Berenice Walters, the Dingo Lady, spent her adult life fighting the Dingoes’ cause. This Blog is a tribute to her work to have the Dingo recognised as Australia’s native dog and as an important part of the Australian ecosystem. Berenice was dedicated to educating the general public about the attributes of these wonderful primitive dogs.
This article was written for Merigal Magazine by Harry Dingo in August 1990 assisted by his co-Author, and greatest admirer, Mary Faulder and updated by them in 1992
I was born in June 1989 at MERIGAL dingo Sanctuary, Bargo, N.S.W. My father, Snowdrift, and my mother Jedda, were proud of their family of two daughters and four sons. I was named Harry and had a happy family life in the care of both parents.
There were other family groups at the centre, but the head of all families is Berenice Walters, who feeds and cares for, and loves, every one of us.
One of the first lessons taught by our parents, was to love Mrs Walters, and to give a warm welcome and respect to all visitors. When I was three months old, it was decided I should leave my family, and go to the Pets as Therapy Training Centre at Catherine Field.
Everyone was very kind to me, but I missed my family and Mrs Walters.
There were more than twenty dogs of all shapes and sizes, yapping and barking at the same time. It was very noisy. None of them spoke or understood my language. I felt very lonely and isolated. I decided to give some lessons in howling, and a poodle in the next pen was a very apt pupil. Before long he was howling very efficiently with a French accent. Once he mastered the art of howling, I became very quiet because he made enough noise for both of us.
At ‘Merigal’, I had always been able to jump onto rocks to survey my surroundings, but there were no rocks. They gave me a chair that helped. I stood on it, sat on it, slept on it, and spent an equal amount of time chewing it. I chewed my bed to pieces and given a board to sleep on. I chewed that too.
I chewedthe fence, my kennel and anything else I could get my teeth into. I soon became known as Naughty Harry.
I was taken out for walks which I liked but did not think much of the training sessions that seemed to be so important. Why should I sit when someone tells me to? I sit when I want, and if I don't want to, I don't. Because of my obstinate nature, the trainers said I was stupid. All the dogs seemed to want to please them, and always got a lot of praise for their obedience. I really had nothing in common with them and continued to please myself.
There was one dog I admired and respected. He was Mana, the Manager's Rottweiler. He was five years old and very wise. He lived in the house with the manager and family and allowed to run free most of the time. Sometimes, he was kept in the kennels during the day. This made him very cross. I always watched him very closely because Mana had done an advance course in escapism. He was very proficient in this useful art. I was an observant and willing pupil. I watched him knock the latch upwards while putting pressure on the gate, then walk free. I decided to try out my newly acquired knowledge when we were put into the night kennels.
I always found it boring when was were no one around and only had the silly dogs for company. When all the dogs were asleep, I made my bid for freedom and found it easy to get out of my kennel. However, there were closed doors at either end of the night kennels, so I was unable to get any further. It seemed I would need to consider my escape route very carefully. One night, I found by standing on my bed, I could reach the window and slide it open using my paw.Having achieved this, it was no trouble to jump out. I then found I was surrounded by closed gates. The lessons learned from Mana proved very useful. I opened two gates in a very short time and raced up the drive to the manager's house.
Harry with Mary at Pets as Therapy
Roger, his family and Mana were all asleep as I jumped over the fence and entered the house. I soon located Roger's bedroom without waking anyone. I was so pleased to see him, and in my excitement, I sprang onto the bed, pranced up and down on his chest. He awoke with a start and was utterly astonished to see me - his uninvited guest.
After this adventure, new measures were taken to prevent further escapes. It was a battle of wits between the staff and me.
Roger's family were very fond of me and always ready to make excuses for my misdeeds. Mary came on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I knew on those days I would get extra walks and lots of cuddles. I was invited into the tea room and watched Kelly make coffee for herself and Mary. Their hospitality stopped short of offering any to me, so I decided to help myself. I put my chin on the tap of the urn, and pressed, but had to step back smartly to avoid scalding my legs. The next Saturday, I was not offered coffee, but Mary had just put hers on the table, when she had to go to answer the phone. I never miss an opportunity, so I jumped onto her chair and was lapping up her coffee when she returned.
I was then treated to a lecture in table manners. It was all a bit of a bore. After all, who cares if you put your feet on the table or eat theirsandwiches. There are always plenty of Pal Meaty Bites if they are hungry.
One day, a bus arrived at the Centre with about twenty children and their teachers. I was out for a walk with Mary while the visitors were being shown how the grooming is done and introduced to the dogs. They were all competing for attention, but when we arrived, I was unanimously proclaimed the favourite because of my handsome appearance and natural charm. I greeted all the children and tweaked the hat elastic under their chins. Some invited me to chew their hats, but Mary put a stop to that.
