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 her 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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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.