Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Donna: The World’s Only Hearing Dingo

From left: Donna and John, Lindy and Nic, Dinky and Jim

An accident while serving in the Korean War effected John Hogan’s speech and hearing. He learnt to communicate with sign language.

John’s wife, Nola, was also deaf. Their son, Skippy, would interpret for them using sign language and John had a hearing dog, Donna, a little Chihuahua.

On their first visit to the Merigal Dingo Sanctuary they met the dingo Napoleon. Visitors were always offered a cup of tea.  Napoleon soon learned climb on a chair at the table and gently paw the table asking for his cuppa.

John and Nola were stunned on meeting Napoleon. He immediately communicated with them in ‘sign’ language, banging on the kitchen table with his paw to get their attention. They were astounded, thinking he understood their handicap.

Once Nap knew his way of communicating was causing such admiration, he became quite a 'gossip', demanding their constant attention.

The Hogan family were amazed at the depth of conversation possible with this incredible dog and built a very special relationship with him.

When Donna died aged 20, John and Nola had long held the dream of replacing their little dog with a Dingo - one just like Napoleon to be named Donna 2.

But, not to be dissuaded, when the NSW laws changed in 1996 allowing dingoes to be kept as domestic ‘pets’, John got his dingo, and named her Donna.

At home she alerted him to knocks at the door, the fax machine ringing, a boiling kettle and someone at the door by tugging at his sleeve.

When enjoying a walk, she pulled him as bikes, skateboards or roller blades approached. Once she alerted him to a snake wrapped around a tree in the park.

John never worried while driving his car. His beloved Donna would tap him on the shoulder to alert him to the sirens of emergency vehicles needing to pass.

Donna always carried out her job with consummate devotion.

John and Donna were ambassadors for the rights of the disabled. While undertaking their promotional work Donna travelled by boats, planes and trains with Donna enjoying star status, always with Donna occupying a passenger seat.

When John holidayed in New Zealand authorities refused permission for Donna to board the flight until Qantas intervened. The country changed its laws and Donna flew free of charge. In New Zealand as John and Donna were boarding the ferry between Picton and Wellington one officious officer insisted Donna be stowed in a cage.

When they sailed to Tasmania, she was allowed into the en-suite cabin and dined in the ship’s restaurant.

Dingoes were not (and still aren’t) allowed into Queensland. It was thought John’s visit to Fraser Island would be without Donna or not at all. Enquiries were made, Donna was protected by a Federal Law allowing “passenger class” in the state.

Dingo Ambassadors

In 2003 three dingo ambassadors from different parts of the country met in Alice Springs to promote a greater understanding and protection of the Dingo.

A Dingo named Lindy travelled by car from Perth with her carer Nic Papalia to meet Jim Cotterell and Red Centre Dingo, the Singing Dingo, Dinky. Through his concert recitals singing to the piano, Dinky became famous raising $57,000 dollars for disabled kids. Dinky is in the game of trivial pursuit as Aussie's Singing Dingo.

Lindy had saved Nic’s life by finding help after he was mugged and left to die. She had a quick love affair with Dinky, but it only lasted until she took the last piece of chicken.

They met John and Donna at Alice Springs who travelling first class on the arrived on the Ghan train the same day.

After a chinwag and exchange of dingo stories, they posed for photo shoot. The photos of the three dingoes were published on the front page of the Alice Springs Times.

A film Dingo is not a Dirty Word! was made and shown at the Perth Short Film Festival and broadcast on the ABC movie show with Margaret and David.

A very special occasion indeed.

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