I had always been Mary's favourite and she was delighted so many appreciated my charm. The Bush family were also pleased at my success.
Roger thought I might be lonely as I was always in a pen by myself. Various charming companions were chosen for me, but I did not take much notice of them. I was much happier with human company. One night, I got out of my kennel again, but this time, I got into the main building, and started looking around for something to chew. I sampled a few door knobs, table legs and floor mats before I discovered my greatest prize - an Akubra hat. I forgot all about all the other chewable items around me as I settled down to the pleasant task of demolishing this greatest of all treasures. I was so engrossed in this exciting task, that I did not hear Karin arrive until she addressed me as HAROLD and snatched away what little remained of her favourite hat. Whenever anyone calls me Harold I know it means trouble. I realised I was more out of favour than ever before.
I heard Karin discussing my last crime with Roger and they made plans for my future. Very soon, I was on the way to the Veterinary Hospital. I felt the prick of the needle in my foreleg and drifted off to sleep. I felt sure my teeth were to be removed. When I awoke, with my teeth intact, I discovered my testicles had been stolen.
You may find such actions difficult to comprehend but it was thought my teeth were necessary for me to chew my food. The fact that I used them to chew other items was a sin I might turn from in time. The removal of my testicles, although no deterrent to my acts of destruction, was guaranteed to prevent me from ever becoming the father of a team of demolition experts like me.
When I recovered from the operation, it was decided I might benefit from a few weeks in another educational establishment.
I set off on anotherjourney and became a pupil in the Chris Johnson Academy for Delinquent Dogs. When I arrived, I wore my most innocent expression. With my natural charm and friendliness, I soon won Chris over. Instead of living with the dogs, I was taken into the house to live with her. I immediately set about demolishing my surroundings and chewed up another Akubra hat. Chris prevented any further destruction by putting a muzzle on me whenever Iwas in the house. We soon became the best of friends.
She did not regard my response to training as a great success, however, as I was still determined to remain my own boss.
My Return to Pets as Therapy.
After a month at boarding school, I returned to the PAT. Centre. At the end of April, Roger and his family stopped coming to the kennels. A few weeks later, they moved out of the house, taking Mana and their pet wombat. When I again escaped from my kennel at night and dashed up to the house for human company, I found it deserted. I spent a lonely night in the carport waiting for the girls to come to work.
John Black, who was now in charge of the Centre, was not at all susceptible to my charms, and decided that I should return to the place of my birth.
Mrs Walters came for me and, after bidding farewell to all the girls at the Centre, I made the journey to Bargo to start a new life. I was almost a year old and ready to accept any responsibilities allocated to me. I also met Sheila for the first time when she accompanied Berenice to collect me.
Although I had never gained top marks in obedience classes, Mrs Walters was certainly pleased to have me back in her care.
Return to Paradise.
What joy it was to be back at MERIGAL, and to be greeted by my relatives.
I had grown so much since I last saw them, but they looked much same to me. My mother, Jedda, was pleased to see me.
My father, Snowdrift, was preoccupied with his new family, and they took up most of his time.
As the result of an incestuous relationship with his sister, Princess, who was little more than a puppy herself, they now had two beautiful and lively daughters. Snowdrift took his responsibilities as a father very seriously. As well as training his daughters, and teaching them the finer points of dingo behaviour, he also had to discipline Princess, who was still very silly and immature, and had had no previous experience of motherhood.
Sheila is now my constant companion. We oversee Public Relations and have the full run of the whole complex. On visiting days, it is our responsibility togreet the visitors and captivate them with our charm and friendly manners. Sheila is always on the lookout for cars stopping at the gates, and as soon as she sees visitors approaching, she gives her very melodic "Visitors are here" howl to let Mrs Walters know. We all make the visitors very welcome. Sheila has perfected the art of hand shaking, and because of this, there is always someone patting and stroking her. We both enjoy all the attention we get on visiting days. On all the other days, Mrs Walters gives us extra attention to make up forthe lack of other admirers.
I am so glad to be back on my own home ground. I enjoy the company of Dingoes much more than that of the 'alien' tribes I met at the Pets as Therapy Centre. I have so much more freedom here, and there are always visiting days to look forward to.
Sheila and I were invited to appear on Channel 10's Good Morning Australia programme. Berenice and Margaret Fulton went along to answer all the questions, while Sheila and I charmed the studio personnel and television viewers. There was so much to see with lights and cameras everywhere and people admiring us. I was longing to investigate, but before I could do so, or work out a plan for demolition of the studio, it was time for us to leave. We were commended for our handsome appearance and perfect manners, while Berenice showed her relief when she got me outside without one single item being destroyed.
Keeping at the Top of My Profession.
