained she never even seen Snowdrift snarl. Apparently, in her absence, while Scott unloaded his vehicle near Snowdrift's pen, Snowdrift flew at the fence every time he went to the truck, as Scott said, "hackles raised, lips turned back in a snarl, and showing a ferocious mouthful of teeth". Snowdrift had taken over. Berenice had never seen this side of his nature before.

The floor tiler loved Sheila. He told me he had had a cross Dingo for fourteen years, and it had been a wonderful carer of the local children. Even the parents had difficulty retrieving their own children, until the dog's owner explained they must speak the dog's name, then there would be no problem. When the dog was fourteen, a new resident, who apparently resented the dog, poisoned her. One month later, his young daughter was raped and murdered. When he told Berenice the story they both wept.

It was fortunate the painter, Jack, who had to spend such a lot of time in and around the house, was a keen dog lover. The Dingoes really liked and trusted him. He had a Chihuahua.

The Dingoes got a lot of good publicity from the many trades persons who worked at Merigal over the three months period. The constant activity did marvels for the temperaments of the puppies raised in 1992. Jack hammers, electric saws, hammers, pop riveting, regular arrival and departures of trucks and vehicles, were all taken in their stride.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Operation Koala at Bargo by Pamela King.

The night was still, the Milky Way glistened and sparkled but there was a chill in the air. The dingoes were restless.

Those living in the house, Merri, Flowers and Napoleon, repeatedly rose from the comfort of their arm chairs to go out and check the fence lines. The family’s investigation revealed nothing unusual and everyone settled for the night.

At midnight, savage snarls and spitting of a large animal rent the air. Merri whimpered at the door.

A dingo screeched. Someone screamed, “It’s got Flowers". Clad only in my night dress and grabbing a torch, Berenice rushed out into the night to save poor Flowers. Her son Ken grabbed a shot gun and thundered behind her.

Vicious snarling echoed from the other side of the fence. Something was savagely attacking Flowers. Merri joined her. Both courageously tried to fight off the intruder.

Who or what was it and why was it attacking the Dingoes?

A frenzy of fury resulted in a loud crash against the fence. Then, quiet, as the animal disappeared into the long grass.

Flashing the torch, Berenice first checked Flowers and Merri were unharmed. Looking around she was amazed to see an indignant Koala preparing for another onslaught.

Crash, as he flung himself at the fence screaming once again.

Despite living in the bush for thirty years they had no idea how to handle the situation. For some inexplicable reason the koala seemed intent on getting into the dingo yards to attack them. Berenice and Ken stayed calm and carefully guided him up a nearby tree.

When he seemed content and not intending to continue his attacks everyone retired back to bed. Peace reigned. Checking the situation early the next morning they discovered him back on the ground, running along the fence and still trying to get to the dingoes.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service were contacted and guaranteed to collect the trespasser the same day. There was just one condition, he had to be confined.

By now he was back up his tree, staring down nonchalantly at the steady stream of admiring neighbours gathering to see him.

They were told koalas are easy to handle; if you know how. One neighbour brought a collection of gum leaves for his breakfast, and he appeared content.

Another neighbour, reading from a book on caring for koalas, assured Ken he would not attack.  Not taking any risks, and determined to catch him without injury, Ken bound his arms with bags, reached up into the tree, then gently lifted him down.

The Koala had not read the book. He suddenly sprang into action, flipped right over and sunk all fours into Kens arms, all the time screaming furiously. Everyone watching collapsed into a heap laughing. Ken finally herded the visitor into a large dog crate where he settled down to finish his gum leaves in peace. During the afternoon a helicopter arrived to collect the koala.

For all the drama and minor injuries, Berenice felt proud to have had this unique native animal residing in her trees but knew his welfare could only be assured in the hands of those who understood the animal.

He was probably a victim of progress. At the time the M5 was being cut through local bushland, and many native animals had their habitat destroyed, or at the least, disturbed. 

The Walters and their neighbours had seen small mobs of wallabies making their appearance and were delighted to catch glimpses of the graceful members of our native fauna. The previous dingo breeding season, they had even heard the far off call of a wild Dingo from the distant gorges.

But with miles of bushland around them, she wondered why that Koala wanted so desperately to get into the house yard. Out of loneliness? Or did he seek the company of another animal he recognised as native?

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Truth About dingoes 16: The Dingo Needs Protection to Function Properly

The dingo barrier fence creates two ecological universes. Inside the dog fence dingoes are persecuted profusely and outside the fence less profusely. Inside the dog fence is a high density of foxes and roos, lower vegetation, lower productivity, reduced abundance of small prey. Outside the dog fence native prey are doing much better, green grass etc.

When predator control stops biodiversity recovers. Foxes are common where dingoes are scarce. Marsupials exist where dingoes persist. The dingo is more powerful when they are allowed stable social structures. Compassionate conservation- We need empathy and compassion. Is founded on the principle: first do no harm. Maremma guardian dogs see to this. Predator-friendly is the farming future. A paradigm shift in conservation.

The dingo is the number one key to save Australia's extinctions. Can we envisage a conservation paradigm based on compassion?

Yes we can.


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