Everyone knows that education does not end on completion of the initial period of training. Every professional person must continue to study new techniques and keep up with modern trends. My chosen career in demolition is no exception to this rule. At every opportunity, I practise and investigate new methods in my desire to be the best. My curiosity has led me into trouble many times. One day a visitor put her bag down and I ran off with her knitting.
Berenice was ashamed of me, but all I wanted to do was learn how to knit. I am not trusted because I pick up anything left lying around and when I get into the, hut I create havoc. I am not allowed out now on visiting days until Mary arrives. I am always delighted to see her. Because I am so busy telling her my problems, I have no time to commit any major crimes.
Strange Encounters of an Alien Kind
One day when Sheila, Tracker and I were running around, we saw a very strange creature in the next enclosure. When it saw us, it became a hostile, hissing, spitting bundle of fury. I had not seen anything like it before but Sheila, who has seen more of the outside world than I have, said it was an enemy alien called a CAT. Berenice and Mary were sitting in the garden and wondered what we were doing. Berenice called us and put Sheila and Tracker into the house garden. I am not allowed in there in case I knock the house down, so I was to play with the seven-week-old puppies. They love my company and looked puzzled when I dashed past them to the corner beyond their night kennel. At last I was face to face with the enemy. Mary came to investigate when she heard all the yelping and hissing and arrived just as I got in the first bite. When the cat retaliated, I backed off to reconsider my line of attack. Just as I was going into battle once more, I was arrested and held by Mary. Could she not understand that our territory had been invaded by a hostile alien? Until now I had never been even slightly annoyed by anything in my life. My carefree easy-going nature has made me a very popular fellow despite my acts of destruction, but now I was angry for the first time in my life. I tried to escape, but was held very firmly, and when Berenice appeared and led me off to gaol, I was even more astonished. Was she also aiding the enemy? The young dingoes, although only seven weeks old, did their best to repel the invasion, but they too were picked up and imprisoned. When we were at last set free, the cat was no longer there, or on any adjacent rooftops or trees.
Berenice put me in charge of the puppies. I play with them and keep them in order when they get too boisterous.
Tracker came to ‘Merigal’ recently. He was three months old, and very soon became too self-important for his own good, so I often must discipline him. We all have a very happy life here and there are few disputes.
Since the invasion of ‘Merigal’ by an enemy alien, Berenice has appointed me head of Security. I make a diligent search of the entire territory several times a day for enemy agents but there has been no further threat of invasion. Berenice is hoping that these new activities will leave me with no time for my demolition work, and I might eventually take another career. We shall see.
This is a Dingoes life which, in my opinion, is a million times more pleasant than a Dog's Life.
Having lived in the bush Berenice was
familiar with mail deliveries being infrequent. Even when Bargo finally got
daily mail the excitement of receiving mail at home or in the Society’s PO Box
never left her. In 1991 she received a letter in the PO Box from the Society’s Patron,
Neville Bonner, enclosing the following poem by Mr. N. A. "Cecil" Fisher.
She eagerly opened the letter then, standing
in the street, she started to read the poem, totally unaware of what was going on
around her. Sobbing, she rushed back to her car, where she could read the whole
poem in solitude. It is a very beautiful and thought-provoking piece of poetry
that will bring many tears to many eyes.
Working in the channel country, in the outback
Riding along a well used cattle track,
When in the corner of my eye, I did see,
A dingo bitch lying under a gum-tree.
She looked so worn and ragged and beat,
I left her a big piece of fresh meat,
On the rise, as I rode my chestnut horse up,
I saw the sign left behind by a dingo pup.
I fed this bitch and pups for a couple of weeks,
Alongside the banks of the channel creeks,
The bitch now with the puppies play around,
Left their tracks all over the black soil ground.
One day a dogger to the station, doing his rounds,
Said "For dingoes, I get paid a couple of pounds,
Won't take me long to find the pups and mother dingo,
When my job is finished from this station, I'll go."
Next day, from mustering I rode on back,
To the station on this well used cattle track,
There, lay the dead dingo bitch on the ground,
With dead pups all scattered around.
I heard a whimper that made me look up,
There on the bank stood a little dingo pup,
I reared this pup on milk and tucker of sort,
He looked a champion, I called him (Ding),·"dingo" for short.
Ding was about eight months old, when I went to town,
I headed to town to let myself down.
After the holidays, another job I had to seek,
This time the job was mustering sheep.
Ding didn't take long to understand how to work· sheep,
He was now a working dog earning his keep.
Tirelessly we'd work the sheep all day,
Ding and I never had much time to play.
The boss of the station said "He looks like a Dingo to me,"
I said "No boss, just a mongrel crossed with Kelpie."
We worked on this station until it could be seen,
Ding at working sheep had turned into a champion.
We would muster the sheep
from the paddock all day,
At night while the sheep
in the yards would stay.
After a feed I would put Ding on the chain,
Seemed to be looking for something he couldn't explain.